No, I don’t really know what you did last summer nor the summer before. Not even the summer I originally wrote this, but although circumstances changed for some of us, I know it still speaks to what someone is enduring today. We all cope with painful events, but is it also necessary for them to be hidden, secreted away for whatever sake?
I live in an average nice community of nice families. We’re privileged to send our children to wonderful schools and numerous extracurricular activities. We live in a flurry of motion around those needs, our work, and the occasional indulgences for grown-ups. We live a life of wonderful. At least, from all appearances that’s what it seems like.
The truth behind this peaceful picture is that life is really not unlike the quiet drama worthy of Wisteria Lane, the street belonging to the now defunct TV show Desperate Housewives.
Of our group of housewives, two have just got diagnoses for severe diseases. One is being supported ideally, the other enduring the painful lesson of learning who her real friends are and terribly embarrassed about it. One of us is managing stage 4 cancer. That’s dismal enough, but what’s not so well-known is that she is also enduring painful loneliness caused by friends too afraid to visit anymore. One of us left a husband who drank too much and another got away from her abusive husband. Of course, nobody would ever have guessed that about either of those husbands.
Still more, there are a few of us living in quiet desperation while trying to find ways to re-kindle the strength of our relationships, and there are at least five of us in serious financial jeopardy. Another, utterly crushed by the tragic news that her father, who was out on a stroll, was killed by a stranger for no apparent reason. Another average year in the neighbourhood except that, unless you’re one of us directly involved, you wouldn’t know it.
We talk easily about certain subjects, other people who are fighting illnesses, etc., but there are other aspects even within that topic that aren’t talked about. These are the subjects that are too awful or too personal. But what does too personal really mean? Is ‘too personal’ a masked phrase for ‘must be kept quiet in order to preserve a comfortable, but false, image’? What is the image? What is the reward for preserving it?
Over the years, life has progressively got just a little more real for many of us. We all know that happens on an intellectual level, but when it happens to us, we aren’t comfortable talking about it. We may very selectively choose whomever to unburden ourselves to a point. The trials of something breaking down are uncomfortable, often thought to be some kind of failing.
We don’t talk about these ‘failings’ beyond a certain level because? You fill in the blank, but I’d bet all the answers will boil down to the fear of being judged. If it’s about inability to cope with discussion, that’s another story, but maybe that’s a walk down the same road too anyway.
All of the events I noted are supposedly out of the ordinary, but I’ve been reconsidering this idea because they are all circumstances that happen every day somewhere near and far. What isn’t obvious, because of pretenses, is that there is virtually no household that hasn’t, or isn’t dealing with something they don’t want the neighbours to know about.
That’s a whole lot of judgment to put to bed. That’s a whole lot of excellent support potential, and think of the amazing advice waiting to be shared. That’s a lot of unrealized hope.
I’m open about my own issues because I’ve been shown that my stories are not unique. My problems are not special, not even the very worst of them. My friends have heard loads about the divorce that never ends, and myriad woes before & since. Whatever feelings I may have had in fear of judgment were, and are, wasted heartache. Secrets degrade every level of our being. The shame and fear I once had, claimed far too much of the precious time I could have had learning and moving on.
I’m not the circumstances that I’m in at the moment. I am an entire lifetime of experiences that contain many highs in the light with the lows in the dark and murky. Which ones do you think I’ve learned the most from?
Maybe we need to take it to heart that, when life is getting real with us, we need to start getting real with it. Let’s stop pretending that we are only as good as our image. It’s a terribly weak foundation to learn from, or teach how to overcome struggles. We really are all in the same boat, and once in a while we have to share the rowing.
When we share our perceived weaknesses, we learn so much more than we can ever imagine in fear. As we become genuine, we end up twice as strong, and eventually life does become genuinely lighter for us, and in all the places that secrets diminish.
We shall overcome. Together.
Incidentally, if I ever look like I’m in need of a soothing hot beverage, would you make it the kind over ice, with a twist? Then, let’s talk.