May I be blunt?
I'm not a huge fan of diplomacy right now.
No, that's not right. We've just come off an election. I have friends who fall on both sides of the political fence. I don't care to listen to or read anyone's vitriol. I believe freedom of speech is a privilege that comes with a certain level of responsibility -- responsibility to afford others the same courtesy you expect from them, and responsibility to realize that the right to free speech does not inherently mean the inalienable right to be heard.
I love diplomacy.
I'm just not in the mood to practice it.
You know those times when we want to tell someone exactly what we think, when we have to bite our tongues to not tell a person exactly what we think of him, and when we have absolutely no desire to be kind or gentle?
That's how I'm feeling right now.
I can't elaborate on the circumstances causing that feeling, because I want to honor promises I've made, and because I'm trying to be a good person. But mother of pearl, I really do not want to be a good person right now.
The truth is that I'm not even certain that the best thing is for me to be diplomatic, kind and gentle. Part of me thinks that I might actually serve a purpose if I just speak my mind. But I'm probably not going to. To be utterly honest, one of the reasons I'm not saying exactly what's on my mind is that I don't want to deal with the consequences. I also tend to have a little too much of a guilt streak sometimes. I don't want to hurt people's feelings.
Do you get this too? That feeling that you just want to be down, dirty and direct?
I don't know about you, but I get really tired of the blow softeners. The "no offense, but ..." or "I'm saying this with love ..." or "Well, this is just my opinion, but ..."
Look maybe I underestimate people, or maybe I actually do know too many people who will cry like little girls who skinned their knees and dropped their ice cream cones at the slightest sign of criticism. I shouldn't really talk. On most days, I can dish it out a lot better than I can take it. I don't know too many people for whom that isn't the case.
So ... what to do when those feelings arise?
I talk to empty rooms sometimes. Not in an "I hear voices/I see dead people" kind of way, but in the same way one might write in a journal, just in a way that doesn't give me hand cramps. It's cathartic.
Sometimes lately, I've been trying to be more sympathetic in my mind. Like the times I'm in the grocery store and I want to tell the people with the screaming children to tell their kids to behave properly. (Yes, I'm a heartless, childless woman who just doesn't understand. Get over it.)
But instead of focusing on why screaming children ought to be muzzled, I've started taking a different approach. I remind myself that the child is probably tired, impatient and just wants to go home. He doesn't know a better way to express himself. And you know what? When I think about it that way, I feel less annoyed. You should try it.
But sometimes adults need to just be told to shut up and stop screaming in the grocery store.
P.S. If you don't like what I've had to say, please be kind. Otherwise I might cry like a little girl who skinned her knee and dropped her ice cream cone.
Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...