With my return to blogging, I want to do address a topic that I’ve observed and thought about in the time I haven’t been blogging…
I’ve noticed a plea for more “real” online. Would you agree? It seems like a fair amount of people want to see or read about more “real life” in posts everywhere – whether on blogs, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – whatever your social media of choice is, and in real life, I read or hear a lot of “I like this person because they are so real.” or people should unfollow anyone who makes them feel like less, because social media is just a highlight reel. And I agree with those ideas to a certain point. But I feel we also need a frequent reminder to consider human differences. Let me explain.
I was raised by divorced parents, and I spent time between my mom’s house and my dad’s house. Both my parents were meticulously clean. Tidy. Organized. Neither home ever had a crumb on the counter or floor. Each home was cozy and inviting in its own simple way no matter where they lived or moved. Each of my parents had their own styles of how they how they decorated and organized what was important to each of them. They each had very humble, small homes. Neither owned anything of extravagance. But. While they were both fastidious about being tidy it was never a stressful issue to either of them. I don’t have a single memory of my mom complaining about laundry. Or mopping. Or making a bed. Or grocery shopping. And mind you, she worked most of her adult life. She was a single, working mother, who didn’t complain about housework. She didn’t complain about anything. My Dad the same. He was a single, working father, who didn’t complain about anything he had to do, which for him also included an impressive beautiful garden.
Whether I am simply a product of my parents and upbringing, it has never occurred to me that a clean, tidy home is the appearance of “real.” It has also never occurred to me to complain about lifelong daily tasks like laundry, cleaning the kitchen, stocking the fridge, etc. I’m proud of my hard-working blue collar roots and I simply think in the same way that we all look different, we have different interests, we also clean or don’t clean differently. And it’s not a big deal.
It would never occur to me to see a beautiful clean room on social media or in real life and think someone’s life is perfect because their home is clean. Because, while my parents were both incredibly good at maintaining clean, organized homes, from the time I was a young child I was aware of the fact that we had many other challenges. Things you might consider basic relationship skills my parents seemed to struggle. Nearly everyone around me as a child was struggling with illness. Serious illnesses. Throughout my childhood I was also hyper aware of financial struggles in my family, emotional instability, loneliness, and more. My parent’s homes could be perfectly clean and that was real but it was always very apparent to me that had nothing to do with “real life.” Real life had real challenges. Real vulnerability. Natural disasters, lack of privileges, illness, financial setbacks and more. And everyone had those challenges. And truly, things that matter in life like relationships have nothing to do with what our homes or what our highlight reels from vacations, holidays, or anything else look like. Likewise, I would never see a picture of someone’s laundry all over their couch or bed and think they are a “real” mess. I would equally assume other things in their life are going really well. It’s just what people want to share, and what we want to relate to. Perspective. Because we are all different.
Everyone comes from a different background, we are all on different paths in our journeys of life. We can all agree on those two things, right? We learn this at a young age, yet as I get farther and farther into adulthood I find that this detail is one of the things people struggle with the most. At all ages. Everywhere in the world.
There are people who can easily maintain their homes, people who absolutely abhor any type of cleaning, people who can more easily choose to be fit and healthy vs someone who struggles with making one healthy choice. There are people who love working on their education vs those who daydream about dropping out of school from the first day of first grade. There is privilege vs the unprivileged in endless categories. This list could go on and on. You get my point, right? We are all in different phases of life and we are all different. Those differences are what make us uniquely incredible. Our differences give us layers of interesting character.
There are people who never talk about their feelings, in regards to anything. There are people who discuss everything on the surface level and love to keep the conversations light and humorous. There are people who only discuss politics. People who discuss science. People who only talk about their grandchildren or dogs. There are people who just the idea of sharing their opinions about anything get so much anxiety, they never say anything. There are people who are scared to speak their truths due to the response they might get from those who love them. There are people who hide their real stories because they would be in trouble if they were honest. I honestly think I’ve covered most of these at some point of my life. I was a very shy child and talking to people gave me anxiety till my teen years. As a teen and twenty-something I started to discover a more truer sense of myself and had passionate opinions about lots of issues but didn’t dare to share those feelings due to shame from the community I was in.
