Readers of my Facebook page most likely are laughing right now. Yesterday I vented my spleen regarding the improper use of ellipses on FB and other social media platforms. The post was in response to the page of a friend who is a biblical scholar on a level I cannot even fathom; a true student of language and history whom I am blessed to know. He was being taken on by a person with suspect ideas made all the poorer through his incessant use of ellipses to separate ideas, a function that the colon, the semi-colon, and the em-dash perform quite well. Hell, even parenthesis could be thrown in there and everything would be kosher.
Now, is this petty? You bet your ass it is petty. I know it. I own the pettiness, but I do not apologize for it because for me, in that moment, this guy’s pathos-laden screed against an educated, erudite scholar encapsulated the pile of shit we see ourselves steeped in as a country. We have allowed for the deconstruction of the informed expert culture and the elevation of the loud idiot echo chamber. We’ve traded Mike Douglass for Sean Hannity.
And those GD ellipses just sent me over the edge.
So I made the post about ellipses use driving me crazy, and I asked that anyone looking to call me on the petty hold it, as I was aware of the ridiculousness. What resulted was a very interesting discussion about assumed biases in criticizing language or expression of ideas; there was also a lot of lighthearted fun, with people responding to me using all manner of ellipses and ellipses on steroids, that trail of periods that could lead one to the Yukon. But one person responded in a way that caused me to take umbrage. I have no desire to regurgitate the details, as that is not what I am holding up into the light. Rather, what resulted was a perfect opportunity for me to try out a new communication technique I am calling “confess and address.”
My emotions are big and close to the surface; I am also a highly reasonable person; most others have agreed with that when asked, even if they haven’t agreed with me on myriad substantive issues. I am passionate, but reasonable. I also understand that my emotions can be overwhelming for others, and I don’t always interpret situations correctly owed to my intense emotions. As a result, I have empowered others to stop a conversation if they feel bulldozed or attacked; I have only had one situation in which I felt that was inappropriately called out, which is a pretty awesome percentage. Most people understand that pointing to my mental illness in a conversation is a big move, and should only be used when absolutely essential.
I’ve tried a lot of things that don’t work, like sublimating my emotions or acting like everything is fine when it is not; I could win awards for the art of passive-aggressive behavior. To be sure, I am not like our PEOTUS, I am not a walking id and I am able to exercise a modicum of self-control. So I can compartmentalize, and I am getting better at choosing my battles. Facebook is a great outlet as well, but faithful reader will know that it has had its pitfalls. So IRL, as we say on the faceypages, I have been employing the “confess and address” method, which just played out beautifully online.
The misunderstanding between myself and the other person reached a fevered pitch, and I pulled down the original post. This is something I often do if I feel like a discussion is getting out of control. Often, it is followed by an unfriend and block. That has gotten me criticized in the past, and I recognize that it is a pretty definitive move. So I did not unfriend and block. However, the discussion continued on another thread and I was hit with: “you can either forgive me or you can’t.” Nuances and emotional responses aside, this is a true statement. Complicated and variegated, to be certain, but true all the same. It was easy for me to say, “I forgive you” and mean it, but that did not include no longer being perturbed, even downright upset. And I was upset, but it wasn’t just at the comment. It was at all the stuff that has been hitting since the event on NYE. It was the guilt I sometimes feel when I have to draw lines and not be a pastor, and to be a person who maybe gets irritated at little shit and just wants to gripe about it without being told I’m petty or that I’m not a real Christian. That has been said to me. Yes. When I get pissed and express it, I have been told I am a phony and a hypocrite.
So I confessed that I was still angry and expressed why. The other person expressed their emotions out of equally, if not more, intense contemporary life circumstances; we took it to IM and have had a lovely exchange that has ended in a promise to get coffee IRL.
We confessed it and addressed it.
I’m pledging to not respond so quickly to pull down a post and unfriend; I’m committing to identifying my emotions, but not to apologize for them. To address them. To enter into a dialogue with someone to talk through why we each are responding in a particular manner, and to authentically move toward a resolution. Sometimes that resolution involves another one of my core principles, holy tension. Holy tension is when we affirm the strongly-held beliefs of another, confess that we disagree, perhaps even vehemently, but pledge to remain in relationship without acting like we don’t have sincere differences. I have clergy friends whom I love dearly, but I know that we are on opposite sides of certain picket lines; we pull different levers and preach different perspectives, but we believe that love is enough to keep us at the table. And I am grateful for all who join me.
I laugh at myself a lot; I think that is necessary when you have a mental illness. It can be downright exhausting dealing with the myriad internal pressures, so when external ones come at a rapid rate, I sometimes crack at the silliest shit. That doesn’t make it any less real or valid; it just means that I’ve gotta confess that I just snapped, and then address it in ways that respect all sides of the experience.
Confess. Ellipses. And Address.