How is it that I can write hundreds of words without saying one thing I want to say? It is one of the plights of being a writer. For the last blog post a friend asked if I wrote that in a morning's time, and sadly that's a negative. Each blog post usually takes days of thinking it through, reading, some researching and then another 5-6 rewrites per paragraph. Writing is both the most exhilarating, and hardest thing I have ever done.
So is learning to be a woman, and even though I've just started out this learning process I wanted to write what I was learning in case it could help anyone else. It was tricky to figure out which side of the topic to address. First, I discoursed on the career woman vs. the mom, and then I thought about writing on all women's dreams on a large, generalized scale but I kept running into walls. I'm not particularly sharp and sometimes downright dense so it took 6 paragraphs and dozens of re-writes to figure out that I was running into walls because I was inside a Tiny House connected to a hundred other teeny houses and the whole thing was actually a tiny part of a big topic I've been thinking about recently: how women are emotional humans. Let me disclaim here that experiencing emotion is a human thing, and while not exclusive to women this article is definitely about how much this figures into a woman's life.
Rarely is an issue simple, and to a woman it hardly ever is because life to us is an ever shifting kaleidoscope of colorful emotion that we are never quite without. In fact, last week I had a flash revelation of sorts, and realized that the strength emotion holds in a woman's life is similar to how a man is never quite off his guard where a woman's body is concerned. Our emotions are always just a glance away, and boy can they muddy the waters. Something can engage our emotions is less than a second, and we may spend all day working through it. It doesn't define what we are, or who we want to be, but it does deeply affect every thing from inside to out.
What is this thing, emotion
To a man emotion makes a woman look inexplicable. To a woman, it explains everything. Men tend to have straightforward emotions and logical approaches to problems, so when their wife, sister, daughter, business partner, coworker or friend becomes unhinged they are most likely to respond by trying to fix the problem that houses the public side of the underlying emotion. Since the outer expression of it likely has nothing to do with the inner emotion it almost never works. A women probably won't say, "I'm feeling like the world is going to end tonight because I'm so depressed, but she might meltdown over the pipe burst all over her kitchen floor if she is already feeling that way." She might say, "I feel so sad tonight," but have absolutely nothing to point to that is making her feel that way making her look like an emotional lunatic. Men, I'm guessing, don't face this. They have emotions and feel deeply but not without being able to point to specific event, relationship, or circumstance that is making them feel that way.
Of course, hormones play into this, but I'm weary of hormones being the culprit for everything and would like to suggest that women, too, have specific triggers or problems leading to the emotion. It's trickier to find what's causing it because it is way more subtle than they have been taught to recognize and solve and makes us feel like victims. You see, we deal with so many little things throughout the day that it's possible for something to push a button at 10 am that is bothering us at 2 pm. A little pocket of relationship, or worry, or event that has been niggling but we haven't stopped to take proper care of it and close the tab. I do this all the time, so let me illustrate personally.
Of course this is hypothetical
It's 7pm and I gradually become aware that life seems overwhelming, I have been useless that day and accomplished nothing of real value, and I'm probably going to be really fat the next day. The dishes mock me in the sink, 12 projects laugh at me from the next room, I have to get writing done for a client sometime, and did I say something stupid in last night's conversation? Into all this flashes a recollection that someone in my extended family is really struggling with a genetic disorder in their kids, and that this is election year which I hate above all other years. None of the candidates seem great, and I don't have family to go with to vote in North Carolina. Man, I really hate missing out on my nieces and nephews growing up. It all piles on top of me and several negative emotions set up a water slide. Why do I feel so anxious?
STOP. As I push the feelings back and out it is time to review the day and see if there is a real problem or if something little earlier mushroomed to include all the things. This is when I go searching for the trigger, or the log that is jamming the flow. 9 times out of 10, if I can identify where it started I can fix it and the rest of it floats away. In this case I got an email this morning from a client with writing specs and I still don't know how to complete the project, plus an event coming up for which I am responsible to get some things done and haven't yet established a good timeline and list. Yes! I have the culprit. Ok, which needs to be resolved or managed in order for me to throw out the rest of the things bothering me? Definitely the writing needs some attention so I'll schedule in an hour of that tomorrow, and then make a schedule and list on what needs to be made or bought for the event.
