So, on my TikTok feed, I saw a man calling into an imaginary customer service line:
“Hi! I would like to cancel 2021, please.“
(pause and then…)
“Yes, I want to cancel. I tried the 7-day trial and I don’t like it.
I don’t want it. I just want to cancel.”
It was funny because, well, it’s relatable. Life throws what it is going to regardless of whether there is, say, a worldwide pandemic or an ongoing threat to our country’s democracy happening. What do I share? Which part? And how much? I want to document, share, and process. At the same time, I don’t want to complain or bring you, my dear reader, down. How do you navigate the tightrope of being a light for hope and encouragement while still allowing room for discouragement, overwhelm, and grief?
Do you share enough? Do you share too much or not at all? Last night and this morning, I helped edit my mom’s Christmas letter. It’s the first one she’s been able to get out since 2017. The Parkinson’s that has been fraying away at my Dad’s physical and mental well-being has been doing the same to my mom. She’s Dad’s full-time caregiver and the demands are complicated, relentless, and increasing. As I was editing her letter, I saw how she shared the fact her life has been difficult but in a way that isn’t exhausting for the reader. Part of me was impressed, and part of me questioned it.
I mean, her sharing is authentic and in keeping with who she is. And yet, I wonder, shouldn’t she be sharing with family and friends just how intense things have been and are for her? I realize how much I was admonished to, for the most part, handle my challenges on my own. Being a burden on others is discouraged.
This year has been a real test on the limits of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, stiff-upper-lip, and all the other appropriate colloquialisms. One of the things that I *have* liked about 2020 is that it has brought a lot of cultural assumptions out into the open for analysis. It has given us the opportunity to determine whether these assumptions that we’ve long lived with, both consciously and unconsciously, are valuable and service to humanity. Or, are they actively working against it. It’s an excellent opportunity for self and communal reflection. It’s an opportunity to culturally evolve as humans in community together on this shared, singular, beautiful miracle of a planet.
I’ve had things happen or that I’m experiencing that I’ve wanted to share. But, I hesitate, pull-back, and opt on the side of not sharing. What if they (the person I’m thinking of sharing with…) are already having a hard day? Won’t my sharing make it worse for them? Am I just complaining, being selfish, and self-absorbed to share especially given that everyone is going through so much? Heavy sigh. It’s exhausting just thinking these thoughts. So much going on and so much to process, it’s difficult to find focus in the midst of it all. Heavy sigh.
All that said, I know getting to be there for someone else, to listen to their stories, worries, and emotions, can be surprisingly re-energizing for me. When I know my presence has been supportive and helpful, there is a kind of level-up bestowed onto my own resiliency. I know I don’t have an eternal capacity to do this and boundaries must be maintained. Self-nourishment and care must be maintained.
But, maybe some of this conversation would be moot if we were well-trained in boundary setting. If I knew I could reach out to share, but also be confident that they would tell me (if need be)… “I love you, but I don’t have the emotional bandwidth today to listen… or to do x.y,z. Let’s talk tomorrow.” That would be such a relief. I wouldn’t have to second-guess if I am overwhelming them or causing them emotional harm. And, if we were good at doing that with each other… that confidence could flow both ways.
I’ve been thinking out loud this entire post. I hope my rambling thoughts might resonate or spark with some of your own. I am a big believer in the power of self-reflection, intention, and committed action. The more aware of these things we are, the more opportunity there is for us to make intentional, conscious choices that will allow us to live lives of meaning and increased joy.