Exposure

Posted: May 28, 2019 in real life
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes, I think I need to learn to shut up. Just a little bit.

My aunt died last week. Her death was rapid and largely unexpected. We, as a nuclear family, hurried on a plane and attempted to race the reaper out there. We did not win. Instead, we were there to say goodbye before she was cremated and to help absorb the initial impact with our extended family.

My family is bipolar. Not in the sense of the actual disorder but in the extremes of the emotionality of its members. We have one extreme who cannot keep their emotions in, who talk too much and share too much, who misdirect their anguish into inane irritations better left ignored (read: me). And we have the opposite extreme who cannot let their emotions out. At times like these, the space between these poles seems all the wider.

When I was in Iraq, I openly and publicly blogged about my sadness, confusion, and rage. This did not shock or alarm any of the guys who were stuck with me in the trailer every day because they heard me singing those same notes loudly beside them. However, stateside management assumed that I struggled in silence, packing my emotions like an IED, wiring myself to combust at any time. This made me a liability and resulted in mandatory meetings with my boss anytime I posted.

J: Did you post a blog today?
C: Yep.

J: Are you OK?
C: Yep.

And on we would go. That kind of transparency, that aggressive emotional expression was uncommon in a war zone. Perhaps it was inappropriate there too. Maybe all of those words were better sealed in my paper journal, unseen and unread.

I have been hesitant to write anything about this since biding the hours in Minnesota, since my flight home. I know my compulsion for expression and my emotional transparency and needs make times like these more difficult for my family who is not that way. I can read it off of them, yet I cannot stop myself. When I try, I end up doing the same things, only larger and sloppier. The only thing that makes the tragedy sting more is the idea that my constant words and waves of feelings make it worse for any of the rest of us grieving.

I worry that my family would not want me to publicly air the events, that it is something she would not want me to post about. Granted, if she was here, she would probably be too busy living her full life to be concerned with what her niece was rambling about on the internet. While some prefer to fold into themselves, I am the annoying bard, documenting everything and sharing too often.

Instead of publicly processing this family event or analyzing the differences in my family, I will shift the spotlight solely to myself, preserving family integrity through unabashed narcissism.

So, this experience, like so many before it, has left me questioning if I should reign it in, put a cork in my emotions and expressions and start keeping some of them inside.

I question this with my children. Am I too honest with them? Do I tell them too much, expose them to things too early? Is this one of the many ways I will damage them?

I question this with my job. Should I say less? Share less? Should I draw a harder line between professional and personal? Should I keep my complaints or irritations more quiet?

I question this with my writing. Should I stick to fiction and keep myself out of it? Should I put myself out there less, promote and push less? Should I write under a pen name? Should I separate my work and my life?

I wonder if I should insulate myself from the world a bit, retract back from other people a little. Perhaps I need to try to grow a filter, in all aspects of life. Truthfully though, I don’t know if I can anymore. My radical honesty, unfiltered demeanor, and emotional sharing has been steadily increasing as I age. Like a runaway train.

Likely, many things might be easier, maybe even better, if I was able to temper myself. It could simplify my life, avoid certain issues. Maybe I would be easier for some people to deal with, more palatable. But it wouldn’t be me. People frequently ask me why I write horror, why I would pick that genre. My answer is always that horror is what was already in my head and I just have to let it out. The same is true with all of my emotional expression, sharing, and exhibitionism. I have to let it out. There is no room in my head and my heart for all that flourishes there. I wouldn’t be able to deal with it if it was all trapped within me.

As far as why I have to share it, I think it makes it feel real. With so many figments in my mind, I almost need another witness to confirm the experience. And I crave connection and community, both virtually and tangibly. I have been opening a window to my mind on the internet since blogging first started.

In the end, I don’t know. The way I am may be helpful in some situations, hurtful in others. It may comfort one person, irritate another. I don’t know how to manufacture a demeanor or tame the one within me, so it doesn’t really matter. We are stuck with what I am and the volume at which I express it.

As far as my individual experience with my aunt, she was a strong influence in my childhood. The last time I saw her was last summer. Hard to believe that has spiraled into nearly a year ago. I was in Minneapolis for work. She insisted on picking me up from the airport and having me stay with her, even on driving me to my meeting the next day. And that is where she and I end and my memory of her lives on. Not beside her last hospital bed but as she gave me sage woman wisdom about work and life, things I should have long figured out already, as we shared a beer and a meal.

Typing it out makes that moment feel more vivid, documents it somewhere outside of myself.

 

Christina Bergling

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Comments
  1. I am so sorry for your loss… But I think you do the right thing writing about it — fiction or otherwise. Not only is suppression the basis of some really spectacular forest fires, it is also the root cause of health troubles you don’t need. Plus, it is more than ok to hide behind the filterlessness of getting older…it is freeing, I tell you… let ‘er rip. As for putting your loved ones into a memory perspective, talking about them and the wonderful things they did to make you who you are is a fitting tribute as well as transformative… Keep being you. You do you better than anyone else, and I guarantee your fellow soldiers and that one boss have held onto those blog post testimonials…because that was not only healthy, it was irrefutably the survivor in you… and that means lead or follow, but get out of the way!

  2. Dances With PTC says:

    I don’t see experimenting with your shoulds vs the way you are as mutually exclusive. They are the choices you get to make and don’t have any intrinsic value except for what you place upon them. Be internal for a while. Don’t. Think of other subtleties outside that range. But keep being you. I like the choices you make and trust them. You always work toward self improvement. Some days are refinements, some days are dramatic. There is grace in being adaptable, in my opinion.

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