The ugly and the broken, the beautiful and the beloved

I thought about my friend Amanda’s wonderful post, Do you see me? all through the holidays.  December is, of course, a season rife with images of perfect celebrations, of handmade cookies and advent calendars and faces aglow with candles and wonder.  And I won’t lie: we had our share of those things here (well, not the perfect, but the cookies and advent calendars, the candles and the wonder).  But there was also plenty of bickering, of exhaustion, and more than a few tears.

Amanda‘s musings on what we share, both easily and haltingly, what we reveal and what we don’t, really stuck with me.  I think about this all the time, particularly because I’m often asked by people I know and those I don’t what it is like to write so openly here.  “Don’t you feel too vulnerable?” people often ask me.  It’s always that word.  And my response is always the same: no.  Everything I share here is true, but I also get to choose what it is I write about.  This choosing, this filtering, is something I think about all the time. One of my favorite posts from last year, It’s Not All Shiny, focused on this exact question.

This is related, I think, to what Amanda’s talking about.  What can we learn from the things we are ashamed of and the things we hold back?  Surely our instinctive reaction to hide certain truths and realities tells us a lot.  Are we disavowing the things that we don’t like about ourselves and our lives?  Does not displaying certain things mean we are denying their truth?

I am not sure, but I don’t think so.  Surely some degree of filtering is necessary to operate in the world.  It’s a slippery slope, of course, that runs between being discerning about what we reveal to others and being disingenuous or, even, dishonest.  And in certain relationships and at given moments, it makes sense to share even the darkest contents of our hearts and minds.  But to broadcast them doesn’t feel right to me.  In fact sometimes I think that sharing the messy and ugly stuff is almost a defensive move, to preempt judgment, somehow, and it can put the recipient of the reveal in an awkward position.

What I do know, though, is that I’ve grown more cautious about what I share.  In my real life people often tell me that it is hard to get me to talk about myself.  Some of this is innate, and some of it is a wariness that comes from having been stung by all the ways I have been misperceived over the years.  The truth is this concerns me, and makes me second guess my deep sense of settling more comfortably into my own life.  If I’m growing quieter, and more tentative, does that mean the opposite is true?  Or am I just more protective of the discoveries I have made, many of which have been of glittering, shimmery things in the piles of life’s ordinary dust and mundane moments.

I am in love with my life.  With all of it.  I embrace the shadowy valleys that are as integral to the topography of my life as are the peaks and the wide, sun-drenched plains.  After all, we are only here for a brief, shimmering second; the least we can do is throw our arms around – and ourselves into – the whole of our lives, as they are, right here, right now.

These sentences, which I wrote almost a year and a half ago, are still absolutely true.  I believe fiercely in the power of recognizing and acknowledging and, yes, loving, everything in our lives: the ugly and the broken as much as the beautiful and the beloved.  I still think, though, that it is our prerogative to decide what we share and when.  I am an open person but also a private one.  I personally think those two things can coexist.  Still, as Amanda says, I think there’s value in looking closely at the things we hold back; casting out shame as much as we can, embracing the whole, sharing when we feel comfortable doing so.  That’s my plan for 2014, at least.

What do you share and what do you keep to yourself?  Do you think there’s something to be learned about understanding what falls into each category? 


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15 Comments

  1. Posted January 6, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    It’s really an iceberg for me – I probably share 1/9 and the other 8/9 I keep below the surface. Typically it’s to protect other people – parents, kids, friends…those who share those stories with me. It’s always a hard line to walk. xo

    admin Reply:

    What a great image: the iceberg. So much below the surface. I hear you on wanting to protect others. As Grace gets older, this impulse gets fiercer for me, too. xox

