Sharing, Do I Have To???

from Jan

I am a quiet, private person.  Sharing my thoughts and feelings comes as naturally to me as sharing toys comes to a toddler.   Therefore, when Joshua tells me that "this is not a sharing day for him," I totally understand!  It is really quite uncomfortable.  With the exception of a few people, I just don’t feel the need for my “business” to be made public.  It is a personal choice.  I know people who find great comfort in sharing thoughts and feelings with lots of people and I’m glad that works for them.  

So, “what the snickerbottoms?*” (as my 4-year-old would say)  Why am I co-authoring a website sharing our family’s personal journey and experiences?  That is a great question, about which I thought (and did not share!) a lot.  I came to realize that sharing information, feelings, thoughts is not an all or nothing proposition.  I have control over the things I make very public, share with close friends, tell my spouse, or don’t say a word about to anyone!  And, to be honest, when I have shared very happy or difficult things with my husband or a trusted friend, I’ve really gotten a lot out of it.   

But, what is the absolute biggest determinant of why I need to open up a bit?  Joshua.  For various reasons (which I choose not to share right now), I’m the type of person who always says she is “fine,” tries not to let on if I don’t feel well, and just generally brushes off my own feelings so others don’t feel uncomfortable.  I don’t want Joshua to internalize my behavior and sense that his feelings are not important or not deserving of being shared and valued.  If he is happy or nervous, he should say so.  If he doesn’t want Vietnamese food for dinner, he should tell me.  If he is sad about something, he should cry.  It is amazing how I was, unknowingly, such a bad example (and how frustrating this lack of honest information must have been for Jeremy)!  I see how earnestly honest Joshua is.  And, while we need to work on appropriate expression, I don’t want Joshua to feel that he ever has to keep his feelings bottled up. 

How have I become kind-of comfortable with sharing?  I looked at what I was good at sharing…food I’ve cooked, fun experiences, and space.  What was it that I enjoyed about sharing these things?  Enjoying these things with someone else, made the experience more vivid and meaningful for me.  Could this be true for thoughts and feelings too?   

Over the summer, I went through a trying emotional situation.  I shared much of what was going on including my feelings about the situation with a close girlfriend.  And, guess what?  It was really helpful.  I found a commonality of experience that really helped normalize the situation for me.  I was able to more easily ask for some practical help during the situation.  And, I got to do some good old fashioned (and very therapeutic!) complaining. 

This opening up is definitely a gradual process for me.  I’m not sure I’ve done a great job, but I can say I am much more aware of myself.  I’m finding out what makes me uncomfortable about sharing and ways I can share in comfortable ways.  Luckily, I’m trying to keep pace with a 4 year old.  So, while I would be totally left in the dust if this were running, I am hoping that Joshua and I can learn together to express ourselves in a way that is personally helpful and internally comfortable. 

*In an effort to practice sharing information, let me explain the origins of this odd phrase.  Before becoming a mother, I had a bit of a potty mouth.  Not wanted to pass this onto Joshua, instead of saying a swear word, I started saying “snickerbottoms.”  Partly because it made him laugh and partly because it was so embarrassing to say I was hoping it would encourage me not to need to say it!  Well, it is a good thing I replaced my swear words with something as “snickerbottoms” is becoming more and more common in Joshua’s vocabulary.