In my late twenties I started to speak up. At first, just to my husband. And it took all the courage I had ever experienced to talk to him about some serious topics. It started with sharing with him my true feelings about my childhood religion. After pouring out my heart to him I eventually learned I could slowly tell more people. But selectively. I still didn’t have the skill of sharing my truths everywhere.
Then, during my thirties, I told my husband about the sexual abuse in my childhood. I was a young child when it happened, during the years I was four to seven years old. But after telling him I was able to share those awful experiences when appropriate with others. I held a lot of shame that those things happened to me, regardless of the fact I was so young and I didn’t have control over the situations. And yet, my parents’ homes were clean and tidy, I was aware from a young age that the two things don’t correlate. No matter how clean my childhood homes were, I was also aware of the other struggles that I didn’t want to tell my parents about the sexual abuse because I felt they already had too many other things to worry about like caring for my elderly grandparents, paying rent, buying food, etc. I also always knew that no matter the dysfunction around me I would grow up and live a different life. My mental game was strong as a kid as far as compartmentalizing what I could change and what I couldn’t until I was old enough to be in charge of myself.
In my forties, I am slowly starting to learn and gain the courage to speak more of my truths. I am finally becoming comfortable with sharing my “real.” I recently read Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming” and besides thinking she is extraordinary, I love her last paragraph of the book,
In sharing my story,
I hope to help create space for other stories
and other voices,
to widen the pathway for who belongs and why.
I’ve been lucky enough to get to walk into stone castles,
urban classrooms, and Iowa kitchens, just trying
to be myself, just trying to connect.
For every door that’s been opened to me,
I’ve tried to open my door to others.
And here is what I have to say, finally:
Let’s invite one another in.
Maybe then we can begin to fear less,
to make fewer wrong assumptions,
to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.
Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same.
It’s not about being perfect.
It’s not about where you get yourself in the end.
There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard,
in owning your unique story,
in using your authentic voice.
And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others.
This, for me, is how we become.
At this current point of my life, I have found that being vulnerable and honest takes strength, and courage but the immediate blessing is joy. There is such a peace and serenity that embraces being honest. I have a select few remarkable people in my life who embrace and love me for all I am, my circle of vulnerability is often small but strong. My tribe is fierce. When you speak your truths, no matter what the topic, you might lose friends and family, but the universe will equally or even more so give you a community who does accept you.
Because, what I’m finding, is people don’t always welcome honesty. Whether it’s strangers and acquaintances online, or people who are dear to you in real life. The world sends pleas for more “real” but they actually prefer messy houses or they only really want the edited nice version of your real challenging struggles. Nothing that will offend them. Regardless of our knowing that it’s obvious we are all different and in different places in our journey of life, the world doesn’t truly welcome real.
A few examples, my husband and I stopped participating in our childhood religions together and knowing our community might not like our real opinions about the religion, or the conversations we wanted to have, we chose to remain quiet about such topics for the first 14 years we stopped participating. Out of respect for those we cared about we kept our real feelings to ourselves. But by doing so we also missed all the opportunities during that time period of connecting with the people who needed to hear our story. Malala Yousafzai said,
If People were silent nothing would change.
These words rang true to us because once we started sharing how we felt we found an enormous, accepting community who understood, praised, and continued to love us for sharing our real and it felt more liberating than anything I’d ever experienced. Change started within ourselves. True joy. Confirmation bias is strong. But kind understanding is so simple and powerful. Whether people agreed with us or not, we found old friends and new friends and family who accepted us for who we are and respected where we are in our journey. And vice versa.
