Exit Stage Left, Scene 1

When confronted with an emotionally awkward or uncomfortable situation, most people choose to cut and run as soon as possible rather than endure the inevitable discomfort of sharing space with someone they’d rather not see. I get it. I’m right up there, front and center, with the masses fleeing whatever it is.


But, recently, I’ve been playing with the idea of staying put and standing still. At this point, it remains an academic exercise for me, but as an active re-booter, I believe there’s some solid theory behind this new approach. First of all, withstanding the awkwardness may not be as bad as I fear. Such encounters rarely result in self-annihilation. Secondly, exiting stage left immediately cedes the territory to whomever it is I am fleeing; they now control the playing field and I’m left seeking shelter elsewhere. Do I really want to surrender that much power to them? And thirdly, which constitutes the core of my reasoning, why would I allow my emotional reactions to drive and control my behavior?


Contrary to the drama-driven messages broadcast by Hollywood and most media outlets (CSPAN not included), there’s a lot more to being a mature adult than our emotions. Allowing our feelings to assume the driver’s seat of our reactions and perspective is a lot like putting an eleven year old in charge. Let’s face it, as much as we may strive to attain emotional maturity, that puerile person lives and lurks within us, but we can’t allow him to be making our decisions!


For instance, I know someone who before they got married, pretended to enjoy their fiancée’s family vacation spot. It was a place that their betrothed had enjoyed immensely and eagerly shared with them. A few years into the marriage, the spouse made it clear that they didn’t want to visit that place because they felt “uncomfortable”—no reason given. Thus, the ban was issued on any future visits. The end. So, what is the end result? Because this person decreed their emotional discomfort as holding primary importance—above and beyond any regard for their spouse’s attachment to the place or any interest in exposing the children to a place their parent loved—the decision was made to eliminate it from their lives entirely.


Of course there are a variety of alternatives that might have been implemented, but in the name of “family solidarity,” the decision was made to eradicate a family tradition. Really? How bad could it be? Why did this person choose to exercise such veto power due to an ambiguous sense of discomfort when there was plenty of evidence that their spouse loved this place? Why wouldn’t they just choose to override any discomfort they felt, suck it up for a week, and go for the sake of a more important value of respecting another’s enjoyment? Sure, it might not be their first choice, but so what? How important is it that we are emotionally comfortable all the time? 

To be continued


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