We interrupt this attempt to perhaps share some more light-hearted entries to report that I am, probably unsurprisingly, still my own worst enemy. (I mean, I’d like to think we’re all our own worst enemies, because really unless we are superheroes, hopefully we don’t have “enemies” in the traditional death-grudge sense.)
At work late yesterday, I sent an email that I just knew in my heart I should sit on. Sitting on emails, as useful and intelligent a practice as that is in our ultra-instant response society, is a practice it has been challenging for me to adopt. Part of that relates back to me valuing being painfully honest. And in my not-so-great moments, that’s how I’ve brushed off times when I’ve used painful honesty to lash out at people who don’t deserve it. But most of it relates to my childhood (thanks, Herr Freud), where I grew up feeling very voiceless.
It’s a bit weird to say that, since I was a particularly outspoken child and it’s not like I became a very demure adult. But how quick I am to blurt things out (in speech or writing) that don’t necessarily need to be said is in a big way a reflection of the fact that I grew up thinking my feelings didn’t matter. Or, maybe more importantly, I grew up feeling my feelings didn’t matter.
So first, I’m gay. I knew I was “different” (though I didn’t understand in what way for a long time) when I was probably 5 or 6. But out of confusion and a sense of self-preservation, all that had to be bottled up.
On top of that, my parents had a very contentious relationship (that ended when I was 19 and should probably have ended 7 years prior to that). I dealt with all my feelings about that by, usually, bottling it all up (once I quickly learned that I had no ability to influence how much they fought) and, apart from more and more infrequent meltdown-style outbursts as I grew up, was really super-successful at that. So while my younger sister as a teenager was acting out in very obvious ways, I was the model adolescent. Honestly, my parents should have given me an award for how little trouble I caused them.
Then I came out.
It’s no wonder to me that many gay people end up being larger than life. We are making up for a shitload of bottled up, raw grief that relates to the very core of who we are, and usually it involved either very carefully not being ourselves, or getting beat down for just being ourselves, and so as adults, especially young adults who haven’t had the chance to “mellow with age,” we are just exploding with personality. It is finally socially acceptable for us to demand that our feelings be expressed and voiced and heard.
So when anyone tells me I can’t say something I feel, even my own wise inner voices that are only trying to prevent me from damaging others—or myself… whenever it feels like there’s even the tiniest bit of constraint on me saying exactly how I feel in the clearest way I can (and I’m really good with language, so I’m really good at being brutally clear), my overarching instinct is that someone or something is preventing me not from saying something, but from being who I am.
Yes, what I’m saying is that when I run up against the necessary and useful constraints people face to restrict them from just saying whatever the fuck they want, I feel as if my very personhood is being negated. It doesn’t feel like an inconvenience. It doesn’t feel like an annoyance or just the frustrating side effect of living in a world filled with other people. It feels like an attack on my very self.
I know, I can hear you saying, “Melodramatic much, Kalev?” And I agree… it is. But that’s how I feel. I know it’s an extreme overreaction, and most of the time (and increasingly as I’ve gotten older), I can throw up rational roadblocks to interrupt that very primal feeling of being denied my own existence. But sometimes… sometimes I still slip up.
And that’s what happened Friday late afternoon. I work in an organization that is highly political and, as a result, there’s more than the average amount of bullshit that happens and bullshit that needs to be worked around. And, unfortunately for me, there are a lot of situations where speaking the unvarnished truth is even more of a detriment than it would normally be in a more neutral environment. So at work, I constantly feel I have to resist my instincts and clamp down on my natural reactions. And I’ve gotten really good at it. So good, I surprise myself most of the time. But this was one of those (happily less and less frequent) times when I reacted quickly instead of giving my cooler head a chance to prevail. And I expressed my frustrations in a way that didn’t fix the situation and only served to make an existing problem worse. Plus, I lashed out at two people who have been good to me over something that, in the grand scheme of things, is not going to amount to a big deal. And to top it all off, in doing so I acted hypocritically, because I employed a tactic I have decried (rightly so) when other people have used it.
So all in all, Friday afternoon was a really low point for me personally. At the end of the day, I don’t think it will permanently impact my relationship with the people I lashed out at but you’d think at this point in my life, if I was going to lose my cool and lash out about something, it would be about something that actually did matter, and my ire would be reserved for people who have legitimately done me wrong.
And that was me still being my own worst enemy.