  2. Posted January 6, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    This is an interesting topic … I definitely have certain things I’ll talk about with everyone: pets, weather, where I’ve lived and traveled and can’t wait to visit again. The next level down usually is more private, things I keep for close friends like funny stories, real situations I’ve lived through, barely. And then there are things I keep mostly to myself, for family or the closest of friends: mothering things, family matters, deeper thoughts, etc. I think this filtering is essential and necessary. I don’t think we have to give it all out to whomever is interested. I think it’s okay to pick and choose who we want to trust with the closest matters of our hearts. “Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” That, I think, is as good a reason as any.
    I always love what you share here, Lindsey. Thank you! To a great 2014 ahead! xo

    admin Reply:

    What a beautiful quote. Yes, yes. The wellspring of life. I love that image. xox

  3. Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I don’t mind sharing my thoughts and experiences but those thoughts and experiences are so intertwined with those of people I love and care about that Ii choose not to share some of it. I’m all for freedom of expression, but I don’t want to share anything that may cause someone else duress. I believe there is value in sharing, but value in privacy as well. It’s hard to find that sweet spot between sometimes.

    admin Reply:

    I hear that, definitely. There are so many people I’m trying to keep safe out there. Some of the lines are easy to draw (I don’t write about my husband, as a rule) and others are less so. xox

  4. Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    This line especially hit me hard with truth: “Some of this is innate, and some of it is a wariness that comes from having been stung by all the ways I have been misperceived over the years. ”
    I spent a while being super open, on my blog and in conversations, probably around 4 years ago when I got sober – when we went to BlogHer I was in the middle of it. And then a certain backlash happened when I felt people were taking what I was saying as an opening for judgement and giving advice to me, which was uncomfortable because I didn’t want advice. I wanted to be heard. That’s the tricky part, feeling comfortable and finding a space to be heard. Once you have that, maybe it’s unnecessary to tell everyone everything, if you’ve been heard by even one person, or a journal. Hmm… This subject has been on my mind for sure recently. There’s such fine lines between being open, vulnerable,confident, and being defensive and a complete over share-er, justifying every move. Interesting things to think about… thank you :)

    admin Reply:

    Yes, exactly. All of what you said :). It’s tricky and complicated. I am grateful for people who I trust deeply and who I know are engaging thoughtfully with these same questions. Even though I never see you, you’re one of those people, and I thank you for that. xox

  5. Posted January 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Whoa. This was a VERY confronting post for me to read. Thank you SO much for voicing what I often like to just shove into the closet. I am not comfortable at all talking about myself or my struggles because shame is my go-to response. It’s interesting that probably the place I feel most comfortable sharing is on my blog. Weird. Maybe because it’s on my terms?

    Anyway, I think in our tabloid world, it’s become de rigeur to talk about EVERYTHING and YES it does put people in an awkward spot when there is oversharing.

    Don’t you feel too vulnerable? What a question, right?

    I love this Lindsey and this is something I am going to reread a few more times so I can fully absorb it.

    admin Reply:

    I’m sorry about being confronting … not really my intention! Yes. I think even the question “don’t you feel too vulnerable?” is loaded with assumptions, and preconceptions – don’t you? xox

  6. Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, Lindsey.

    I wrote a post a few summers ago that was a complete departure in that it revealed a part of my history that I’d never shared publicly. I felt naked for weeks, but in this particular case, and I think you read it, my heart wouldn’t allow me to do anything but bare myself completely. I’ve since taken down a widget that linked to my most commented on post, because while I don’t regret it, it’s not a post that I want every single person coming to my blog to find.

    I love the ways that people can be vulnerable while gently holding closed little pockets of magic—bits of self that we can give to people or keep for ourselves.

    As much as I love language and photos, I don’t think any one of us could ever possibly share every story or reveal everything there is to know of us. The magic of loving one another is the opportunity each new morning brings to learn more about someone.

    xo

    admin Reply:

    I adore the image of tiny pockets of magic. YES. Don’t we have to keep something special for ourselves and those we love most? I think so. xox

  7. Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I stopped blogging mostly because I found I was sharing too much, and people in my community knew too much about my inner life. I feel like the Internet is much larger than it used to be. When I was at my most open, it still felt like a closed group.

