When I began this blog in February of 2011, my mantra was to live an authentic life and to manifest that intention here, in writing and sharing. Living authentically sounds nice and good and pretty simple, and it is all those things, but it is not easy. Or, rather, it was not easy for me. The mask was more familiar. And much safer.
When I was married, it was very important to my husband that we not “air our dirty laundry” with others. This included sharing our problems with friends, or really anybody at all. He saw my tendency to share as a weakness, as a means to seek validation or sympathy or… something. No matter how minor it was, it always felt like oversharing to him.
So I stopped sharing my true self. I became the world’s best listener and advice-giver. Our friendships were based on shared interests, our children’s friendships, and our work connections. Is it so surprising that over time, no one really knew us? True, they didn’t know our problems, but they also didn’t know us. We were simply the construct that we created for them, the masks we wore, the facade we carefully maintained. The perfectly matched couple with the peaceful, supportive, and easy marriage. Our children were well-behaved and lovely, our home warm and welcoming. Our friends had problems that they confided to us openly, and we counseled them with the confidence and self-assurance of the righteous.
But all of that was unreal, fake, a fraud that we were so accustomed to and so frightened to let go of that at some point we genuinely began to believe in it as much or more so than those close to us.
It was neat. It was tidy. It was pretty.
And it was so god-awful lonely.
What a relief after my separation to finally begin to make friends again to whom I could confide! That I could tell my darkest, dirtiest, most horrible thoughts to! Who could truly know me and still love me! How wonderful to no longer put so much energy toward the impression of a perfect life, to throw open the windows and let the truth pour out… How liberating, inspiring, and energizing to be real, authentic, and open again!
It seems to me that there are a lot of studies being released recently proving that social media is our latest means of crafting the perfect image to those around us. The smiling family photos, the perpetually-happy status updates, the tweets cataloging all the wonderful, perfect moments in our lives. And there also seem to be an equal number of studies telling us that the more time we spend on social media, the worse we feel about our own lives.
Ugh. That kind of news is very sobering to me and very discouraging, too. Why do we do this to each other? I honestly understand not wanting to be the Twitter Debbie Downer or Chronic Facebook Complainer. I get that nobody wants to log on to be force-fed negativity. But what happened to authenticity or balance? Why are we so afraid to show people the messy parts of our life? What exactly are we so afraid of?
I can answer my own questions, of course, because I was long one of those people. I can only imagine how some people must have felt sickened by me and my “perfect” little family, and I don’t blame them at all. I realize now that at some point I’d bought into my husband’s flawed dogma that if people see your mess, they will judge you and they will discount you and they will no longer respect you.
That’s true, of course. People do all those things when you show them your messy life. But not all people. And not all the time. And the ones left in the room after we dump our mess all over the place are the ones that we need to fight for and hang on to. The rest were just taking up space anyway.
I know that some mothers will suffer bouts of maternal envy on this Mother’s Day. I know that because I have been one of them. I have a long history of difficult, discouraging, and frustrating Mother’s Days. I even wrote a post about it last year that called the anti-mother’s day. And I am here to tell you that that post generated a massive amount of hits. I think it’s because, if we’re being honest, we can all relate. Kids aren’t perfect, and parenting is a lesson in imperfection, so the odds are against having a great Mother’s Day each and every single year.
Similarly, my rant why I hate being a stay-at-home-mom is poised to become my visited post ever. That means it will surpass worst. sex. ever. and all the salacious thomas murray posts I’ve written. Go figure, right?
Well, actually, it makes perfect sense if you think about it. Because I genuinely believe that what we all want, more than anything else in this world, is to be known and understood. We don’t really need someone to tell us what we’re doing wrong; I think most of us have a pretty decent grasp on that. And we don’t really need someone to lecture us about how we can do better; deep down, I think we have that one figured out, too. What we need, what we crave, what drives us to turn to the internet late at night or when we’re all alone, is to have someone say to us, “Me, too.”
I am having an unexpectedly amazing Mother’s Day today. Truly. I can’t remember ever having had a better one. So, to those moms breathing a sigh of relief that you’re not facing a trip to the ER today or having to clean dog puke off your new rug, I say, “Me, too.” But to those moms who are wondering why the hell they ever got out of bed today and why isn’t it bedtime yet, I say, “Me, too.” Because I’ve been there. For sure. It’s no fun, but it’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything except that you had a bad day that happened to fall on the second Sunday of May.
Life is messy, and that’s really okay, too. It’s supposed to be. And anyone that tells you otherwise or tries to sell you an air-brushed version of their life has deeper problems than you can probably imagine. So be authentic. Embrace the mess. Say “Me, too.” I think you’ll be glad you did.