Tag Archives: emotions

The emotional one

In my family of origin I was known as “the emotional one.” My mother served this up as an explanation hinging on an apology to my sisters who were infinitely more stoic in their demeanor. My memory is faulty, but I am willing to assume that my mother was genuinely distressed for me when I cried. I know, however, that my sisters were decidedly unmoved. I do remember occasions when one or the other would say, with exasperation or disdain, “Why is she crying, now?” Empathy was in short supply and hugging it out unheard of.

After I cast my vote for HRC, I got in my car and felt the familiar restriction in my throat that presages extreme emotion—and tears. Immediately a familiar tug-of-war began in my mind. One part of me wanted to give in to the tears, let them happen without question for whatever catharsis might be looming, the other part of me began to analyze why I was having such strong emotions and questioned whether any of the possibilities justified my response.

At this point you’re probably thinking this post is about the election, and while it does relate obliquely, that’s more happenstance than intention. I really wanted to muse about feelings, and how not to judge them.

The weekend before the election, I attended a seminar on visiting the sick and Jewish mourning customs. In small groups we shared why we were interested in the subject. When it was my turn to speak, I could barely choke out the words for the pain in my throat. Crying and gasping, I stuttered my reason for attending. I was horrified at my inability to control myself and apologized repeatedly as we rejoined the class.

When we left, a woman who witnessed my distress, with whom I am only casually acquainted, asked if she could give me a hug. I don’t have the words to explain how I felt as she hugged me, but in that moment I was deeply appreciative that she wanted to express that she cared about my pain.

Strong, negative emotions can be difficult to witness. In our society we’re expected to bury anger, despair and sadness to spare others from discomfort. That is something that I don’t seem to be able to do, but like others who are exposed to my tears, I am made uncomfortable by them. My desire is not to learn to restrain myself, but to become comfortable with my responses; to acknowledge that they are an integral part of who I am, and that without them I would be, somehow, less than.

Maybe this is about the election. People are in pain, sad, and scared. At least fifty percent of the country could use a good, strong hug; affirmation that we care about their pain, even if there is nothing we can do to help. We need to be allowed to feel our feelings, otherwise how do we ever move on from anything?

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Cat people will understand

Cats are limited in their ability to express affection for us. Mainly, they rub their bodies against ours, particularly their cheeks where their ‘happy’ pheromones are produced (or exuded; I don’t claim to know much about cat physiology). They knead their paws on us, with claws extended, and sometimes, in their excitement, they nip. In none of those instances do they mean to hurt us, but if you aren’t trimming their nails regularly, and they still have their teeth, both of those signs of affection can be a tad painful. Leaving aside the obvious sophomoric human parallels to the above, that’s pretty much it for a cat’s ability to express affection for a human.

Some of you are lucky enough to have cats who will let you pick them up and snuggle them. I’m terribly jealous of you. Of our two cats, one will tolerate being picked up if it’s necessary to be moved from point A to point B, but the other will run if he even suspects that’s what we have in mind. Since he’s usually wrong about our intent, it’s also difficult to pet him, unless he initiates contact.

That cat, the male, is at his most loving when we’re in the bathroom. He loudly demands attention when we are either sitting on the pot, or have just stepped out of the shower and are dripping wet. Personally, I’d rather pet him while sitting down than immediately post-shower when his fur will get stuck all over me. Despite my aversion to cat fur on my wet skin, however, whenever my cats ask for attention, I am prone to drop everything and respond. (Cat people will understand.) Imagine then, how painful it must be to have to give up your cats, for whatever reason, to the uncertain future of a shelter.

A woman I know was recently forced, by medical circumstances, to take her two cats to a shelter, after she had tried, unsuccessfully, to find a home for them. After a week or so, she contacted the shelter to find out how they were, and if they had been placed with a new family. They told her that one of the cats had had a horrible time adjusting, stopped eating and drinking, and cried constantly. After several days, she’d apparently made herself so sick that they’d had no choice but to put her to sleep. I know the shelter in question, and they’re wonderful people, so I’m sure they did what they felt they had to do. The woman, however, was horrified, and promptly returned to the shelter to retrieve the remaining cat.

My heart breaks thinking about that poor woman. She is never going to forgive herself for what she will always think of as being responsible for killing her cat. Instead she’ll spend her days coughing and trying to catch her breath, while her remaining cat rubs against her asking for attention, which she will be unable to resist providing, thereby exacerbating her inability to breathe. Cat people will understand.

First you cry

A classmate from elementary school (you’ve got to love Facebook) just pinged me to say that he’d been laid off, and knowing that I had gone through that recently as well, wondered if I had any advice for him. I decided to use this week’s post to answer him.

Sadly, as a high tech marketing person, I have become something of an expert at being laid off. As a matter of fact, I’ve been laid off twice by the same company, and let me tell you, I don’t care how much they beg, I am never going back there. You know what they say, ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, what the hell was I thinking?’

The first thing to do after you’ve been laid off is to have a good cry. If you’d rather yell and scream, that’s okay too. The point here is that it hurts to be let go, even if you saw it coming. It hurts like being dumped, or having your best friend move away, or losing a pet. It’s one of those gaping wounds that no one can see, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Give yourself as much time as you need to mourn your loss, but not so much that you have to switch to the next season’s wardrobe.

When you’re ready to start looking you need to get your resume in order. It’s an onerous project and no one likes to do it, but you’ve got to. As much as possible, recast everything you’ve done in quantifiable terms. Take credit for anything you had a hand in; everyone else does. For instance, if the development team you managed built a product that earned the company $10 million – claim it as your success. This sort of self-aggrandizement may not come easily to you, particularly if you’re not a sales or marketing person, but believe me, you’ve got to do it.

The next step is to network. The step after that is to network. And yes, you guessed it, the step after that is to network some more. The upside to being out of work these days is that there’s social networking. Look how it’s working for my friend from sixth grade! LinkedIn.com is the place to be if you want to connect with the business world. LinkedIn has monetized the game, Six Degrees of Separation. From there you can see who you know who knows someone at the company you’re interested in. And the only way you’re going to break into that company is to have someone introduce you. You can answer ads on Monster and HotJobs but if that’s your strategy for finding a job, you’re going nowhere fast. By all means, look at what’s available on the job boards, but then go to LinkedIn and try to find a connection that can carry your resume to the hiring manager.

I’m going to make this my first two-part blog post. Next week I’ll talk more about how to network, and also share my thoughts on hiring a life coach. I’ll leave you with this thought, we live in a time when there is no stigma attached to losing your job; it happens to the best of us. And there’s an army of sympathetic folks waiting to help. All you have to do is ask.