I’m currently reading a book called, “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams. In this they discuss lasting happiness in a changing world. I love the relationship between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop, they are so cute and loving towards each other regardless of their religious/spiritual differences. In the chapter on meditation it’s mentioned that:
“The latest brain scan research suggests that we have a rather binary understanding of self and other and that our empathy circuits do not activate unless we see the other person as part of our own group.” They go on to say, “This is one of the greatest challenges that humanity faces: removing the barriers between who we see as ‘us’ and who we see as ‘other.’”
My husband started sharing his post-religious opinions about religion, politics, and more in the past couple of years in Facebook posts and in conversations with friends. Again, let me remind you, that this was coming after being quiet for nearly 14 years. We stopped being active in our religion 16 years ago. Some of his posts are fueled by anger, frustration, disappointment, and most of all an urge for change. There is a crowd of people who are open to his viewpoints and engage in the post as it’s intended for dialogue and conversation. Then there are those who give replies like,
“What is your purpose with posting this?”
“Dusty, you’re off the deep end.”
or my personal favorite,
“Why can’t you leave the church and just leave it alone?”
quickly showing that people don’t consider leaving your childhood religion and community traumatic. Or acknowledge the new lifelong endeavor to break the previous learning patterns to now embrace a more neutral approach to everything. Or that one doesn’t give up a desire to break down the barriers between those who are a part of it and those who are not, noted in the words of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop above. Being honest and real about things you are passionate about in life encompasses phases of anger, frustration, disappointment and more and this is my husband and I sharing our real. There are many in the world who do not welcome it. Which is funny to us because during all the years we were quiet about how we felt we never countered our friends when they discussed or shared their religious experiences, political views about women’s rights, abortion, immigration, ANYTHING that is an ongoing debate, my husband and I have never gone into someone else’s space of a post or conversation and pressed our opinions. Equally, we pretty much knew how all our family and friends felt and it would have never occurred to us to love them less for feeling that way or to ask them not to talk about it. It is their journey. I don’t believe my husband or I should have to always edit, hide, keep quiet, tone down or just walk away without sharing our views. While there is often intense criticism, he will receive dozens of personal messages from those who are praising him for having the courage to post what he chooses to in hopes for change. These same people who are often spouses of close friends of ours who don’t dare to speak their truths, so confirmation bias organically creates an even deeper community of understanding.
In The Book of Joy, the Archbishop addresses the topic of anger, something I think we quickly judge in society especially in regards to women, but I love how he explains this,
“Righteous anger is usually not about oneself. It is about those whom one sees being harmed and whom one wants to help. In short, righteous anger is a tool of justice, a scythe of compassion, more than a reactive emotion. Although it may have its roots deep in our fight-or-flight desire to protect those in our family or group who are threatened, it is a chosen response and not simply an uncontrollable reaction. And it is not about one’s own besieged self-image, or one’s feelings of separation, but of one’s collective responsibility, and one’s feeling of deep, empowering connection.
Imagine this, and I only use Scientology for this example because I feel it gets a bad image in media and because I don’t know anyone personally who practices Scientology, I want to make it clear that I do not have a good understanding of it’s belief system – however, I am sure it has good people who are members and practices that are positive for those people. With that being said, have you ever been in line at the grocery store and read a headline about someone leaving Scientology (hello Katie Holmes) and the headlines of that article say that they are happier now, they are at peace with their new life but want to warn others of the dangers of Scientology before they get involved? Without consciously realizing it, looking back now, did you think, “Wow, it’s so great they got out when they did. I bet they are so much happier. They need to spread this message to be cautious if you’re thinking about joining Scientology because I bet it has some strange things going on…” or did you think, “Wow, this is awful that they are being honest about leaving Scientology. They need to never talk about their real feelings, or their anger, they need to be quiet.” Did you think, “I bet all their friends and family who are also Scientologists are being loving, kind and understanding about how they feel.” or did you mentally acknowledge, “I bet they lost all their closest friends and family for speaking their truth and speaking out about it. I mean, It’s on the cover of every magazine! I bet they have to find entirely new communities.” Did you acknowledge that we are all different and all in different phases of life?
