In Book Of Days this month, we’re working with the word ‘sweetness’. And by ‘working’, I mean, we’re tearing it down, poking at all of our feelings about it and what it stands for, invoking the good stuff through our art, ridding ourselves of the negative associations as best we can.
Sweetness is loaded with significance. For some, it means ‘saccharine’. For some, it means ‘weak’ and ‘doormat’. For some it means naivete. For some, it means exactly what it says – sweetness – with no subtext.
I’m not one of the latter. I struggle with sweetness – with my desire for it as a quality both in myself and in my life, and with the opposition to it that I feel in almost equal measure. Sweetness is vulnerable. Sweetness gets you taken advantage of. Sweetness can’t be trusted. Sweetness is risky.
But I still want it. I still want to embody it. I don’t necessarily want to eschew all else in favour of it. It’s not an all or nothing proposition. But it feels like it is sometimes. Like, if I embrace my sweetness (and it is in here somewhere buried underneath all the armour and bitterness and abject terror), I’ll lose my resilience, or my boundaries, or my righteous anger.
I don’t know where that comes from. I suspect conditioning. I half laughingly blame Disney and those princess movies of my youth (they got better, but too late for me!). Sweet and demure and in need of rescue. Sweet and in peril that only the prince can prevent.
The struggle, I think, is with how much I prefer feeling sweetness rising in me vs. armour or hardness. I love my sharp wit, my sarcastic sense of my humour, my ability to give as good as I get in a healthy session of mutual teasing, but I also love my ability to melt into a puddle of unconditional love. I love the way my eyes open wide and my pupils dilate when witnessing someone – really seeing them. I become a portal through which their experiences and feelings may enter my body so that I, too, can hold what’s happening. I love that side of myself, but I mistrust it lately because it *hurts* when you are that soft, that sweet, and it isn’t reciprocated. It’s also a true thing that some people see that kind of openness as an invitation to get their stuff all over you without even bothering to ask if you’re okay to be there in that moment.
Sweetness, yes. I want it. To feel it. To experience it. The trick, I think, is balancing it with boundaries. The trick, I think, is choosing your self even in choosing sweetness. Who has proven safe to be sweet with? Who will not take advantage of your softness? Who will respect you when you have to say “enough, please…” so that you can breathe again? Who will return sweetness with sweetness?
The world is maddening right now. There’s so much against which I fear I must harden or die, but there is something in me that is insisting I not do that, and I’m listening. I’m not necessarily succeeding in staying soft, in welcoming in sweetness. I am wary. I am weary. I am aware of the madness that is happening outside my door. How do I witness, how do I let that all that in and meet it with sweetness?
One story, one pair of eyes, one moment, one heart, one day at a time.