Friday, February 27, 2009

My Name is Sarah and I'm an Over-Sharer....

I suppose there's little revelation to that. Hello, I started this blog to tell the interwebs all about my girly parts not working right. Hard to claim I'm anything but a giant, walking"TMI" alert, barreling down at you with way more personal bits of information that you had any idea you wanted to know about me. But it is something that I'm just recently coming to terms with.

I wasn't always an over-sharer. As a child and teenager, I kept a lot to myself. I second guessed myself, struggled to maintain a shred of self-confidence and assumed that I pretty much blended into the off-white walls of class rooms and that few people really wanted to hear anything I had to say. At home, I spent most of my time in my room, after having grunted the obligatory answers: "Fine." and "Nothing." in response to the obligatory questions: "How was your day?" and "What did you do today?" Rarely, if ever, did I engage my parents in discussions about their lives or current events (as if most teenagers even have more than a passing knowledge of current events that don't involve who was making out at the last dance, or the cat-fight in the hallway between English and Algebra).

I think my days as an over-sharer started with a friendship I cultivated after college. I met my friend Pam, who is, in the most wonderful and loving sense of the word, an over-sharer, during the year I did an internship, teaching full-time, for no money, at a progressive high school in New Hampshire. She was living with one of the math teachers at the school, and after chatting with her at several parties, I was just in awe of her ability to share her thoughts, experiences and feelings with such an ironic mix of vulnerability and confidence that I fell completely in love with her.

We both found ourselves unceremoniously booted out of our respective serious relationships around the same time and became inseparable in our grief and our attempts to re-identify ourselves without the men we had assumed we'd be sharing our lives with. (And as a side-note, Thank GOD those relationships didn't work out. that is all.) After having stifled my emotions in said previous relationship, it felt fabulously cathartic to talk for HOURS about myself, recognizing my worth and having her "Hell, yeah, sister!!" me back into a place of sanity and groundedness. (Oh, and those two years of therapy were probably pretty helpful, too, right?)

Actually, therapy has to be more than a paranthetical comment in this, if I'm to be honest. Sitting across from someone who expected me to do nothing more than talk about myself?! In a world where talking about yourself is considered so gauch, narcissist and self-indulgent? Priceless. Initially I did little more than sit in the chair and weep (oh, the drama!!!), but eventually I left those therapy sessions with a throat dry and sore from talking, talking, talking. Slowly realizing that in my own voice I could hear not only grief, betrayal and disillusionment, but humor and passion and a will to pick up the pieces and go on as myself, not just as a broken piece of what was a sham of a relationship.

Back to Pam. Because there's difference between spilling in therapy and spilling in the world outside those safe walls. A real turning point for me was the night before I moved down to DC. My parents held a barbeque for me, invited all my friends and family. It was the last time we were all together before my grandparents passed away, and now I so wished I'd learned to over-share before it was too late to do so with them.

We sat on the back stone porch of our house, chatting and eating BBQ, when someone commented on the unseasonably chilly weather. My dad said, "The coldest night I ever spent, it was 72 degrees in Vietnam." Now, I knew my dad had been in Vietnam, but I also knew a lot of vets never wanted to talk about that time--wanted to protect their loved ones from the vulnerability of those memories and emotions. So I never once asked my dad about Vietnam.

Pam, with her open heart and an assumption that boundaries are for the weak, turned to my dad and asked, "What was it like being in Vietnam?" The entire world stopped spinning on its axis; I swear I felt it. I looked up, bite mid-chew and waiting for the world to implode. This was the unaskable question!!! The unshareable experience!!! What was she thinking??!!

I wish I hadn't been so freaking flabberghasted at that moment, because I really want to be able to remember what happened next aside from simply this: My dad started talking about Vietnam. He didn't go into a ton of detail, he didn't divulge any deep, dark secrets or talk about having post traumatic stress disorder or anything like that. He just talked about it. And I was too astounded at the sharing to even be able to remember what he said.