I had a friend once say, “I just wish people would leave, and not talk about it…” and I have another friend who when he encounters that same idea he gives a great analogy –
Imagine you grow up in a place where you have to walk to a well for water everyday of your life. And after decades of your life, say you’re fifty years old, you find out that this well has been poisoned. The reason so many people in your village die young is because you’ve all been drinking this poisonous water your whole lives. And you had no idea. You thought it was fresh, clean, and the best water you could find. Do you just walk away, only thinking about yourself and go find a new clean un-poisonous watering hole or do you have an invested interest in all those you love to warn them? Do you do all you can to make sure they know the water is poisonous? Yes. Yes, you do. And you believe the people you love and care about are wise, cautious, and will care about their health. You think they will be interested to know the water is poisonous. You think you just need to think of the right way to tell them so they will listen. Because it’s the only watering hole that everyone knows about. They don’t know where else to go or what else to do and fear for survival will keep them going to the same watering hole. Regardless of the poison or not. They will keep going because they don’t know where else to go. But you want to find clean water.
When I started talking to family beyond my husband about the sexual abuse in my childhood, I specifically had an older relative I wanted to share my story with. When the opportunity arrived that we were one on one and talking about family history, I told this person and their response was, “I had no idea. But it makes me feel better, because I always thought your childhood was so easy.” Whhaaat? It was a much more callous reaction than I expected, no empathy. The words deeply engraved in me a fresh reminder that no matter how honest we are about our “real” in life, when we share our stories, when we anticipate others to be kind or understanding, we might not get the responses we expect. And truly, no one owes us those kind & understanding responses. No one owes us understanding. Because we are all on our own journey’s, I’ve learned that lesson over and over that sharing my “real” comes with criticism, judgement, personal attacks, it often means losing close friends or family relationships. And I’m coming to peace with that – the world may be screaming for more real, and when you give it to them and they don’t like it, you may lose people you care about. And you will always care for them, but I’ve found that the universe also gives you the most amazing peace you’ve ever experienced. You will find true joy and people who love you for exactly who you are, no matter where you are in your journey. And the people who know my stories and who allow me to speak my truth, their acceptance and compassion are beautifully genuine.
What I’ve learned, is that while it is scary to be vulnerable and honest, and you are likely to be criticized for sharing your real, it is always worth it. While everyone’s perspective is different and the world might prefer to see a messy laundry room instead of hear your stories, give them who you are – share the real you. No matter what that is. Maybe it is a messy house or a clean house, but share every unique part you want to share. Fueled by any type of emotion and always without shame. We are all masterpieces in progress and deserve every space available to heal and evolve. We deserve to be honest, unedited. I’ve also learned that a lot of people are being real, and if we just focus less on ourselves, we’ll see them. We’ll hear them. And they need our attention – a topic for an entire separate post.
With this all being said, I am returning to blogging with a new voice. I still love life and many of the things it has to offer. I adore my family and my dogs, I enjoy traveling and creating videos of our family memories. I love to plan get-togethers, celebrate holidays small and big, and workout or run outside every day if possible. I have a deep love for reading and constant learning, and enjoy movies. I also enjoy keeping my home tidy, organized and cozy with a focus on minimalism, I love hiking and being outdoors and I cherish time with friends and family as often as possible. And oh how I love to create – currently I am obsessed with seed bead bracelets and will share more on that soon, I will share ideas with all of these things in mind. But more important to me now is the change I hope to see in the world. As I’ve studied race, I want to spend my privilege teaching others. As I’ve discovered my inner feminist I want to empower women. But most of all I want to be real whether the world really wants it or not, I will share my stories and experiences without shame and use this space to help others do the same. Inspired by so many in the world, inspired by friends I have who are working hard every day to promote change, I want to do the same. I invite you, to be real. Be you. Life is absolutely amazing, and whether it looks clean or messy from the outside, which really has nothing to do with the things that really matter in life – it’s all welcome here. xo.