I wasn’t always a sharer. You know those people, the sharers. The people who are generous in being transparent about things they’ve gone through in life or wisdom they’ve earned. Not platitudes, not something they’ve read—the people who have really lived and been through some challenges.
I was raised by my mother to be stoic. Private. Strong.
It wasn’t until I was going through a life storm—one where the whole house of cards gets thrown into the air and you just know it’s landing in a completely new configuration—that I become more of a sharer. This blog is one of the ways I do that. It still gives me a vulnerability headache (think ice cream headache, only it lasts longer). But I think the value in experiences is that other people learn on us, draw strength from us.
When I was going through this life storm, people talked. They always do, right? So, more people than I’d care to know knew what my family was experiencing. I hated that.
At a school event, in a quiet hallway, it started. A fellow mother said, “I envy you. I’ve wanted to get divorced for so long. I’m miserable. We lead this quiet, miserable life and no one knows it. I’m just waiting until the kids graduate. But I don’t know if I can hold on that long.”
In the grocery store, near the cereal, I am told by another person, “My brother killed himself. I didn’t know. I knew he struggled but I didn’t KNOW. Some days, I just don’t want to get out of bed.”
It continued. And as I wrote this blog, late at night, bleary-eyed, I’d get emails and messages from people all over the world. From Scotland, and Prague and Argentina and South Africa. “I hurt so much.” “I feel so alone.” “Why is it taking so long? Why can’t I go back to my old self?”
Ah, I thought. So this is what sharers do. They listen and they hold confidences and they say, “You are not alone. I’m here too.”
I was not sure this was better than being stoic, to be honest. I think my mother’s way was easier. But this new way was richer. That I knew. Richer, if not simpler or more convenient.
Why does it take someone knowing that you are supremely vulnerable, at a really rough patch, to feel safe enough to be vulnerable themselves? And the bigger question for me now—how do I continue to carry that aura of safety for people without being swallowed up by their admissions? How do I live in joy and allow room for their pain?
In complete honesty, I sometimes am impatient with friends who get stuck. The friends who make the same stupid choice again and again, repeat the same pattern, and then cry into their spilled milk about the misery of it all. I am no saint. I only have so much bandwidth and it’s not for people who won’t thoughtfully consider the pain life presents them with and move beyond it.
But neither can I stomach those who are complacent. Those whose major concern is their fantasy football stats and their next tropical destination. Honey, is it salmon or chicken tonight? No thank you.
Do I sound judgmental? I hope not. I realize I’m walking a really tiny path now. I think I started on a major thoroughfare and have been dropping compadres as I go.
But you know what? It’s nice up here, at altitude. Some days I think the path is too steep but others—oh, other days I just marvel at the view.
I don’t think we’re here to play fantasy games or do the dishes. Those things are part of life, yes, but we’re here for a purpose. And I’ve come to believe it’s in the sharing.
I’m not talking that person at book club who makes everyone uncomfortable revealing things far too intimate to share within the group. The one who monopolizes every chat with the life story she is sure should be a movie in which she plays a starring role.
I mean people who, uncomfortable as it might make them, use what they have gone through to help others up the path. My friend, for example, who shares a very hard experience in her life with people in group settings so young women can learn on her and realize they’re not alone. Is she impacting millions? Not on your life. But she impacts those put in front of her. And if we each did that—wow, the sea change that could occur. It’s so easy to remain quiet and invulnerable as someone shows you their authentic, messy experience. But in my book, that makes you a major ass. People are placed in your path for a reason. Use it.
My thoughts this weekend, amongst the dishes and the bill paying and the gardening.
It’s in the sharing, folks. It always has been. It just takes some of us longer to figure that out.