That moment marked a change for me. I realized that I didn't want to be such a closed book or allow my fear of being judged keep me from sharing my thoughts, feelings, experiences and beliefs. It is hard to change, though. At parties, I'd often need a drink or two before I could really let myself talk a lot to people or share anything personal about myself. When I would wake up the morning after a party, I'd spend hours kvetching over something stupid I might have said or something overly personal I may have shared. I often found myself apologizing with an, "Sorry. I'm drunk," if I spilled too much information. Most of the time, people reassured me that I hadn't said anything over the top. If anyone was put off by my willingness to talk, talk, talk, they never let on.

After setting into life in DC, it just became a part of my personality; I'd pretty much talk about anything with friends, new and old, and love the opportunity to get to know them better and let them see me for who I am. Starting this blog, spending hours on my back, writing about my stupid cervix and then my stupid post-partum depression (have I not covered that enough?!), I had to revisit what my boundaries are, and where my comfort level is in sharing this stuff not only with the anonymous eyes of the internet, but also with the friends and family who I know read my stuff. I found myself saying, "You know what, Sarah? This is who you are; if they love you for it, they love you for it. If they don't so much, that's okay, too. But this is who you are."

I've not thought about it for a long time. But moving to Los Angeles has made me aware again of this element of my personality. I find myself chatting with moms at Ethan's preschool while the kids are busy together and at the end of two hours, while I also know a lot about the other moms, I walk away, thinking, "gosh, they already know I've been trying to get pregnant for over a year, they know I had a hard time breastfeeding and that Ethan was colicky for 6 months. They know I went to an all-girl Catholic school (which, by the way, is an excellent topic of conversation while sitting in the parent-area of the synagogue) and that I have a horrible body image.....did I share too much????"

But the reality is, it doesn't matter. If I share too much for one person's taste, well, then I guess they won't want to be my friend or read my blog. That's okay. One thing I'm finding, though, is that over-sharing tends to attract more than it repels. Lucky for me.

11 comments:

Karen said...

Its been a long time since I really felt the "psychological twin" element of our relationship, but this post really brought that home. I was so closed off for so long b/c I was afraid people wouldn't like what they would see if I was myself - and lord knows, everyone just has to like me, even if I don't particularly like them!

I've been coming to grips with this part of my personality too - perhaps not as soon as you did or as outspokenly, but its there (especially when I meet new moms and have to decide if I'm going to mention that Sam is adopted). And you are right, you attract more by being open, and those who you repel, do you really need them or their opinions anyway? I heard a quote the other day that I loved and while I am not there yet, I am trying:

"what you think of me is none of my business"

I used to dread getting older, but now I love it - I really do. Every year I become a better, more interesting, wiser, funner and happier person.

Stephanie said...

Love. You.

Anonymous said...

i think showing vulnerability is definitely a sign of confidence. and confidence is incredibly appealing! plus, life is way too boring if everyone keeps the juicy stuff to themselves. i'm glad i met you in your oversharing stage :)
- kita

Alice said...

Thank you, honestly, for sharing. You are so funny and great, I love following your family on the internet. You have a great "voice" and I really appreciate your willingness to share.

DG said...

excellent blog, Sarah. LOL. "My name is Dawn and I've always been an over-sharer!" I constantly berate myself for over-sharing. I leave places thinking people must think I"m so self-centered. Oh, well. We are what we are! :)

Anonymous said...

i am also like you IC and all............i like you

Sarah said...

best post ever.

to blog is to overshare, don't you think?

back to navel gazing :)

AJU5's Mom said...

Oh, I can be that way too! I either share nothing or too much! I never know when to shut up and when to talk...

Barb said...

I miss Sarah we need to overshare via actual voices one of these days, but in the meantime thank goodness for your blog.

Love ya,
Barb

KMW said...

Takes one to know one! I love over-sharing! I find it so off-putting when people are too careful. I mean, we're all people, right? Everyone has a lot of the same stuff, why not talk about it? Keep it up. You help people blog to know they're not alone.

KMW said...

Takes one to know one! I love over-sharing. We are all people, right? Why not admit that we are all struggling with teh lot of the same things? YOu help poeple with this blog to know they're not alone--and you're braver than me. Keep it up.