    Which is not to say I don’t miss making myself vulnerable. The posts I wrote that were the most real and raw are the most lovely, and the ones that reached/touched the most people.

    admin Reply:

    I miss your posts precisely because I loved that realness and rawness in them. But I am glad to know you are still out there. xoxoxo

  8. Posted January 7, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I feel — and believe — this Lindsey, to my core: “Everything I share here is true, but I also get to choose what it is I write about.” We have to do this. not just on line but “IRL”, too. It’s a heart reality that I’m (more than) ok with for myself and for others.

    Great topic and post, friend.

    xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, dear one. I’m glad you like that too. xoxox

  9. Posted January 7, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Oh, I relate to this. I am also an open and yet private person. Often it feels like my writer self is a separate self. She is more comfortable with sharing than I would ever be, but she also knows when to hold back, when things must be protected. I don’t think it’s our responsibility as writers to reveal everything.

    I also LOVE what you say about loving both the broken and the beautiful. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    It’s definitely been a lesson of my late thirties: realizing I can’t have the beautiful without the broken. xox

  10. Posted January 7, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I think about this all the time. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts!

    admin Reply:

    xoxo

  11. Posted January 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    So much worthy of being said about this post. I think anyone who blogs as we do is faced with the ‘what do I share, am I authentic’ question a lot. But even casual posting on Facebook prompts the question. The answer, I think, is as shaded in gray as the question. For me, I try to ask myself, ‘Is this worth writing about’ rather than, ‘Is this too personal’. Of course, I also have my family’s privacy to think about, as do we all. Somewhere, we find a balance. Above all, I try to put good out there on the internet, instead of bad. It’s as simple as that.

    admin Reply:

    Me too. I dislike people who I feel are just whining or gratuitously complaining. In fact complaining is something I dislike – vigorously – in my whole life. But that has backfired, that bias, in some ways: I’ve learned from some people that they think there ISN’T any bad in my life. Absolutely not true. Plenty of it! I just don’t whine about it. xoxo

  12. Posted January 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Loved this post so much. I can see myself in these words. Much of the time I was nodding my head in recognition, but you’ve given me a lot to think about too. My need for privacy often clashes with my want to connect, and I can now see that this push/pull is a big part of why I think I’m still floundering for my voice — my true, consistent voice — in my blog. I have a feeling I’ll come back to this one a few times.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you – I’m glad what I said resonated. I look forward to reading more of your blog. xox

  13. Posted January 9, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I love what Tracy said. (And what you said, of course). There bigger “issues” in my life usually involve other people–like family members)0 and I can’t possibly write about those issues. It would be a major violation of just basic decency on my part. At the same time, I don’t think NOT revealing everything is the same as being fake. (I’ve read some posts with that sentiment–not Amanda’s.) I, for one, do not read all the positive posts on FB and think “Wow this person’s life is perfect.” It does make those nice pictures and sentiments any less nice. I actually not that interested in reading update after update about kids with the flu and horrible weather and only negative things and chaos either. So it’s a balance on both sides– recognizing that nothing is perfect and recognizing that life has blessings worth sharing EVEN IF that life isn’t perfect. I may have to blog about this too at some point because I left an equally lengthy comment on Jessica’s blog when she touched on this issue!

  14. Posted January 9, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting…I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last couple of days. I, like you, feel very free to express myself on my blog, yet once I started putting my posts on FB, it made me feel completely naked. There is something about people I know (not my very closest, but the “other” people…colleagues, acquaintances, sorta-friends) reading my “work.” It makes me uncomfortable. I finally got a little better with it, and then I wrote a poem on my blog, and refused to post it on FB. Hubby sorta pushed me to do it, so I did, in part to prove to myself I could, and to make myself do something that made me uncomfortable. He told me: Unapologetic, Liz.
    The one area of “me” that I tend to be private and feel most vulnerable is in my writing. And your point about thinking about that…why that is…well, has given me something to think about.

  15. Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I loved reading this reflection of sharing and holding back and all the emotions that come with these decisions. I agree with you completely about the “brief, shimmering second” that is our life. I think about that often. Am I making the most of my time here? How will I be remembered?