I took the long way, because it’s the most delicious month of August, and because I wanted to feel a breeze and the morning sun on my face before summer is gone again, and because I needed to air out my brain cells. I thought I might do some work from this spot for a change too, but couldn’t connect to the Internet. No problem: I’m happy not to be productive for a short while. I’ll just have a coffee break and read things already downloaded to my laptop, and get back to my little Internet-connected cave shortly.
A blog post in my inbox resonates deeply with me. It is about the lengths others sometimes expect us to go to in order to maintain an easily received public persona, one that hides our loneliness and pain. It is about the reality that others are not always comfortable with the inescapable truth that we are not always optimistic, happy, and in control.
The post resonates deeply with me because the thing I’ve most been criticized for with this blog is my honesty about the darker facets of my experience. Like most of us, I sometimes feel abundantly happy, strong, confident, optimistic, competent, valued. At other times, I feel desperately vulnerable, overwhelmed, alone, uninteresting, sad, and powerless. Oh, and short (I think I’ve been shrinking), old, and washed-up. (I know, that probably just tipped the scales a little too far.)
We understandably prefer to keep the darker side at bay a little, and consequently often become uncomfortable when others tap into it. Those who highlight their joys and successes can make us conscious of our failures. Those who lay out terrible realities can tap into our fears. Perhaps this is why we’re quick to judge others as either too perfect or too pathetic for our tastes? Only neutral and balanced, not too happy, not too sad, allows us to keep our equilibrium?
It was a good walk in the sun this morning. It was a good cup of coffee, a good reset. Some things in life are heavy and complicated. Others tip the scales back to abundance and joy. And my unplanned break yielded a timely reminder that I don’t need to keep the truth about the balance at any given moment to myself.
Perhaps if we presented a more rounded and truthful public image—our successes and failures, our joy and pain—we might be more likely to keep that more complete image of ourselves in our own minds too, when the scales tip deeply into uncomfortable zones? And perhaps this in turn might make us a less likely to retreat from one another as often as we do?
The irony is that I have friends and readers who retreat because their perception is that the shadows of my experience are deep and dark, and others because their perception is that my life is full to the brim with good fortune, love and joy. Which is it?
It is both. And I will continue to present the sometimes confused and confusing truth of my experience to friends and readers alike. We’re social beings, and it seems to me that the only thing that makes any of it worthwhile—the only thing that makes the flow of love possible—is sharing our truth with others.