In an attempt to “live life on life’s terms”, I decided that part of the process should include sorting through the boxes of books and memorabilia that I have been storing in my parent’s basement…for 4 years. If I am going to keep it, I need to keep it at my own house. If it isn’t important enough to me to find space for it there, I don’t need it. So, while I was there for Thanksgiving, I took the first step. I began with the easy stuff: the books. Then, I moved on to the photo albums. This is where I got stuck. Instead of sorting and making decisions about what stays and what goes, I took a trip down memory lane. Am I the only one who pretends to be looking at the whole picture when I am really just looking at myself? I have thoughts like, “look how skinny I was!” or “look how fat I was!” or “what in the world was I thinking when I wore THOSE?” or “Why didn’t my friends help me when I tried wear my hair like THAT!”. One of the main things I thought was, “Wow. Look how happy, put together and full of energy I looked!”. What was disconcerting, was that I distinctly remember what kinds of inner struggles I was having during that time. I was not content. I was exhausted. I was angry. I was insecure. I was striving. I was uptight. I was bossy. I was judgmental. I was anxious. I was narrow minded. I was fearful. I felt less than. But you would never know it by looking at me. On the surface, it seemed like my life was full of joy and laughter and great vacations and holiday activities. I remember watching a video of me making gingerbread houses with my 3 kids who were 2,3, and 7. They were lined up in a chair and 2 highchairs at the breakfast bar (need I say more?). It was mass chaos. There was crying (from me) and arguing and complaining mixed in with sprinkles and candy and frosting. But I only video-taped (that word just popped up as misspelled. I feel old.) the happy parts. If you watched it, like I did, you would never guess that all that was going on once the camera was paused.
I know the truth about what was really going on in me, even when I appeared well-adjusted and happy. It is probably safe to say that there may very well have been days, maybe last week or month, when you saw me, smiling and friendly on the outside, but I was really not “ok” at all on the inside. Maybe I assumed that about you too. How many times have you said, “they are getting divorced? They seemed so happy together at the party!”. Or “I know you said she was depressed and lonely, but on Facebook she seems like she goes out with friends all the time!”. It has reminded me that what we see is not always reality. If I have “faked” being “fine”, chances are that others could be walking around with burdens that are buried behind smiles and phony answers. We are all “fine”. The Trouble is-we aren’t. I don’t think I have a great answer-or at least an easy one. The answer, unfortunately, is to be honest and real. But I am not sure I have the guts to do that. Do you? Until we do, we will continue to remain isolated and alone in our human struggles. We have to make the daily choice, take the daily risk, to choose to live authentically rather than trying to be “picture perfect.”