How Are You? I’m Good, Thanks! Have a Great Day!

This message was recently written on my Facebook page:

“I am officially sick & tired of everything & all of these cheesy perfect comments about how blessed life is for  them!!”

It reminds me of one of the sources for the writer’s block I occasionally experience: I don’t want to reveal my weaknesses. And if I do, I want to show you how I’m overcoming them. I don’t want people to know there are areas in which I am not only weak but also without remedy.

Relatives have made comments to me about how they don’t post about their entire lives because they choose to make their lives private rather than be exhibitionists.   That is not verbatim but a fair summary of the messages several people have sent to me. I have no idea what they mean, but I read it as “Look, woman, you post EVERYTHING about your life online and I don’t really care to read all those details. Keep some things private!” They most likely didn’t mean that at all, but that’s not really the point.

The truth is, I don’t post even 10 minutes a day of what goes on in my life. Granted, much of my life is the same pattern: get up, go to work, go home, spend time with Savannah, spend time with my dog, go to bed. There are, however, lots of in-betweens that I don’t post about. Most of the time it’s because I’m in the moment, cherishing the memories even as they’re being made. Sometimes it’s because I’m failing…a lot. In this case, there are several reasons for not sharing: 1) I might like the journey enough to want to figure it out on my own and do not want a solution.  I just want someone to listen and maybe share his or her own experiences. With a solution-driven society and a Pinterest board for just about any problem that can be overcome, simply commiserating with fellow members can be hard to do. 2) People worry about me when I fail. Sorry, mom, it’s true. I rarely disclose failures on the internet because I don’t want anyone to worry on my behalf. Everyone has their own struggles. Ironically, that’s what I need now… others to come in and help where they can. 3) I imagine that people only want to see solutions for their own problems and don’t want to just read about problems with no current solutions. It seems like “I had a bad day but I saw a double rainbow and everything is all better” is way better than “I guess I’ll go to sleep sad again tonight.”

Just the other day I was walking my dog and happened to overhear a phone conversation coming from inside someone’s house.  It sounded as though they were talking to someone they hadn’t spoken to in a while, updating that person on their life. “Yeah, yeah, my daughter’s doing okay.” She went on to talk about all the good things going on in her daughter’s life.  But all of the good things happening in her life didn’t match up with her doing just “okay.” I sense from her language that her daughter is struggling but she doesn’t want to admit that to others. My thoughts about that conversation reminded me of the ever-fateful auto-response that we have created every time we pass another human that gives us eye contact. One person says “Hi!” The other person responds “Hi! How are you?” but keeps walking so the only response that you know you can say in the two seconds that are left to see that person’s face is “Well, thank you. How about yourself?” Then as the person passes you, they may not respond at all or they may respond with an equal goodness and that is the end of that exchange. So everyone’s doing well, all the time.

So here’s my “come to Jesus” moment, if you will. My life changed unexpectedly in January and I’ve had a pretty rough go. A miscarriage and a relationship break-up in the same week took an intense toll on both my body and my hormones and my recovery has been slow. Now’s the time I could use supportive friends in my life to walk with me. I could use friends who will hug me over a nice cup of tea and say “it’s going to be all right.” See, I have no problem changing my emotional state, believe me, I’ve had plenty of practice, but the way my body feels can’t change as quickly and that has been the toughest part in the last six months. If I reach out and talk to others, maybe I’ll find some comfort by learning that all of these things going on physically are merely a part of the game of life and it will all subside. Of course I can never know that for sure, but to put those fears aside for a little while would be fabulous. Phew, there it is– one paragraph that’s been so hard to say all these months.

So here’s my question: Why are we so apt to report how WELL we are doing to members of our community? At what time is it appropriate to begin reporting how UNWELL things are in order to gather the community around us to help with things when it’s all over our heads? With our culture of ‘wellness’ and its insistence that everyone must be doing well and good all of the time lest someone feel uncomfortable, how DO you send out an SOS? Complain on Facebook? Call all your friends? Respond with “Not very good” as the smiling stranger passes by? Post a blog about it? Call your mom? What is the right action?

And the corollary to the point is that I don’t know. I haven’t figured this out but I am willing to risk all of my pride right now in order to step out, raise my hand and say “You know what? My life is a little bit challenging right now. I could use all the help I can get” and trust that my community will have my back. Maybe making this step will allow me to open up and write more and share more. Only time will tell.

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