“if you can’t easily tell the difference between right and wrong,” i told my children repeatedly, “choose the hardest thing cause let’s face it: if the right thing was the easiest thing, everybody would do The Right Thing.” i sit here torn, split, spun. i come from a cultural legacy of not airing dirty laundry in public, of stiff upper lip, of silence is golden. my mother has friendships that span almost nine decades, and it has not escaped my notice that their conversations are about the weather, happenings in the community, about recipes and fashion. they seldom if ever talk about health issues, except to add a name to the prayer list . . . without any details, of course. they don’t talk about children gone awry or any other unpleasantness, angst, sadness or hurt. they don’t talk of anything that might be construed as embarrassing or negative, and i often wonder if that’s not the secret to the longevity of the friendships.
that’s where i come from, and today i live in a world of social media where people are warned against posting too much personal information for fear of retribution in the workplace or at home. again with the stay-light-and-positive-or-stay-mum routine. i’m of an age (tenured, i like to say) when i can say “pfffft” to such things, but my daughter is young . . .
i’m trying to decide whether or not to tell you that my daughter is struggling with thyroid issues, low vitamin d, and depression. she hit that dark spot again recently – emotional black ice, i call it – and this time she held nothing back on facebook. “do you ever wonder if people would miss you if you weren’t here any more?” she posted. my initial instinct was to cringe and wish i had access to her login information so i could delete it. as a mother, i often fall into the mindset of to stay small is to stay safe. but this time, i wondered aloud if posting snapshots of her pain on facebook didn’t make her one of the bravest among us. and when she asked about being missed, well, she was telling us exactly what she needed, so doesn’t that make her one of the most honest among us? it resonated deeply with my bones as they nodded and smiled in agreement.
she was certainly willing to risk being alone, that’s for sure.
to her question about being missed, one woman posted something about how my daughter should not be concerned with what other people thought, how she should think enough of herself, blah blah blah blah blah. i became instantly furious. livid, in full and glorious mama bear mode. hell, my daughter had just told us precisely what she needed (to be told she’s loved and has had a meaningful impact on lives and would be terribly missed). the last thing she needed was to be preached to, to be told what she should be feeling and how she should be viewing things and what she should and should not be saying. livid, i tell you. livid. but we’ll talk more about uncaring (which often looks a lot like stupidity, if you ask me) another day. i have stories, oh my goodness, do i have stories.
for today, though, i’m taking a risk, opening myself and my daughter up to avoidance (important note: these particular things we’re dealing with are not contagious), preaching (please, please, please don’t tell us about how “the lord never gives us more than we can handle” or to “keep calm and carry on” or to “look on the bright side and be positive”), scoffing (it’s maddening to us and unbecoming to you), and pity (it’s a really heavy thing to have cast over our shoulders. empathy is okay, but pity, that’s more like an anchor, so no thank you). but i’m also opening us up to caring and concern and love and support, and i’m telling you that’s what we both need.
it is not easy, though, opening up like this. my daughter is brave, but me? not so much. i am a private person and for many good reasons that we can talk about later. i can tell you this much now: more times than i can count, i’ve been told that i make too much out of things, that the problem with me is that i feel more than i think – and the worst thing? they were said with the voice of authority, and i took them to heart. plus when people cluck and fuss, i launch into pleasing hostess mode and do whatever i can to reassure them and restore them to a place of comfort – which takes a lot of energy that is better spent elsewhere. so yes, energy conservation keeps me quiet, too.
one thing my daughter has consistently done in her adult life, though, is nudge (okay, shove) me out of my comfort zone. she’s shown me how to take risks and how to live with the consequences. she’s repeatedly shown me that vulnerability is its own brand of strength, and today i dip my toe in that stream and hope for the best because, well, the need for support is just that huge.
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