Not writing, among other things, has put me in a foul mood.
It’s definitely easier and less loaded to blame most of my stuff on this harsh winter, which has legitimately been a prime mojo-sucking factor but obviously, it can’t be all of it.
The dilemma regarding how much to share is a recurring one for me. I’m very open by nature. I’m sure I’ve said that a countless number of times here on this blog.
But as I grow older, I want to reign that in a bit because when I do share lately, I fear…
not being truly HEARD,
or getting terribly misunderstood,
or feeling judged,
or only being seen through the lens of the listener’s own emotional landscape regarding their own marriage, life choices, struggles, and coping mechanisms.
Lately, I find myself thinking, “WHY did I even BOTHER?” as well as, “OHHH! NOW I get it! THIS is why people choose to only share with the safest and closest of friends, if at all…just with people who know that you aren’t ONLY your current struggles.”
Recently, I shared with a group of fellow Christian women about how I’m struggling emotionally and how being cooped up for months due to freezing temps in a small living space with two toddler boys is a big part of it. One of the gals tried to comfort me by offering me this:
“People are so concerned about status! Like if you don’t own a house by a certain age, you’re a loser. I grew up in 300 square feet in _______ and I was so happy. Your boys are happy too. You don’t have to be in a bigger space.”
While she seems to be a sweet and caring gal with the intention of helping a sister out with those words, I felt so invalidated about what I had just shared.
It touched an already exposed nerve about why I can’t be as positive or content as so-and-so and why I gotta share messy feelings with folks when folks have a compulsion to edit your struggles as they see fit or to try to “solve” it for you with solutions you’ve already been running through your own mind 77 different ways.
And to be clear, I compare myself against truly positive folks, NOT those living in unhealthy denial, living like ostriches with their heads buried deep in the sand, not facing their stuff.
My response (and I may have shed some tears):
“Status? I couldn’t care less about status. Just look at me: I happily wear hand-me-downs and I don’t care what kind of car we drive, as long as it has room for two carseats in the back. Lack of physical space also adds to lack of mental space to just exhale and calm down from the hectic, LOUD day with the kids. And maybe some people are just fine in similar or worse conditions but that is not my constitution. Lotta things affect me. I’m highly sensitive to noise. I need to be able to escape and think. I don’t want a bigger place for STATUS. I can’t just sit here and nod at that, I’m sorry.”
She apologized and of course, I accepted because I knew she got it and we all say unhelpful things sometimes. I don’t mention this here to put her on blast because she really thought she could try to encourage me to be more content. I mention it because it was a good example of why I am beginning to retreat and censor myself more as I grow older.
My friends have pointed out that I judge myself when I have to wave the white flag and say that things are hard.
It’s because I don’t think I’ve ever felt ALLOWED to say that things are hard. Everyone is so quick to point out why I should be grateful, as if I weren’t already beating myself up for not being strictly grateful or comparing myself to folks who only focus on the positive. Everyone rushes to point out the silver lining.
I’ve had my dad and my mother-in-law both tell me, in efforts to ENCOURAGE me, “What have you to complain about!? You have two precious, adorable sons! What more could you want?”
I already KNOW I am SO blessed in so many ways and so many have it worse…BUT would it maybe be okay if I can share from the heart? Will you not dismiss it? Or invalidate it by saying, ‘well, at least you…?’ or ‘why can’t you just…?’ And please please don’t try to solve it by telling me how a law degree is so versatile and opens so many doors? Could you please just see me and hear me? Just as I am?
It’s like when you have a huge whitehead on your forehead, pulsating, about to pop, and you and that whitehead enter a room. I prefer to announce, “Hi! I already know that I have a gnarly, ripe whitehead on my forehead. I’mma pop that sucker as soon as it’s ready so no need to point it out, THANKS!” I’d much rather point it out myself instead of having others tell me what I am already fully aware of.
I battled severe depression when I was 17-18 and people wanted to solve it away, dispensing advice to me via my heartbroken and confused parents. It didn’t dawn on them that the proper response was simply, “That must be hard. Sorry to hear that your daughter is in so much pain.” Instead, they said stuff like:
“What she needs is a boyfriend. Get her mind off things.” (I had one, a great one, someone I am still friends with to this day, but depression don’t pass you by because you “lucky” enough to be dating.)
“She should listen to Enya.” (Surprise: I was not cured.)
“Maybe she is having issues now from being a latchkey kid. Maybe she has a deep sadness there.” (At least this one was deep.)
“Maybe she had trauma as a fetus.”
“Maybe she should get exorcised.”
They also made me feel worse by saying that this SHOULD be the time of my life, going off to college with my whole life ahead of me. I knew this. I beat myself up over it constantly. How could I be suffering from a catatonic depression when this was SUPPOSED to be the prime of my life?
I know people just say stupid things without intending to hurt. Maybe it makes people uncomfortable to let something messy and ugly and painful just float in the air without taming and caging it.
Even as I blog, I put pressure on myself to not be too negative as I don’t want to be seen as a Debbie Downer, or make sure I remind folks that I’m also hella funny and not always so angst-ridden, or try to show a prettier, positive side. “Don’t be self-indulgent, girl. No need to go on and on.” Oops.
I was reminded this week about how I’ve always been boggled by the phrase, “It is what it is.” Boggled as in, I detest it. I see no value to that combination of words. What the freak does it mean!? It is as valueless as “…whatever…” I ran into another mama who lives in the next building over. She is always so positive and I can tell she is a hard-working mama who pours herself out for her immediate and extended family.
I found out that her living space has the same configuration as my co-op unit, but with THREE kids instead of two. I had always thought she had more space.
“Don’t you get so frustrated about the lack of space?” I asked, trying to imagine another little kiddo squeezed into our place.
“It is what it is. Plus I love this neighborhood.”
Here, she was using it to mean, “What can I really do about it? What’s the point in getting frustrated? I choose to focus on what I like about our living situation.” I understood where she was coming from, yet whenever I hear the phrase, I think, “What is what it is? And what it be? How do you really feel about it?”
So, me, right now? I is what it is and this is how I is (here I go sharing again):
Though my default emotion is anger, I know I have a deep pool of sadness directly below it. About a lot of things, past and present.
I miss how much closer I was to my dad, the only person who gets my demons because we are so similar, for better and for worse.
Life is moving faster and faster. I feel like time is running out and God, I want some guidance and I wish my parents had the capacity to be the ones to give it to me.
I wish my husband and I could communicate and really hear each other instead of only focusing on whether we were heard or understood first. I can’t even remember the Us that was so googly-eyed years ago, so rich with leisure time, rest, and extra income.
I love being a mama but it is so hard in ways that I’ve never imagined. Sure, I’ve heard the general warnings during the ten months you’re pregnant, about sleep deprivation and breastfeeding and how your life is going to change completely but until you actually raise up these morsels, the warnings are empty and vague. The living it out, the dying to self moment-by-moment? Downright brutal.
Their comfort is more important than mine. I feel clean and refreshed when the baby’s dirty diaper is changed. I feel satiated when they are fed well. Waking up to a whining, crying duo, while sick and battling your own demons is not some noble sacrifice – it’s just called Wednesday. Getting on a plane back to your reality and your duties is called being a Mommy – that’s just what you do.
It is what it is. And that is how I is.
P.S. After I hit “Publish” on this blog post, I stumbled upon a Psychology Today article that is somewhat on point. Saying that the present is hard is not Less Than focusing on the positive.
Here is the article: Being “In” the Moment When We Don’t “Like” the Moment