I found this post on emotional labour
and the metafilter post it grew from really interesting, I'm still poking at the comments. Aside from the obvious take away of "if you're a woman don't date men" haha (which doesn't neccesarily mean don't date, metafilter commenters) it got me thinking about the place of emotional labour in my own life.
Being disabled has vastly cut down on my ability to do a lot of stuff, emotional labour included. I found presents increasingly stressful so just stopped doing them. Most of my friendships have gotten more distant and I don't see my family as much. But looking back I've always felt really guilty at being bad at certain kinds of emotional labour(*), I'm this weird mix of extrovert and...socially anxious or something (I've intermittently suspected myself of being on the autism spectrum) I tend to feel like it should just be ~natural and spontaneous~ and worthwhile in it's own right. I should just want
to spend time with people because I am good and caring, and wanting to spend time with them means I will want to do the things that leads to it: sending cards and presents, making phone calls etc. And most of the time I don't want to do those things, I find them stressful and difficult and often unrewarding, even when in the long run I really like the person and enjoy their company. And I feel bad about that, and that bad feeling just makes everything more fraught.
But thinking of it as work
is helpful. A friendly interaction doesn't have to be fun in it's own right, it's ok to think of it in cold/meta "I have not spoken to X person in a while, and I like them, I should maintain the friendship, what is the most efficient way to do that?" terms.
So I sent out short friendly texts to a few people I wish to better maintain friendships with! And it did make me happy, but it also made me stressed, so in and of itself I'm not sure it was a net positive experience. But two of them replied and we organised to hang out/skype and that
made me (and hopefully them!) very happy. Hmm!
I'm finding it useful when approaching my inbox too. Like a lot of people I get overwhelmed by guilt about neglected correspondence, and thinking about replies in terms of what I want to achieve with them is making them less scary, especially when I remind myself that replying at all
sends a positive message. But that it's ok to not reply sometimes, because it's work and I only have limited energy.
(the post has also got me thinking about the same gender related issues everyone else has been talking about, but I have nothing new to add there)
(*)I'm really good at other kinds, in that typical female-socialised way. And of course I'm sure that same socialisation is a big part of why I feel defective for not being good at other kinds.