Friends used to say “hold the space” and I wasn’t sure where it came from or what it meant. According to the Urban Dictionary, it is the new modern term for being present for someone, listening to them. Listening is an old word. But still a powerful one.
I’m going to suggest here that we hold space for each other to be cranky. In the last wee while, I’ve seen college educated, lovely people–therapists, professors, homemakers, you name it–turn purple with rage over the smallest of unintended slights or inconveniences. In a world full of very real threats (police shootings, pandemics, and a few others) we’re getting mad because someone forgets to put ketchup packets in the bag.
(Apparently there’s a shortage of that, too.)
Crankiness is ugly. It’s childish. We’ve turned into mousetraps baited and waiting for someone else to set us off so we can snap at them. And while the rulebook for how we entered the health crisis hasn’t even been finalized, we are now starting to emerge from it with no plan whatsover. Will a buzzer sound? Do schools start up–wait, are they shut down again? In this brave new era, it would be easy to let “devil take the hindmost” replace the Golden Rule.
Can I affirm that you deserve to be testy? Feel free to hold your breath and turn blue until you get what you want–or, more likely, pass out. But most of us carry Naloxone and smelling salts, so it’s okay. We can’t get you what you want but we can sit by you while you cry bitter tears of baby anger because your balloon went up to the sky without you. We lost a lot of stuff this year. Worse, we lost a lot of people this year. Not a one of us isn’t carrying some form of grief.
Grief doesn’t come in sizes.
Could we take a moment to affirm grief for each other? You get to be sad about you’re sad about. Ignore those trying to spread daisy print gingham over everything, demanding you remember 24/7 to be grateful. Beat your fists against the table. Demand sage instead of onion dressing on your turkey. It doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for the turkey. There have to be some steam valves to let out what happened to us. Substituting one thing for another is valid. And perhaps safer.
Primal screaming was a communal thing last year. Primal screams get more respect than irritability. How could we not be cranky when we’ve spent a year exposing the nerves of our underbellied lives, trying to hold onto things, trying to regain things, trying not to care about things….. Crankiness might even mean we’re healing, like the itch in the scab over the wound. Once lanced, the poison dissipates without harm.
Be petty for five minutes. Your friends will hold space; then you get to do it for them. (Try not to do it in a really public setting, though. Your friends group is smaller than you think. Stick to them.) If we do run across an irritable person out there in social media land, could we just give them a either a kind wave, or a wide berth? Give them some space. They need it.
And once that’s done, we can get back to helping people. And posting memes on Facebook and calligraphy signs on our house walls about the gratitude we were supposed to feel this whole time.
Let it out. Hold space for each other to let it out. That will help it go away.