I had an interesting chat with a friend about the obsession in our culture with looking busy and stressed. The busier we look the more we are valued or respected. My children’s’ father is from Germany. When we first started visiting his family in Germany, I wasn’t very well received (12 years and a world of experience later I get that there were a lot of layers to why my initial visits were less than comfortable), but one thing that always stuck in my mind was when he told me that I wasnt well liked because I was always too dressed up and smiled and laughed too much so no one could take me seriously, I didn’t come across as a real person, it didn’t seem like I had enough struggle. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this assessment about my personality/appearance.
As women, making our way in the world, we’ve often been forced to walk a very thin line of what others deem acceptable and worthy of their respect. Be appealing, but not too appealing (you know, because men can’t control themselves), be smart but not too smart (you don’t want to be a bossy know it all), be feminine but not too feminine (no one wants to deal with a lady’s cccaaaarrrraaaazzzzyyyy emotions). So we mold and bend and blend and adjust to make sure we’re respected and have a seat at the table - another version of respectability politics.
Which brings me back to the conversation with my friend. I realized that I often run around wearing my stress on my sleeve because I think there’s a little place in my mind that believes that if I don’t look stressed and busy no one will believe how hard I work. Because don’t get me wrong, I AM stressed and busy. But does that mean I need to wear that, written all over me with a big black sharpie? It’s okay to be busy but it’s equally ok if no one sees it. If no one recognizes it. It’s okay to stop and catch your breath and not run into a meeting or grocery store, like a huffing and puffing stress ball. If no one sees and applauds us for our busy days, it’s okay, because we know the truth, and our work speaks for itself. I’m working hard to find that balance. Find moments of solitude that let me catch my breath. The world is showing no signs of slowing down, and it demands a lot of us. Everyday is about finding new ways to engage, as ourselves - in meanifful and healthy ways. Not as the person the person the world wants to force onto us.