It’s hard for me to show myself sometimes. I want to be open, to share myself and my thoughts and ideas on subjects that aren’t always polite dinner conversation. I think it’s important. As a species, we are much too hard on one another, and sharing our vulnerabilities is one way to bond, to allow each other to feel less alone, to somehow save each other from the crippling anxiety we can sometimes fall into when we feel we’re the only ones not measuring up or who are in difficulty of some sort. But I don’t always excel at showing my weaker spots, my fears, or my failures.
It takes a lot of courage to say, “God, I totally sucked at that thing I just tried,” or “You would not believe what a crappy friend/wife/mother/artist I was today.” But it takes some sort of turning off and numbing to do the opposite — to act as if everything is great all the time. It isn’t. We know it. We know, when we can tune in to another person, listen, and really hear them, that everyone is in struggle to some degree. We’re all doing hard jobs in one way or another, whether it’s trying to successfully do what we do for our livings, navigate our relationships, or just get. it. all. done. This world asks a lot of us. None of us are doing it flawlessly.
I was raised to keep secrets. Tears just filled my eyes as I typed that sentence. Telling you that makes it surprisingly real in a way that just thinking it doesn’t (I guess because I’m telling YOU and not just myself) and it takes me back to what it felt like to not be able to say, to anyone, that what was supposed to be my safest spot was actually my most dangerous. My mama told me to never say what was going on at home — we were not to mention Daddy’s drinking to anyone. We weren’t supposed to acknowledge the fighting or the general violent atmosphere that hung heavy on us all the time. It was a lot to carry. It still is. But what is even more to carry is the withholding characteristic it carved into my nature. I learned to nod and smile and act like everything was just fine when I was out in the world, and even when I was at home. I learned to please. The worst thing would’ve been if I’d acknowledged that I felt alone or scared to those who were causing such feelings. That didn’t exactly set me up to be open in my relationships, or to be able to say what I need, or to have any compassion for myself for what I was enduring because I was told what I was feeling was invalid. It wasn’t. It still isn’t.
Now, I don’t think oversharing just to do it is a good idea either. Spare me emotional vomiting. Every day doesn’t need to be an intimacy workshop and every dinner party doesn’t need to be a therapy session or scar showing contest. But I will say that one of the things I love most about getting older and developing deeper and longer lasting friendships is the way that most of us just dive in. Maybe we don’t feel we have time for anything else. Maybe we don’t have the energy. Maybe we’re just over it. As a result of any of those things, surface conversations have become less common in my life. I am absolutely thrilled about that. When we’re able to connect in a true way, it helps us know not only our people, but ourselves better. I also think that when we know ourselves better, and when someone hears us and says, “Me, too,” or “it’s okay for you to feel that way,” we are better able to accept our difficult emotions and express them in ways that aren’t as abrasive as they might otherwise be. When we feel unheard, we sometimes snap when we can’t take it anymore and deliver messages harshly. That takes more repair work in most cases than it would otherwise. Most of the time it isn’t even the message, it’s the delivery of such. Exceptions to that apply, of course, and we know what they are for us, but my point is, when we’re open and listen, we get more and better information about the person we’re talking to. When someone is truly open and vulnerable with me, I’m usually hard pressed to remember a time I’ve found them more beautiful.
So — my vulnerability. Okay. Today I’d like to say that I’m more tired than I’d like to be. My forty-seven-year-old body isn’t quite as cooperative as it once was — my left knee sounds like a staticky radio when I crouch down and I’m staring at my to do list like it’s a sleeping snake or something. I have household chores stacked up. My new dog doesn’t always pee and poo outside but I’m working hard on it, though I’ve asked myself what I was thinking when I got him because I don’t necessarily have enough time to get his habits wrangled so I feel dumb for taking the leap, but then the joy created just by his sweet presence takes over. Sometimes I struggle to keep a thought in my head for longer than 3 seconds. I get distracted easily these days because there is just a lot to do, I guess, and I struggle to do one thing at the time because there is often so much more going on at the time than the one thing. My distraction makes me a crap listener. I’m not a perfect wife. I’m not a perfect friend. My hair is dirty and in a bun. I’m worried about my upcoming recording (starting in less than two weeks) and my book release. Will any of my work be good enough this time? What can I do to make it all go better? My son cried for five minutes straight last night and I don’t know why — all I could do was lie beside him in bed and try to love him through it and I’m almost out of popsicles and need to go to the store for more but haven’t yet. I’m not a perfect mother. The list goes on…
I have exactly five vases filled with peonies in my house at this moment (because birthday love 🙂 from my lady friends, of course). In my opinion, the peony has no faults. I wonder if they would tell me, if they could talk, that they feel embarrassed about the fact that their petals will begin to fall off soon and that they will no longer be of use when their stems are bare, when they won’t be the most beautiful bloom on earth? I wouldn’t mind if they did say that, and I’d in fact thank them for being with me through all of their phases — from sweet little closed buds to complete openness smiling like Miss America to the last possible minute they could be considered a flower — because every phase is glorious.
We are not always in our most beautiful state. But every state can be beautiful, even the ragged and raw ones.
Happy Wednesday, Y’all.