In defense of an emotional man.
“Emotions are feelings with a story attached to them.” — from Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye.
A couple weeks ago, thanks to an awesome program at my place of employ, I received a pleasant surprise in my bank account. I had been gifted an additional sum to my normal paycheck. The only way to have this gift bestowed upon you is for a supervisor to recommend it.
Thinking through it, I could only account for one specific instance that warranted recognition in such a manner, barring any straight up friendly back scratching. (Which I’m not prone to partaking in.) It didn’t take a lot of deduction to sort out who my kind benefactor was.
I did approach him and confirmed the actuality of the story I had in my head. I thanked him enough to show my gratitude, but not so much to be creepy.
A week later our dryer at home died. My bonus, originally intended to pay down bills, had just become a way to not incur more debt with this next major purchase. Still, I was grateful that things happened the way they did.
A couple days later, I told him a very brief version of the story, this time with a bit more heartfelt show off gratitude. I wanted him to know that his actions had made a difference.
I could sense that it was perhaps awkward to him, so I didn’t press it terribly hard. My obligation to do this was my own, for my own reasons. As long as I honored that, he was free to carry it any way he saw fit.
Today, this same supervisor was up in front of our entire shift. He was to give a talk regarding an incident, very much out of character for this person, that had happened sixteen months prior. This talk was part of the conditions set forth by our employers in regards to this incident.
The incident left him in a very dark place. Not only was it completely out of character, but the repercussions were severe. The uncertainty portrayed in his tale regarding his emotional, familial, legal, and financial conditions could easily be felt by anyone willing to express empathy.
He talked of deep depression, something very foreign to him, and of crushing despair. Regret, sorrow, shame, desperation were constant presences for him.
He was shaking, nearly in tears, as he told of his progression through the legal system, and of his dealings with counselors to help with his emotional anguish. The situation at work was equally draining.
And I felt all of it.
I could have easily been him. Not so long ago, I could have done the same thing. Anger was a shield for me, and my reactions were often based on that emotion only. Beyond that, many of the things he felt, the thoughts and feelings that were so strange to him, I have also felt. Although not for remotely similar reasons.
As I looked around the room in our male — dominated workspace, I wondered how many of our contingent recognized the pain he was expressing, or could even relate to what it’s like to feel depression coming on and not knowing if you could hold back the crushing weight of it.
Worse, I wondered how many would bring it up to one another out of earshot and judge him for it.
I resolved to at least go to him after and shake his hand meaningfully. I hoped to let him know that I understood, even if I couldn’t directly say it, at least through a handshake.
As I approached afterwards, my direct line to him became blocked by another coworker. He apparently had a similar idea. I cannot know if this person felt the same, or had similar experiences, and it doesn’t really matter. What meant the most to me was that at least one other human had compassion enough to do the same.
And I am grateful for having been part of that experience.