“Calm Down”

Imagine this. You’ve been working hard on a beautiful painting for your mother all week. You took your time to draw the scene, pick the colours, and gently fill your painting with hues and beauty. You had to stay up all night before your mother’s birthday to give it some finishing details and touches. But, it was all worth it. The painting turned out to be beautiful. It shows your mom, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, a smile beaming across her face. Golden clouds are spread across the radiant sky. The detailing makes the sunlight seeping from between them look like a gateway to heaven. This might be your best work yet.

It’s time. You enter the living room. You cannot wait to give her the present and see her reaction. She will surely be moved by this painting. You can’t wait to see her glow like the sky in your painting. You’re scurrying towards her with the excitement of a little child on their way to the ice cream truck. You are about 5 steps away from your mom when your brother comes charging toward you and pushes you on your aunt passing by with a tray of refreshments. Time slows down. The painting flings from your hand as you fall, and lands face down next to you, on the puddle of fruit punch that was just created. Horrified, you stare at the canvas as the golden colours of your painted sky flow out and mix with the orange colour of the fruit punch. You look up at your 16-year-old brother who is now giggling about his little prank.

Naturally, you are furious. You spent days on that.

“WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!” you shout. “ARE YOU STUPID? YOU RUINED MY PAINTING.”

“Calm down, beta. He is just a kid.” you hear your uncle say.

Your mother nods. “It is okay, honey. Don’t cause a scene. Help your aunt to clean the mess.”

And that is it. You don’t get to express any emotion now because you might “cause a scene”. No one questioned why you were angry. No one will know how the painting turned out. No one asked how long you worked on it. But everyone will ask you to “calm down” if you express your frustration. I hate how emotions have to be suppressed because people view them as negative. Saying “relax” or “calm down” when someone is venting or expressing makes them feel irrational and unreasonable for not wanting to suppress their feelings. We need to own the fact that we are humans. This means that we feel. We feel happiness, we feel excitement, we feel amused, we feel loved, we feel hopeful and just like that, we also feel angry and sad and jealous.

I might sound a bit stupid, but when I see someone in a Mumbai local irrationally scream at or abuse a passenger, I admire the person who fights back. I love how they are fearless to stand up to injustice even in such a small or trivial matter. They don’t care if someone asks them to calm down. They might even hurl an abuse or two at the one who tells them to do so. Penting up anger and frustration inside you will only lead to random outbursts and bitterness towards the world. Give people the space to feel, smash, scream, cry their emotions out.

But there are even worse situations. You might not even be angry. You are rationally expressing your feelings on a particular topic you are passionate about. Maybe talking a little fast. Maybe opposing their opinion. You feel like you are getting your point across. That’s when they say “Calm down already”. Excuse me?!! I WAS CALM. I was calm till you dismissed my emotions and passion. Or tried to prove that you are handling the disagreement better than me. But now, as strong as the urge is, screaming “I WAS CALM” in their face will only prove them right. So here are some alternative responses you and I could use when being asked to calm down:

  1. Pretend to meditate or take deep breaths for a few seconds, then repeat the last thing you said in the exact same tone and continue.
  2. Say “Okay sure” and get louder
  3. Shout “CALM DOWN FOR WHAT” and continue flipping out (Thanks, Reddit)
  4. Give an evil smile and say, “I am calm. You don’t want to see me un-calm.”
  5. Unlock your full potential, turn into a crazy satanic beast thirty times their size and offer to calm them down forever instead. 

That’s my rant about being asked to calm down. So remember to take up as much space as you want when life is disappointing you. And at the risk of opposing Queen Taylor, no need to calm down.