Last week, a friend of mine who lives in another city had an interesting encounter with a co-worker that led to some big emotional revelations.
A recent addition to her office, the coworker (let’s call him Spike) and my friend (let’s call her… Buffy) had been spending whatever today’s equivalent of water cooler chat time is, brief conversations between meetings or in passing in the halls. Buffy enjoyed the small bits of time that she got to spend with Spike, and it appeared to her that Spike enjoyed them as well.
One day during a conversation, Spike mentioned that he had been working on making his own deck of Tarot cards and that he had just recently finished them. Buffy told him that she’d like to see them sometime. The next day, Spike brought the deck into the office and left them on Buffy’s desk for her to see.
Buffy had never received a Tarot reading before; she took a look at his cards and then when she next saw Spike, she asked if he would do a reading for her. Their office environment being somewhat casual, he offered to do it immediately; the pair settled into a conference room and, from what Buffy told me, Spike had her pull cards in a somewhat traditional manner, and he did something similar to a Celtic cross-style reading for her.
Buffy told me that as Spike read through her cards and interpreted their meaning for her, she burst into tears and had to excuse herself. She said she had been overcome by emotion because of what she was hearing from him and what cards she received. She was expecting entertainment, but had gotten a profound experience instead; it twisted her up inside quite a bit with a mix of confusion, sadness, anger, grief, and fear.
As I listened to her story, I got frustrated. Why didn’t Spike prepare her for what a Tarot reading is like? Why didn’t he recommend that they seek to do a reading in a more sacred or gentle space than the office conference room? They also needed more time together, a time during which pressures to return to work weren’t looming. And, since Spike had made the deck himself, there was no way for Buffy to go home and further educate herself on the cards’ meanings as she would be able to if he were using a Rider-Waite deck or other commonly used and a documented deck of Tarot cards.
And though she had just been, in my admittedly biased opinion, sort of ambushed with an experience for which she was not prepared, Buffy’s biggest concern was returning to the office the next day. She was embarrassed at having cried in front of Spike.
It struck me in that moment that despite having been hurt by her interaction with Spike and receiving messages that she would now have to do quite a bit of work to integrate, her sole focus was not on self-care or integration. Instead, her attention was entirely given over to how Spike would perceive her now that she had become vulnerable with her emotions while with him.
She was more concerned about accommodating Spike’s feelings about her, about helping him maintain a comfortable, casual image of her than she was about her own overwhelming emotions.
I mean… I hate to be all, “The Patriarchy,” but… THE PATRIARCHY.
I realized that I do the same thing Buffy was doing all the time. That so many of us women do this because we are taught from a very young age to make circumstances comfortable for others at all costs. It’s only embarrassing to cry in front of other people. Why? I don’t feel weak or shameful when I cry alone. So why do I feel weak and full of shame when I cry in front of others?
Perhaps it’s because when I cry in front of someone else, they experience challenging emotions as well. And it is almost instinctual in me at this point in my life to ensure that others – men in particular – are comfortable. I prioritize their comfort over my own. In relationships, in social situations, in work environments, I am so very often making subtle, unconscious concessions in regard to my own comfort so that the men around me are more comfortable.
The cultural narrative has enforced this idea with us over and over again: the image of the “hysterical” woman locked in a mental institution; images of complacent Donna Reeds and Sitcom Moms pervasive throughout mainstream entertainment and advertising; the wrath of the scorned Fatal Attraction archetype in which the man is always the innocent party; accepting the answer “she’s fucking crazy” as a reasonable answer for why my date broke up with his last girlfriend.
And I’m sure there isn’t a single woman out there who hasn’t endured a meeting, meal or conversation with someone with gritted teeth, during which all she can think about is whether she’s bled through her pants yet and how can she find a tampon without anyone finding out?
With this past weekend’s Women’s March bringing all the -waves of feminism to mind, I’ve got a bold idea: what if we consider expressing our emotions publicly a radical act of feminism, something intended to normalize our place in the world and push the narrative forward? Are we brave enough? Can we wrestle down our own need to accommodate others in order to honor ourselves?
I plan on examining that work for myself at Love Warrior Meditation this week, a class that is focused on connecting with inner guidance and breaking through harmful patterns of thought. Check out the schedule for info on this class led by Bianca, and we’ll see you in the circle soon.