What I Mean When I Talk About Softness

When I talk about softness I’m talking about vulnerability, openness, and flexibility. I mean soft like breathable fabric in summer. I mean soft like ripples on the lake. I mean noticing your reaction, how you feel. I mean acknowledging emotions. I mean admitting when you are hurt and that things hurt you. I mean using this hurt and vulnerability as a strategy to motivate change.

I prefer this to the alternative of being hard, unfeeling, unmovable and unmoved; of showing a stone face. Denying my softness and my pain does not work for me. Denial means I build walls instead of bridges. Denial means I assign blame and refuse to reflect and examine my pain. Denial means I cause myself anguish. Denial means I isolate myself. Denial means I feel unresolved.

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Photo by Raven Murders, found on Tumblr

Trying my god damn best to sit with my feelings is uncomfortable and painful, and maybe it lasts longer than the hot rage and steely coldness that comes when I try to brush past conflict, but it feels better. It feels more productive and it feels more honest. I’m trying to stay vulnerable, stay generous, stay honest. I’m trying to not respond to hurt by turning cold, by shutting off, by becoming mean. I’m trying to keep my heart open and give love easily, to not shut off how I feel because it would be easier. 

Masking pain as indifference has not prevented someone from hurting me. Telling someone they are trash because they have oppressive opinions has not changed their mind (even though sometimes it is not about getting an apology or changing someone’s mind. Sometimes this isn’t our responsibility). The temporary vindication I feel after cutting off a once-close connection or ripping into a once-dear friend grows cold, and eventually feels empty and lonely. This does not heal me. When I ask someone to try harder because they are hurting me, I feel more nourished — even if they won’t try. I feel like I am honouring my pain instead of masking it, and it is important that someone honours it, isn’t it?

This is what I mean when I talk about softness. This is a lesson I am learning from femmes and femme artists. I am grateful for lessons on the power of softness and vulnerability. This is also a lesson that, when I am open, I realize I am learning from my exes (who have never been femmes btw). I’m grateful to them for asking me to be vulnerable and trying so hard to get me to soften. I am grateful to them for showing me that giving love when you’re hurt and sad is possible, and it is beautiful.

These lessons have not been easy for me. Vulnerability, honesty, and being emotional have long felt dangerous and scary. I am afraid of my feelings and my honest words being used against me (which they have). I am afraid of my heart breaking (which it has). I want to protect myself from pain and from harm, and I have used hardness as a shield. This did not make things better, and it has not prevented me from being afraid or feeling pain. This has made me a liar. It is a strange thing to try to distance yourself from yourself. There is no protection from pain or harm. Instead of using hardness to resist these totally normal human experiences I want to use softness as a way to let them do what they should: make me stronger and teach me lessons.

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