Bingo. With the trigger stress out of the way I begin to be able to to deal with the other feelings. Now that I'm not overwhelmed anymore the rest of the things get assigned their proper measure of significance. I still miss the kids, have a mental portion assigned to how my cousin's kids are doing, hate election year, have 12 projects in the next room, and shouldn't have eaten a doughnut today but I can move forward. It's a process, but I am slowly learning to pay attention to the emotions that need a little patting, or figure out which ones are just hanging about enjoying the moist atmosphere and need some time out on the line. Mostly I'm learning that just because I'm feeling doesn't mean that I'm failing.
Remember how I speculated that emotion is the constant companion to a woman, just as a man's visual nature is to him? Something clicked in my brain with this concept and it gave me that extra push to understand men a little better, and women a lot better. I've had times when simple eye contact have sparked emotions in me, and marveled at how instantly connection travels, even between strangers. Other times it's amazing what can make the tears sprout, or anger kindle, or connection ignite. It makes life beautiful, but it comes with a dark side. I'm sure we all know people who allow their emotions to regularly get the better or them and it turns them into unstable people. God did not give us these emotions just to let them rule us and others, and it's up to us to figure out how to manage them.
1. Check your attitude
This goes without saying, but if your attitude is out of line the rest of you will be out of line and you'll end up carrying around a chip on your shoulder that says, "Life isn't fair. Nobody is treating me well. Everything is against me. People need to get their act together." Doesn't really matter what the rant is, if it includes complaining or ungratefulness it should be checked. I'm not saying we won't ever feel these things, and a healthy release is a good thing for normal frustrations. I'm saying that if we live our life in a constant state of negative it's going to wear on emotional health and you'll end a fretful, whining creature that drives everybody nuts. Try gratitude as a replacement.
2. Check your hormones
This one feels overused as a casual excuse, but sometimes there are legitimate physical factors at play. Have you just had a baby? Going through menopause? Having a particularly bad period? This will never excuse murdering someone, but if you still struggle with mood swings, irritation or annoyance almost beyond control then by all means get your hormones checked out, or work on balancing them. Something can almost always be done and you can return to normal. It requires commitment and perseverance, but the end results will be worth it.
A woman's emotional strength depends partially on how much she can relax about it. This does seem a little counter-intuitive, but micromanaging and constantly stressing over how we are feeling is only going to exacerbate the struggle. By the same token if we are too busy we aren't going to have time to invest into emotional health the way we should. The investing bit is the tricky bit, because we tend to think of it as we do financial investments; something that has to be done big time. Unfortunately that isn't a reality for many folks and just as we stretch our dollars to accommodate, we have to stretch our time to get in time to recharge. This is a whole book in itself and there's no way I'll do justice to it in a few sentences. Good way to say it is that Mary had it best when she sat at Jesus' feet, and as Christians this is the most important one of all. It doesn't have to be hours, or even an hour. I'm not a mom but I know how impossible it can feel for mum's, or just us plain women to get that time. Here's what I've learned: our spiritual life is constant. It doesn't have to feel grand or experiential, but taking the time to quiet yourself for even 10 minutes morning and afternoon makes a huge difference. Beyond that be assured that God is with you, and learn to sort what is essential for the day and what isn't. In my experience this goes the furthest distance in making a difference, because we can stop, focus on God, or take care of the little things that piled up.
The End Game
As Christians God makes no distinction between what we are called to do. We must love God, love people, take up the cause of the widowed and orphans, take care of our families (men especially) and glorify God. The woman's difficulty in all this is taking control over her emotions to allow herself to work to that end. We are going to feel things, no doubt, and some days are going to stink but our emotions are neither our master or our end. It might be the hardest battle we ever face, because as every woman knows emotions are lions and lambs, and rarely do they lay down together. They growl and snap, roar and bleat, and dot pastures like white, fluffy, peaceful fuzzies, baffle us and overwhelm us, but despite it all can be protected and managed while adding beauty to life. I'm in the beginning stages of thinking about this but have come to the conclusion that equality does not mean we fight the same battles, but it means that either gender must face them with the same determination to win.
We are not defenseless or helpless. A man is not weak because of his struggle, but his response to his thoughts and eyes may compromise him. In a different way neither does a woman's emotion make her weak, but her response to these things may compromise her. Emotions are a strong force, and the woman that dares to harness them is a force to be reckoned with, because then she may think freely, judge wisely, and rise to the occasion required. It is the function that gives us the unique ability to both protect, nurture, and give life to the world. This is woman. God created her and He does nothing small.