I was exchanging emails earlier this week with another mom from the dance studio over the Princess’ upcoming birthday party. Said mom noticed the link to my blog under my email signature and asked if I minded she’d read it. No worries…read away. She also sent me the link to her blog, which I went on right away. Within minutes, I sent her a text, thanking her for her courage in writing so honestly about what she faces in her life day after day. It’s not my place to share, but suffice it to say, I’ve known this woman for nearly four years and I had no clue. None. Nada. Zip. She said the same of me. We’ve spent HOURS in the studio lounge, chatting away while the girls were in classes, and we never knew the real challenges of each other’s lives. How is that? She said, after we both read each other’s blogs, “I think we’re going to know each other a lot better now.” Yup.
Social media seems to take the brunt of blame for only knowing people on the surface and/or how they present their perfect selves on Facebook (or whatever other site you may belong). I don’t necessarily think social media is the sole culprit. I know that long before the earliest chat rooms came along, my typical response to the question, “How are you?” was 99.9% of the time, “I’m fine, thank you, and you?” or “Great, thanks!” regardless of whatever horrible thing was going on for me that day. I may reach my car immediately after that interaction, and fall into a heap of tears. But we keep that stuff to ourselves, don’t we? We don’t usually answer that question with the answer, “Well, today totally blows, and yesterday was worse. And you?” Do we ask that question of people praying the only response we get is, “I’m fine, thanks, and you?” Are we afraid we won’t know what to say if someone does have the courage to give us the real answer? Are we worried the response we will get if we answer the question truthfully? If we don’t ask, ready for whatever the answer may be, or if we don’t answer honestly, then we will spend three years, or more, thinking we know someone when we absolutely have no clue.
I’m not saying to go out there and share all your intimate details with everyone who asks, “How are you?”. You can usually tell the people who really want you to give them the pat answer, especially if they’re asking it as they quickly stroll by you in the grocery store aisle, or from across the school parking lot.
It takes courage to be honest about the garbage parts of our lives. But being vulnerable, sharing the yuck…..I believe the people in our lives will be more compassionate, more patient if we don’t hide behind the mask of “I’ve totally got this”.
Contrary to popular belief (or maybe even that’s all in my head – hah!), I do not have it together. As an aside, and as a reminder to myself of a post for days ahead, we need to start a “Keeping It Real” movement. The only reason my house is relatively clean is because I paid someone to come clean it two days ago. By the time Sunday rolls around, it’ll be a disaster once again. I frequently forget what day of the week it is. I walk into the grocery store with a list, but will still inevitably forget at least two things. I procrastinate with the best of them. If it weren’t for Facebook, I’d forget half my friends’ birthdays. I have social anxiety, which I hide behind a suit of armor consisting of clothes, makeup, hair, shoes to make me feel more confident.
The thing is, we all have stuff. We. All. Have. Stuff. I would almost guarantee whenever we hear the question, “How are you?” we mentally stream through 85 things we could say, but settle for the, “I’m fine, thanks, and you?” response because it’s easier, less fraught, less a can of worms. It’s super hard to be vulnerable and tell people what’s really going on in our lives. I would say, based upon experience, if we embrace that vulnerability, we will end up with more caring, understanding, compassionate people in our lives, and we won’t say, “How could I not have known you were dealing with that?” years and years down the line.