I'll Show You Mine If You'll Show Me Yours

Warning: this post contains strong emotions. If you want a glib update on the kids, tune in later. I have been thinking lately about vulnerability. About how all of us pretending we are okay all the time is putting a layer of padding between us. Sometimes the layer is comfortable. It's polite. Maybe when you ask how I am, you just want to hear that I am fine, that's as deep as we need to go.

Or maybe you would want to hear that I have not been fine. Maybe we can peel away the polite padding of pretending, and I can tell you that for the past two months, after a year and a half of hard work on a thrilling but stressful project in a dysfunctional situation, I came out the other side and realized I had a different kind of work to do. I needed to work on myself. So I have been doing...nothing. Well, not nothing. But not much besides thinking my thoughts, feeling my feelings, trying not to worry about the undone tasks and unearned wages. Oh, and also going to therapy. I have been calling it my nervous breakthrough.

And my breakthrough is this: I am good enough. In every way. I don’t need to pretend to be anything or anyone I am not to impress any person I really care about. And that might not sound like much of a breakthrough, but this understanding has recalibrated my heart in a way that lets me feel, deeply, the joy of my life.

And a big part of my joy is the amazing people around me, who I have been letting into this process. I have been vulnerable — told the truth about my sadness and my pain and how I am getting better. And this vulnerability has created an opening for other people’s fear, despair, need and joy. Without the polite padding, I have felt more love and connection to the people who matter to me, and from what I can tell they do, too. I have felt, more truly, my very worthy self.

This is not to say we always — or ever — have to talk about our feelings. I am not telling people in the grocery line, “So, the other day in therapy…” But maybe we could consider that our constant burnishing of the rough edges of our lives — only good news, only perfect photos on Facebook, everything's always fine — is keeping us from each other.

Maybe a good start is knowing that when I ask you how you are, I promise that I really want to know.