"Recovery" Does Not Equal "Appropriate"

September 27, 2018

"You look good today, Corey.  Appropriate!"  The peer at the computer laughed and then added, "People tell me to be appropriate all the time-do people ever tell that to you?"

I laughed, and said, "yes. When did recovery become synonymous with appropriate?" 

Yes, indeed-how?  I've been asking myself this question for several months now.  It started a few months ago when I broke down in tears during a theater rehearsal.  I called it a "meltdown" and "inappropriate."  I felt embarrassed and slightly ashamed.  "I should have managed my emotions better," I told myself.

It's true that through dialectical behavioral therapy, I have learned many skills to help me regulate my emotions and that's a good thing, but somehow learning skills changed in my mind to mean, "become perfectly appropriate."  However, 

1. Recovery is all about learning how to deal with the fact that we cannot be in total control.  We cannot be perfect ever and accepting that fact is a cornerstone of all types of recovery systems.  

2.  Crying IS often appropriate - it's our society that tells us that it is better to hide our emotions behind a stoic mask.  I was practicing a scene I wrote that triggered traumatic memories-crying is a normal, rational response to trauma!

What does the term, appropriate, even mean?  Appropriate to whom? Or what?  When we think of what is appropriate, usually it is part of a system created by someone else.  At the center where I work, acting appropriately means being trauma informed.  At school, appropriate means raising your hand when asking a question.  At many offices, appropriate means wearing a suit and tie.  These are other people's rules, not our own.  Sometimes there are good reasons behind following these types of guidelines, but we should never base our worth onto conforming to someone else's needs or desires.  Trauma informed environments are great for mental health, but are not ideal for a comedy club.  Raising your hand makes sense in a classroom, but is not needed when about to confront someone's misogynistic behavior. A suit and tie is needed to impress in the courtroom but would be ridiculous in athletics.

Women have always been told that telling our stories of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are inappropriate-boys will be boys-but that is not true.  It is appropriate for a woman (or male) to speak out if we are going to make progress as a nation. Tears are appropriate and anger is definitely appropriate.

Here is a poem I wrote a few days ago based on a scripture from the Wisdom of Solomon.  I hope it keeps you angry.  I think I am going to stop telling myself to be appropriate from now on and just let myself be me. 

“God purified them like gold in a crucible and found them as acceptable.”
Wisdom of Solomon 3:6

Holy Purifier,
Purify me!
I long to be acceptable but not “appropriate.”
Following in your way is not a life dedicated to being nice and sweet.
Was Jesus being “nice” when when he overturned the tables in the temple?
All of life is a test-
To deny this fact is be naive and foolish indeed.
What shall I do?
I must move towards truth-
I must amplify the voices of women seldom believed.

I believe.
God knows.
No more will we be silent.
The God who is always with us can also say, “me too.”
Let us say it with the voice of divine thunder.
Let us overturn the tables of patriarchal tradition;
Let us purify our society until it passes God’s test.

God is testing Her people-
Are we passing?
Like Job, we are right to put our troubles before God.
Like Job, we can criticize those men who tell us we are at fault.
Like Job, we will pass the test by pressing on,
Day by day, step by step, we will hold the men who abused us responsible
God will put them in the kiln and we will hold then to the fire

Until all of God’s people can pass the test together.

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