It sometimes feels like everyone is so concerned with being politically correct, not overstepping boundaries and avoiding hurt feelings that no one feels comfortable just talking honestly anymore. I have friends and family members who have been through many trials and challenges and even though I care deeply, worry about them and want them to know I am here to support them if needed, I often hesitate to ask the blunt question of how they are doing with their own situation. I fear bringing up something that they may not want to discuss or having an awkward moment or even more so bringing a bad vibe into the discussion so oftentimes I simply avoid or ignore it figuring if they want to talk about something they will most definitely bring it up in conversation. But the truth is, most people don’t bring it up, most people don’t know how to bring it up and they fear being ignored, rejected or they believe we are tired of hearing about their dilemma or challenge.
I am a fan of Brene Brown (if you have not read her books, or seen her TED talk on vulnerability do so immediately!). She speaks of being vulnerable and authentic which is a challenge for all of us and continues to be one of my own personal struggles. The funny thing is the more vulnerable, open and honest I am with others the better I feel and the happier I am so why don’t we all do it more?
I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a girls dinner to celebrate the holidays with some of my longtime friends. These are women who have known me since I was 14 and have become lifelong confidantes and partners in crime. We have grown up together and no matter how much time may pass where I have not spoken to or seen them, we get together and it seems no time has passed. I can be who I want without fear of judgement and that is truly the gift of great friendship. Yet I left dinner that night feeling very sad and down; not because I did not have a great time ( I did ladies) but rather because I felt guilty for holding back, biting my tongue and not saying what was really on my mind during the various conversations.
A group of mothers, everyone discussed their children, their activities, what the kids were asking for from Santa and different holiday events that they had attended. When asked what Charlie wanted for Christmas I politely and quickly stated that “he doesn’t really get the whole Christmas thing quite yet.” When the conversation turned to potty training, I again quickly muttered that our developmental pediatrician recommended we wait a bit before potty training even though Charlie is 39 months. When the topic came up of me leaving my career and being home, I failed to honestly share anything about what my days are actually like and simply changed topics. As the conversations continued I found myself becoming more withdrawn but this was certainly no fault of my friends, they were engaging, caring and quite frankly had no idea what was going on in my own head at the time.
As I drove home I really tried to understand why I was upset, sad and frustrated and had an epiphany during that drive that led me to start this blog….so here it is.
I am not mad, hurt, angry, frustrated or sad that people don’t know about the challenges Charlie deals with or how that impacts our lifestyle. I do not expect anyone to know what is like in our world and I certainly am well aware that unless I share the details and really put myself out there, no one could possibly know. Quite simply I came to the realization that just as I may avoid asking a friend about a marriage problem, a sick parent, a frustrating job search, etc. other people simply don’t know how to ask the questions and that is OK. It is my responsibility to put it out there, to start the conversation and to let those around me know that it is okay to talk about what we are experiencing and it is more than okay to have strong feelings about it.
So, the next time I want to ask my friend about her life and fear hurting her feelings, bringing up something she doesn’t want to discuss or making her mad I will simply make the effort, in the event she really needed someone to talk to at that specific moment. And I hope that others will do the same with me. I may tell you about the countless doctor appointments, the mounting paperwork for therapists, school and evaluations, the latest sensory project I am working on, the unending search for support groups or playgroups in my local area or I may show you the most spectacular video of Charlie belting out Christmas songs at school or brag about how my 3 year old takes the bus to school every day with no hesitation…..really it just depends on the day. While we may not always feel like talking or rehashing and instead may just want to laugh and have a glass of wine perhaps if we stop feeling like we have to avoid the elephant in the room, it (whatever your it may be) will become much less isolating for all of us…….so just ask.
PS. Ladies (you know who you are)…..my feeling that night that I had let you down for not being vulnerable and sharing my truth with you is what led me to start this blog. Thank you as always for inspiring me to figure out a new way.
” There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. So many of us run around spackling all of the cracks, trying to make everything look just right. This line helps me remember the beauty of the cracks. It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.” Brene Brown