I wonder why we say ‘drama queen’? Why not ‘dramaholic’, or ‘drama-addict’, or ‘drama-fanatic’? After all, Elizabeth Windsor (as my good friend likes to call her) is probably the least dramatic person I can think of. Not that I claim to know anything about E.W.’s character, other than what history tells of her 65 years of inscrutable, poker-face reign. Behind closed doors she might be all flounce, pout and petulance, throwing herself about on a chaise longue, coming over all Blanche Dubois; although it doesn’t seem likely, does it? I suspect that, with her, what you see is what you get: unflappable, stoical, unexcitable to an almost alarming point of not being moved by anything much. However, we persist with the label: ‘drama queen’. You’ll know one, we all do – those people who love a crisis, who can’t wait to pass on the bad news. They are probably genuinely moved and upset, yet possess an insidious, underlying black excitement in spreading the drama. But please, if it’s not your drama, stay out of it; take a leaf out of E.W.’s book and maintain composure – don’t add fuel. Quietly express what you must express, support where support is needed, empathise, care and attend, then de-escalate, don’t turn it into the next Netflicks box set to become addicted to. There will always be tragedy and sadness and crises and drama in life, always, and our histrionics help nothing in letting it play out and pass.
We are highly connected and networked these days. The internet puts all life’s permutations under the microscope – health issues, relationships, home life, work pressures, family problems – and a virtual someone is out there to advise, hear your story, share their story. This global chain of care is helpful, therapeutic, healing and soothing, it can get us thorough. But might too much of it, too long dwelling in that space, begin to create a new self, a different persona that one becomes stuck on? Every experience is different, I know, and I cannot compare one person’s tragedy to another’s, but I have found it useful to tell myself to ‘drop the drama’.
My drama was (is) bereavement: the sudden death of my husband. Very quickly I knew that I was not my grief, I was not my loss, I would not let myself become overly identified with my story. Surprisingly, this approach can be hard for others. It can be seen as denial, icy, or unfeeling – a bit too E.W. It can seem like moving on too fast (far from it). But for me, telling my story to those close that I trust, telling it many times and from many angles (and with some drama when I wanted to), has led me to a place of beginning to peacefully let go, gently moving on from the telling, whilst firmly holding onto the memories. For this is not about forgetting. It’s not about never speaking of it again. It’s not about supressing sadness and grief.
A few months ago I met B. on a flight, a smiling vision, I hadn’t seen her in 10 years. She knew my story and addressed it without any drama. “Have you come to terms with it?” she asked me. I can’t remember what I answered, but later I thought about her choice of words and how appropriate they were. We all have something to come to terms with, now or eventually. Legal documents have ‘terms’, agreements have ‘terms’, contracts have ‘terms’, but drama is unfettered and unbounded and flails wildly: drama has no terms. Drama is not a restful place; drama begets drama. Yes, I have come to some terms.
Yet, if this is my sage advice, what I am doing by writing this? Am I discarding my own instruction in the very act of sharing shards of story in a blog? Is it a classic case of, ‘do as I say not as I do’? I don’t know. I do know that writing lets me think through and consider my story. I write things I cannot say. Somehow, in writing a little each day (both in private and in public), whatever story is consuming me, and threatening to awaken my easily woken drama queen, then seems to be less present from the rest of my day. The drama is released. This is not easy stuff. I don’t have it cracked; often it cracks me. But I’m holding tight and practising dropping the drama as best I can. Unless you are bound for the theatre, I wish you a drama-free weekend.
‘The Guest House’ by, Rumi
‘This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.’
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.