I haven’t spent much time online in the past five months. Except for checking email, blogging, and getting on facebook to share my posts and occasionally beg for prayers, I have mostly avoided the Internet. Pretty much everything online exacerbated my anxiety, so it was a necessity to insulate myself.
Now that the benzos are out of my system, it’s amazing how much better I feel. Yay! Note to self: your body and benzos are a bad (bad, bad, bad, bad) mix. Shudder. Anyway… now that I’m feeling better, I’ve been spending (i.e. wasting) more time online. And I started noticing something: I have a bone to pick with the world.
Pinterest world, you’re one of the worst offenders. I kind of want to scream every time I see pins like this:
Dearest People of the World,
Please stop pretending to be happy. “Fake it till you make it” doesn’t apply here. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Smiling is not a sign of strength. One of the strongest people I know rarely smiles, but he is still here despite the lack of joy in his heart. That is strength.
I’m not trying to suggest that everyone should stop smiling. I love smiling… a lot. I can’t even begin to express to you how wonderful it is to feel like smiling again… to smile spontaneously because I’m delighted, entertained, amazed, full of joy, etc. Smiling is awesomesauce.If you truly do feel happy inside, by all means, smile at everyone you see because they probably need a lift.
But here’s what’s not awesome. It’s not awesome to mislead your family and friends into believing that you’re fine if you’re not. I’m so tired of hearing and seeing statements suggesting that it’s a virtue to always be smiling. Pinterest says: “I like people who smile when it’s raining.” If we’re talking about literal rain, sure… I like rain as much as anyone who lives in the desert. But if we’re talking about the kind of rain that happens inside of you… the kind where dark clouds are pressing in on you from all sides and you feel like all the joy has been sucked out of your life and water is frequently gushing from your eyes… please don’t smile at me.
Cry when you feel like crying. If smiling would require any force on your part, I don’t want you to smile. I want you to say, “Lani, can we talk? I’m really struggling.” I want you to show me who you really are and what you really feel, even if right now what you are feeling is really messy. You absolutely do not have to cover up your broken heart or “stay strong” for me. Fall apart for me, please.
I can’t even count the number of people (mostly women) who have said/written to me: “Thank you for being so open about your struggles,” or “I am so impressed by your willingness to share what you’re going through,” or “Why do women so often feel like they have to hide their struggles?”
Dearest people of the world, you are not helping anyone by hiding your sadness, fears, struggles, heartache, and pain. If one of my friends or loved ones was feeling horrible and didn’t tell me until after the pain was gone, I would not think, “Oh gosh, thank you for sparing me that burden!” No. Absolutely not. I would think, “Why didn’t you tell me?! I would have done everything I could to help you through it!”
Now I’m not suggesting that you should bear your soul to everyone. If you know someone is going through a difficult time herself, she’s probably not the ideal person to help lift you. But find someone (or many someones… I bear my soul to a lot of people) you feel comfortable with who seems to be in a place of strength herself. Is there any greater honor than having someone trust you enough to confide in you? Is there any greater gift than having the privilege of seeing someone take off all her masks and show you her soul?
Some of you are like my husband. Even when things are falling apart, you can still feel happy inside. That’s awesome. I’m so glad there are those kinds of people in this world. My husband has been a rock of strength to me, despite the difficulties we’ve been going through. This has been a great gift. If you’re one of those people, rejoice and be grateful. If things are falling apart and you still feel like smiling, I’m grateful for your presence on this Earth because you are a great strength to the rest of us.
But… if things are falling apart and you feel awful inside… if you’d rather cry than smile… cry! Please. The rest of us don’t need you to pretend you’re happy so we won’t feel uncomfortable. We need to see you cry so we can step up and show you just how much we love you. We need to see you cry so we can know we’re not the only ones who struggle. You need to show us your tears so you won’t have to be alone.
Stop pretending. Feel what you’re feeling. Be what you are. Share your tears and heartaches. They are a gift, not a burden.
With so much love,