Wednesday, 23 September 2015

To be Strong

I attended the monthly poetry slam at UNSW today: poets vs comedians. Not your regular poetry slam, but poets battling against comedians. Even though they use different tactics, voices, emotions and perspectives, both comedians and poets are actually just trying to do the same thing: tell a story, and make you feel something.

It still fascinates me how people dare to open up in front of a crowd. We laugh at the comedians because we know that's what they're trying to do. Even a sad story will make us giggle in some way, perhaps because we know how silly we human beings can be sometimes. When a disabled person is on stage, telling about the benefits of being disabled, laughing at himself and prompting the audience to laugh, you start to realise how important it is to take yourself less seriously.

However, laughter should not serve as a substitute for sadness. It should not be created to occupy your body with an emotion, just so you won't feel the sadness. The laughter has to be genuine, stemming forth from acknowledgement and acceptance. Because too many times I catch myself laughing at my emotions, dismissing them, being sarcastic about them, hoping to degrade them and feel less of it. That's not healing, or being strong, that's being ignorant. 

And this is something I've thought about a lot: what constitutes emotional strength? My mother has always assured me that my other half needs to be strong because I'm emotionally fragile. And I know that many people cringe at the idea of a crying man. Connecting the two: is this what being strong means? Being able to contain your emotions? I personally do not mind a man that cries if necessary. Because why is it that we want a strong man in our life? To me, it is because my most important aspect of a relationship is feeling safe. But I can't feel safe with a man who I can't read. I can't feel safe if he doesn't want to share with me, because then I will be less inclined to share with him. It's risky to bare your soul to a fully armoured soul. 

This is why I've always valued public speakers, of any form, for having a voice, pouring their emotions and opinions out. That's what being strong means to me. Daring to be vulnerable, acknowledging your weaknesses and doing something about them. We are human beings, and we will always need someone else at one point or another. As cheesy as it sounds, the Chinese sometimes say that one chopstick is easily broken, but if you put many chopsticks together it's less likely to break. If you're too stubborn or proud or ignorant or afraid to let someone in, you'll never experience the benefits of putting many different hands and brains together. 

Communication is a way of getting together, and I feel like it's time to feel less ashamed of 'not being strong'. Because in some way, I think everyone has felt insecure about something, even if it's just once in their lives. Perhaps they bit through it on their own, and they're fine, but what if it's happening over and over again? How long can you bite your tongue until it bleeds? As a baby we needed hands to keep us standing, to teach us to walk. As we grow older, we stumble, bruise our knees, or twist our ankles. Each human being has a pair of hands. There must be one hand that's willing to help you walk again. 

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