Years ago, a boyfriend of a friend of mine said, “Mel got her life handed to her on a golden platter. She didn’t have to pay for her car or struggle, whatsoever.” He’d been through hell and back in his own life and was looking at my life thinking I had it all together and hadn’t struggled a single bit based on where I grew up and what car I drove. He was only seeing a small glimmer of my life and was making a huge generalization based on that sliver. He didn’t know that I’d been raised by a mentally ill mom or that I’d been struggling with self-worth or that I’d struggled in school. You think you know, but you really don’t. You only know what you see and we don’t typically present the ugly side or the sad side or the struggling side to the world.
We present the pretty and beautiful and flawless sides of our lives like pretty little colorful boxes with symmetrical glittery bows. What is underneath all that perfect packaging?
My friend, for whom had known me for 15 years at the time, put him right in check by saying, “You don’t know shit about Mel and what she has been through and how she grew up. She’s been through a lot.”
It is so easy to pretend everything is fine and to say you are ok when you really aren’t. No one wants to hear the struggles and triumphs. They want to hear and see the positives and hear that things are great and all is well in your world. We present our best selves to the world because we don’t want to expose our vulnerabilities, insecurities, and messy lives. It’s so easy to look at what is presented and think all is well, but the truth is, underneath all that pretending and numbing and covering up and perfecting is a series of stories and it ain’t always what is seems and it ain’t always pretty.
I haven’t been through anymore than anyone else in the world. We all have been through so much, it is just that we don’t put it on display.
Be gentle with the world and the souls you meet and the people you come across. Life is sticky and hard and beautiful and joyous and unpredictable. Be the change and be a soft place to fall.
We so easily cover up our truth and our stories with flawless makeup application, hard bodies, plastered smiles, white teeth, & the list continues.
We all have a story to tell and it is much more than what the eye can see. It’s easy to post pictures of our perfectly posed families and our clean cars and our flawless makeup faces. It’s easy to do, but underneath all of the things we use to cover up & numb, there is a soul and a heart and a series of stories.
Recently discovered some news about an introverted good friend of mine that spends her time helping others for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. She is an amazing mom to a small child, owner of a nice car and beautiful home, & has been living with her not so nice husband for the last few years. She’s currently going through a NASTY divorce and he is not making it easy. She gets up each and every day and carries on. None of her clients know the pain and the hardships of all that she is dealing with, daily. It is easy to stay in-it is what is comfortable and it is what she knows. It’s hard to leave, to walk away, especially when there is a child. She is not the only one, I have a handful of friends going through similar situations. I have some really strong and amazing and beautiful and tough friends. What I’ve learned is this: it’s better to be FROM a broken home than to LIVE in one. Being honest and forth coming makes life easier and healing only happens when we are real with those we love. I admire her strength and her choice for choosing the not-so-easy path which will ultimately lead to a better & happier life. She’s making her way through, even when it’s hard and draining and annoying and frustrating and painful. She is strong. She’s my hero.
Recently was getting my nails done. Jackie is a beautiful Vietnamese woman with long dark hair, to-die-for dimples, stylish clothes, & always appears very put together. She owns an exquisitely designed and decorated salon. She is the very best at her craft. She is the only one I will allow to do my nails. We’ve chatted over the last few months and confided in each other about how beautiful and difficult it is to be a mom. She has two children, a girl and a boy. Her beloved boy is autistic. He attends a school that specializes in autistic children. She sat across from me last week and I noticed her eyelids were puffy from crying. I could see the puffiness through the makeup. She started doing my nails and suddenly asked, “Have you ever had a mammogram?” I mentioned I had because my mom is a breast cancer survivor & cancer runs in my family. She mentioned her doctor finding a lump and told her that she needed to get a biopsy later that week. I told her I had a lump a year ago and had to go through all the steps to finally discover that this bitty mass was just benign cells. She looked scared and afraid and thankful that she was not alone in the stress of uncertainty and unpredictability. The struggle of cancer is real. I didn’t know what to say or how to make her feel better.
My sister-in-law lost both her breasts to cancer. She went through hell and back. I remember changing her drains and laying in bed with her. I remember wondering if her head was cold without her thick brown hair to keep her head warm. I remember thinking about how unbelievably strong she was raising two girls in the midst of her cancer journey. Hard. I remember going with Andrea to Iowa City to a routine check appointment. They had to make sure that her breast implants were healing properly and that her drains were adequately doing there job. I remember her squeezing my hand as they took off the dressings to check to make sure all was well. It was tough, but it had to have been way tougher for her. I looked away.
I remember holding my mom’s hand during one of several of my mom’s chemo treatments. We sat in a recliner and I remember how hard it was looking around at all of those innocent people. It took everything not to cry. I wanted to be strong for my mom, but I’m certain she had enough strength to keep us both afloat. It made me sad. Mom sat with her eyes closed and her head back as the medicine entered through her port intravenously, praying.
I told Jackie that whatever she found out, she would make it through. I could see the wheels of her mind spinning: what would happen to her son if she had cancer, how would her business run day-to-day without her, and what about her daughter? I asked her if she had anyone to go with her to her appointment because ,sometimes, we just need someone to hold our hand. She mentioned her husband and how he was going to go with her. I’ve thought about Jackie for over a week now wondering how her biopsy went. Update: I saw Jackie, yesterday, & the puffiness of her eyes was all gone, as she got a benign result. I hugged her tight and was ever so grateful that she does not have cancer.
Everyone you meet has a life filled with ups and downs, so before you make statements about how they may not struggle based on what you see and what they choose to share with the you, take a deep breath and ask yourself if what you are about to say is kind. We are all human and we all go through ups and downs and twists and turns, some more than others.
I don’t care if you were raised in the hood or north of Indian School, if you drive a Range Rover or a Highlander, if you wear Guess jeans or Target jeans, where you went to school or if you went at all, if you are a U.S. citizen or not, who you love, what you wear, what God you worship or not, how many degrees you hold, or how much money is in your savings account, if you are from a divorced family or if your parents are still a unified twosome, we ALL have a story to tell & each and every human deserves to be respected. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Each individual person has stories filled with happiness and joy, pain and sorrow, anger and resentment, trauma and triumph. I kindly ask you to not judge, but rather treat all with kindness and respect and care because we all matter and we all deserve to be respected every single day of our lives.