During the past few weeks I seem much more able in my "real life" to express my frustration with situations. This always makes me pause to consider what I'll call the "assertiveness" dilemma. On the one hand, I have a life that is overall quite a good one. I have a great wife, good friends, peace of mind, and pleasant, if not quite luxurious, material comfort. On the other hand, my life has pressures and flaws and frustrations and shortcomings, as does anyone's. Although I do not believe I qualify as a "shrinking violet", I usually do not like personal confrontation. I take no real pride in "showing someone up", and I much prefer debate to emotional disagreement. Yet lately I'm willing to address head on things that make me unhappy, with varying results. I know that it's better to be direct than it is to be passive-aggressive. But sometimes excessive directness seems like taking a shotgun to a gnat-type problem. I'd hate to think that all my grand "causes of discontent" are merely out of proportion reactions to drawbacks in a life still much worth living. I picture some hypothetical in which I die, and go to another place. When I ask the folks there "is this Heaven?", they say "No. You were already in Heaven, and you didn't appreciate it, so we pulled you out of there".
I read all the same Reader's Digest articles that everyone else reads about the virtues of assertiveness. Certainly I agree with the idea that one need not always suffer in silence. But while I am glad that I am more direct, I am not sure I gain that much by the way I bring things to confrontation. I am by nature a tactless country boy, who has, over the years, learned how to be reasonably (and to some in my real life, maddeningly, elusively) subtle. Subtlety has its place, as a social lubricant. Yet everyone has "certain things" they need to get off their chest. My internal calibration for when to be subtle and when to be bold is a bit out of whack. This will make me take a deep breath, try to exercise more, get more sleep and read a few "comfort food" novels. It's amazing how much more sleep, good exercise and a good,lightweight book do more good for me than years of inner questioning.