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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