What We See and What We Don’t

Recently, I spent several days being very, very angry.  I believed my anger was warranted.  At the same time, I hoped one day I would develop the ability to be angry “in perspective” so that I wouldn’t feel it so strongly for such a continuous amount of time.   I thought, “That’s what older, more experienced writers can do–they still get bothered, but they don’t get so overwhelmed with anger and other emotions.  They can communicate their emotions through wise and gracious remarks.”

(A side note–if you know me and you’re feeling paranoid–just assume I wasn’t angry with you.  It was more of a general anger towards systems and cultural ideas.  I’ll get to that another day… you know, when I’m feeling wise and gracious.)

In the midst of this angry time, I spent a day with one of my sisters.  She asked me how I was doing.  I said I hadn’t been sleeping well, and she asked why.  I explained how angry I had been, that I had a lot going on, and that I felt really tense and stressed.  Listening to my explanation, she pointed out that my description of myself seemed different from the “me” she was reading in my blog posts.  According to her, in my blogs posts, I seemed so calm, thoughtful, and wise.  She felt like she had, in the moment of that conversation, gotten a glimpse of the difference between how I feel and how I present myself.

That’s when it hit me: Those older, more experienced writers I imagine probably aren’t as serene as I think they are, either.  Certainly, there is something to be said for age and experience and wisdom, but I doubt those writers spend their days free of deep, gripping emotion.  They probably have to struggle through their own uncomfortable, sleep-stealing periods of time before they come to a calmer point, too. When we read their well-formed, balanced thoughts or hear them graciously speak about what they’ve learned, we just don’t get to see that struggle.  But it’s that willingness to struggle that makes us want to hear what they have to say.

It’s so easy to see the side of people they present to the world and forget that there is more behind that persona.  It’s also easy to wish we could be like the people we admire, assuming they are steady and relatively unaffected by people and circumstances around them.  But it’s unlikely they are actually unaffected, and even so, we shouldn’t want to be unaffected.  Being affected is what drives us towards change–change in ourselves, change in other people, and change in our circumstances.

So, if you are ever tempted to believe the “me” you read in my writing is all there ever is, I want you to think of a very different me.  Imagine me sitting with my computer, tears streaming down my face, striking my keyboard so furiously it might break, typing “I HATE IT” over and over again until I can’t type anymore.  That’s the me you don’t see.  Still, I thank you for the times you see the resulting words as thoughtful and wise.  Just remember that’s not how they started.

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