Tuesday, July 19, 2011
What is Enough and What is Too Much Information (TMI)?
I'm super open. In part that's my nature. In part it's learned. In part it is achieved. I sometimes take a lot of heat for it. Some believe I tell too much, too much about myself, too much about my son...too much. Some are embarrassed by my openness, and I get judged and taken to task for it from time to time. Sometimes I hear a shocked "I cannot believe you just said that!" I often say what others are thinking but won't say. Is this good? Is it bad? Is there a written line to be crossed and I forgot to read the manual? There seems to be a line, I've just never successfully negotiated it.
The part of it that is my nature, is just open...seeing no reason not to share my truth. Perhaps that's how we are all created but we learn to dampen it through shaping, shame and fear of being real.
The part of it that is learned comes from living in the public eye. As a teen, I needed mental health services. There is stigma there. As a young, divorced mother, I began a journey in "The System"...welfare, foodstamps, WIC, state medical coverage. Later "The System" was that my son had special needs, so it was school meetings, and doctor appointments, and specialists, and testing, and mental health. Despite "The System's" legal mandate for "confidentiality", in truth, there is very little. They share information with the entire agency as part of teams, you are in meetings and appointments where you business is continually discussed and scrutinized. You can spend years in it, as I did, being inculturated that you have no privacy. To keep anything private is to be suspect and labeled as "resistive", "manipulative" or "in denial". I just learned that my life, my son's life, and all of the details were open and on display. After more than 18 years of that, it becomes habit. There are no longer any secrets and you learn to just "spill it".
The part of it that is achieved is that which I have made a concentrated effort to become. I fight against my upbringing. I was raised with a multi-generational legacy that valued appearances over content. As long as you smiled, were quiet, were polite, were clean, and fit into a specified parameter of physical and fashion appearance, that was far better than anything that might be going on inside yourself, or your family. What the world sees, was of utmost important. "Dirty Laundry" (translated to anything not deemed perfect), simply wasn't done.
I want to develop spiritually. I want to live authentically and honestly. I've a panache for recognizing bullshit. It's either a gift or a curse. I groan both outwardly and inwardly when I read a Christmas letter so full of syrup and family happiness, when I know that the family is falling apart. I learn most by those people whose problems are openly shared in the spirit of honesty (vs just attention and sympathy seeking). To pretend all is well, when you are struggling serves nobody. Or so I think. We learn from each other. When we let our masks down and show who we truly are, what frightens us, what we are coping with, and what we need support with, we become real...human. In becoming real, it's my theory that we allow others to see they are not alone, and that they too can reach out. I hate hypocrisy. I hate lies.
What's the difference between being private and keeping a secret...or lying? I know this line differs for everyone. Do we need to just allow people to be where they are instead of trying to always place them where WE are most comfortable? Do we need to recognize that the "line" of what is good to share and what is not good to share is different for each person, and that we sometimes make mistakes in sharing too much or too little, and just let it be? Or is there a clean line. A place we can all learn to agree is a spot not to be crossed or exceeded? I don't know. I just know that at times, I feel weary of the scrutiny that never seems to go away. If I had a nickel for every time I've had my hands slapped for my openness (or share-too-muchness), I could afford to pay someone to find the lines and mark them for me. It's funny how my openness, and the cost of it, has contributed to my hermit nature. If you don't know where the lines are and it hurts to cross them, it's easier not to bother.
Do you know where the line is? Tell me.