Out of Character

You ever “come out the side of your face” or been “taken outta character?”

It’s kind of a conundrum, isn’t it? People push your buttons, and you feel something. Like, a hot feeling up your neck. Sweat. Shaking. Can’t bite your tongue…a need to say something. And then, BOOM! You’re “outta character!”

But are you, really? Or are you just showing your character?

I’ve heard people use the word “firecracker” when describing my mom and grandmothers.

In fact, I’ve always described my mom–and her mom–as a firecracker. They both were known to be sweet southern ladies with high class and fine character…until something sparked the fire. My grandmomma had no filter. I don’t remember her ever having a filter, but I saw her behind closed doors, in her most natural habitat. She was a say-it-like-it-is, I’m-just-sayin’, bless-her-heart kind of woman. Half-apologies. On half of the other hand–because it’s not totally different, just a little–my mom would only flip the switch at home…in her most comfortable place. She is the Queen of Letters. If something bothered her, she would write the most eloquent letters detailing her disgust and distaste for whatever issue was at hand. If she could, she would probably have sent an addendum to the shut-down letter…it would include an apology or an explanation as to how she didn’t mean to be so harsh but sometimes it’s necessary. That’s the difference in her and her momma–she tells it like it is apologetically…because I think she doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings or make them feel inadequate. My dad’s mom lacked the southern belle characteristic but wasn’t shy about sharing her opinions just the same. She didn’t add the frills my mom’s mom added…no “bless their hearts” or “poor things” coming from her. And definitely no apologies.

These women–my mom, her mom, and my dad’s mom–have all come together to create ME.

Somehow, I’m a mix of tell-it-like-it-is and compassion. I ended up with a little “bless it” and have-several-seats mixed in with an uncanny ability to articulate myself that will leave you scratching your head wondering if you really just got shut down. It’s a quality that I am very proud of, actually…it has proven extremely helpful in discussions with parents, administration, the cable company, doctors, and all sorts of other people who sometimes bank on you not striking back or standing up.

So, let’s circle back.

At what point are you “out of character?” How do you come out of your character? Is that passion not part of your character?

These characteristics I’ve just described about my mom, grandmothers, and myself…are they not part of my character? I mean, maybe it’s a part that I usually keep under wraps for the good of the general public, but it’s still a big part of who I am. So, why is it described as “coming out of character” when that passion bubbles over and shows its animated face?

There are only a few things that push me to the brink of no return. Utter stupidity, ignorance, unnecessary ugliness, and anything threatening the safety or happiness of my children or family.

Utter stupidity covers all those things that makes you scratch your head and say “what?” This is when I repeat what has been said or done just so those around me hear the sheer craziness of it. For example…and y’all don’t judge me…last night on the news, my husband and I heard that the president plans to use some of his last pardons on himself. I had to repeat it out loud, just so we were together…he’s going to admit his guilt in whatever the Senate and Congress is claiming and then use one of his presidential pardons to pardon himself. What? <scratches head>

Ignorance covers all those things that shouldn’t happen anymore. Nobody in this day and age can claim ignorance on any subject. There’s too much news, too much social media, too many experts, too much talk and explanation on every topic imaginable. Nobody can say they don’t know about current events. Nobody can say they don’t know about differences among people. Nobody can claim they don’t see injustices happening on a regular basis based on race, socio-economic status, education, or living circumstances…we have come too far, people have fought too hard for too long to have anyone in the United States to claim ignorance about anything anymore.

Unnecessary ugliness is just that–unnecessary rudeness. Being mean. Ugly. Kids are really good at this. Adults can be really good at this. It’s the act of being mean for no reason. I don’t even need to go into detail about it because you’ve all experienced it yourselves or through your kids. I have zero patience for it. Zero. The good Lord don’t like ugly, y’all.

My last trigger is anything that threatens the happiness or safety of my kids or family. I feel like this one can go without explanation…I’m a momma bear. Always have been. I’m that kid that lived by the “I-can-talk-about-my-brother-but-you-can’t” code. Now, I’m that adult. I’m loyal and protective to a fault. This is probably the one that will bring me out of character the quickest and hardest.

My friends and family know my triggers and my reactions. My face gets red, my eyes get teary, my voice gets loud, my hands and arms get really Italian. I start quoting research, current events, books I’ve read…I dig out golden nuggets from college lectures…I use all the ammo I have wield my sharp tongue as a sword. I use tactics learned on debate teams. I could possibly be mistaken for Katie Couric or Anderson Cooper. When I’m done, you’ll either be agreeing with me or walking away confused about the events that just transpired.

“Coming out of character” might sometimes be confused with being confrontational or argumentative. I don’t think they necessarily mean the same thing. I think that passion is part of your character. It’s what means something to you, what drives your decisions and holds importance in your life. Confronting or arguing with someone doesn’t always mean fighting or hurting someone’s feelings. It doesn’t have to mean that we end up in a win-lose situation.

I think it’s more of a personal vulnerability. It’s opening a door into your most personal beliefs and core values. It’s showing your weaknesses…where the enemy should strike you to render the most pain. Maybe that’s why people keep it hidden. The fear of shining a light on those most important things could drive people to believe that they aren’t part of who they are…maybe that’s why it’s called “coming out of character.”

That fear that holds those deepest secrets in that darkest place is so strong that when or if they are brought to light, people react in a way that isn’t becoming or attractive. But those “negative qualities” that come out when you push buttons could be better described as strong. Passion.

When my buttons are pushed, my husband jokingly says, “I love it when you get like that.” My dad says, “Don’t go gettin’ your feathers all ruffled.” That passion isn’t something I show often…but when I do, you know you’ve struck a nerve. And that’s ok.

It isn’t coming out of character. It’s showing all of your character.

Author:

I'm a momma, a teacher, a practical free-spirit trying to navigate this crazy journey. My path is full of trial-and-error experiences, blind faith, and lots of weight on my village. It's my hope that my stories might support you, encourage you, enlighten you, or slap you in the face...and my southern charm should make it go down easier!

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