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Thursday, June 2, 2016

I'm Not a Hoover

"Suck it up, Buttercup!"

Pretty sure the army started that one. Some drill sergeant motivating his cadre of cadets, still green, attempting to demoralize them and clear out their personality to make way for new instructions gets quoted when soldier returns home. No one with a gun and an enemy to shoot wants to be likened to a buttercup. Tiny little yellow flower with a perky face standing in the field can't shoot back, gets run over and lets the enemy stroll right through. Buttercup is an insult. Buttercup is an attack on personhood when it is used like this.

"Suck it up, Buttercup."

Is an attack on your personhood when it is used to deflect a request for assistance. When someone asks for help either directly or indirectly with a complaint (valid, the kind where you all know that person identified a problem but no one knows how to deal with it, not complaints about the weather) and is met with this phrase it says several things about themselves and the person offering this sage but pointless advice.

  • "Suck it up, Buttercup" says "You're weak, pointless, or just decoration in my life and your problem doesn't matter." 
  • "Suck it up, Buttercup" says "You need to be something more." 
  • "Suck it up,Buttercup" says "I don't really care about you and your problems because I never really did like you in the first place.

In the first point, you are weak/pointless, the person doing the "encouraging" is telling you everything that you need to know about how they feel about you. One could say that you should just ignore those words and find someone else who will listen. But what if it is family? Your best friend? Your spouse? You can't really ignore those demoralizing statements, They are with you most of your life. They are supposed to be caring and compassionate. So what do you do when they are not?

When you are told you are someone's decoration you should know right then and their that you are there for them and they are not there for you. "Suck it up Buttercup" Could not be a more clear statement of your position in their life. So what do you do?

A Buttercup is never going to be a thistle any more than a buttercup could ever be a dogwood or a magnolia. A buttercup is a buttercup.  It has a function and a purpose it's just a bit more in the weeds than the grand ladies of the garden. Doesn't mean it isn't important. But it also doesn't mean that a buttercup should be derided for not being a rose or a lily. People who struggle all have a purpose. Those struggles can make us stronger or they can break us. Being broken is an opportunity to heal. In that those people who throw platitude before tangible help are right. When you are always repairing the broken parts, we will continue the plant metaphor, your growth is stunted and your blossoms are diminutive. If all your energy is on repair it isn't on the growth and blossoming. Suck it up Buttercup wounds. It isn't just dismissive it is damaging. When you are consistently told you don't matter you believe it. You fix what damage you can but never really blossom.

When you are struggling and you hear this from anyone you have to have a dismissive attitude to them. If you are emotionally invested in the speaker this is hard to do. It is hard until you realize that the person telling you to suck it up isn't invested in you the way that you are invested in them. If you take away the Buttercup part of the insult, take away "up" what are you REALLY being told.

"Suck it" 

That's right. You are being told to "Suck it". You aren't a Hoover. You aren't some punk ass kid in the mall that got in the way of another punk ass kid in the mall but that is exactly how you are being treated. Stop and let that sink in for a moment. Seriously, stop. Think. Let that settle. 

These people might not be yelling like drill sergeants. There might even be a friendly little lilt to the end of the phrase. That does't change its meaning or effect on you does it? No. It's downright a mean thing to say. In any variant of the phrase it is mean and dismissive. So let me ask you this.

If this is what you are getting from the people you thought should be or were there for you, and this is what they are really telling you when you are in need, why are you still calling them friends? Why are you still connected to these people? Family? Friends? Co-workers? People who tell you to suck it don't have your interests to heart. They might still have your back, but there is a target on it. The people allowed to be the closest to us can not be the ones doing the most damage. If they are they need to be shoved into a more distant circle around you. 

This can not be done all at once. And it can not be done without great strength and some cost. It seems like a hard thing to do. like a mean thing to do, cutting people out or putting them at a safe distance. We have to realize that it is still not as mean as what they have been doing. This kind of dismissive behavior doesn't strengthen anyone. It actually is one way that these people breed dependence from us to them. 

My brother was always attacking me like this and then playing sympathetic after he shredded me. This was especially easy for him to do in my depressed state. It perpetuates the depression, increases that anxiety and then somehow, in a way I have yet to unravel, makes us seek these people for validation only to be torn down again. And once we reach a point in which we can no longer stand up against the insinuations, we submit to them and in our weakness we let them "take care" of or "protect" the buttercup. We do it because we were promised in someway that they could help us be roses. They want the roses. And we want them to want us. But we never will be roses. There is nothing wrong with us, there never was. But now we have depression and anxiety issues that tell us there is something wrong. 

And there is. But it didn't start inside of us. At least, it didn't start inside of me or the 6 people whose stories I know well enough to state... It comes from people like this. It comes from people who think everyone has to be the same. People who can not appreciate the smallness or stillness of someone, people who fear the power in the smallness and stillness of us. Think about how you feel when you are presented with grand flowers. Now think on how you feel when you find a handful of wildflowers. For me, there is a reason to be suspicious when I get a bunch of roses. There is an expectation that comes with them. Preceding a date I know he wants sex. Following an altercation I know that he wants permission to still be an ass and access to me to continue to take out his frustrations. But when I find wildflowers, all kinds of them, the fullness of creation is there. It is an unexpected joy, a happy accident. Somehow roses make me feel inferior with their reputation for being temperamental, the terms of bestowment and just their regal air of perfection. But wildflowers they are happy to be where they are. They get the sun and the rain and then they share themselves with whomever rolls by. 

I still love my garden flowers but I have learned to keep them at a distance. I am a buttercup. I have never demanded too much from the world, just to be able to grow as I was meant to, to not be stepped on and to be left alone rather than molested if I am not the flower that other wanted. 

I am a buttercup. Not a hoover. 

We are all some kind of wildflower that never asked too much of the world. Somehow that makes us targets for others to take out their frustrations with themselves. I know that is where my depression and anxiety come from. I wasn't born this way. I can remember a different me. I can not yet trace the exact path of the changes. But it does involve bullies, being constantly dismissed to find coping skills on my own, indifference, a manipulative parent and inconsistencies in interactions with the world: after months of the rules being what they are and everyone getting along someone changes them so that they can punish everyone, then the rules change on a daily basis so that you never know if you are going to end up doing something wrong. 

Each one of us struggling with depression and anxiety can trace the source if we are brave enough. In following the trail there is strength. Medications help and there is no shame. Hikers have all sorts of gear to get them to the top of Everest without shame. Medications are our tools to get to the top of our pwn private Everest... how ever that mountain looks.  

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