Being in relationships is one of the biggest blessings we have here on this earth. We live and grow together as we ride the rollercoaster of ups and downs with our family and friends. Having people to listen and show they care truly does divide the sorrows and multiply the joys.
Yet, I feel sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to be completely vulnerable and experience true relationship when we hold back from being our authentic selves.
Pain is nothing new under the sun, am I right? We may undergo the terminal illness of self or a loved one, or the death of a someone close to us. We may feel the more nebulous but still painful stress of loss of a relationship, or job challenges, or moving, or of infertility, or whatever it may be. So many things can enter into our lives with the potential to rob of us joy. Some are bigger than others, and can affect us physically as well as mentally and emotionally.
I had a conversation recently that was very similar to others I have had over the years. They seem to go a bit like this: I was talking with someone whom I know had experienced a great loss. When this person shared some of the details of the grief with me, I said, “I’m so sorry. How are you doing?”
To which the person replied, “It’s fine.”
And I immediately replied, “Well, it’s not fine. And that’s okay to say.”
What is first thing we say to each other in greeting? “How are you?” And what is our typical response? “Good.” “Fine.” Are we really? Do we just say this because it’s so ingrained in us?
And why do we ask, “How are you?” all the time? Do we really want to know? Is it just socially required to ask? Or are we truly prepared for whatever we might hear? Would we be ready to walk together through whatever storms the other person is facing?
It’s okay to declare that life kind of stinks right now. Or that life majorly stinks right now. It’s okay to admit when we’re having a hard time dealing with the tough circumstances we’re experiencing. Nobody’s life is perfect. Nobody responds to stress and hard days with the best reactions all the time. The more we’re honest about that, the more we’re showing true authenticity of person. That authenticity can help us process our grief, and, eventually, begin to move on and grow.
I can’t speak for everyone out there. For me, assuming that others’ lives are “easier” or that they have it more together is something I’ve struggled with in the past. We all have our ups and downs. Infertility in particular is undoubtedly the biggest crisis we’ve experienced as a couple. But I didn’t want to talk about it; I didn’t know how people would react or be able to help me. It took a while before I was comfortable sharing about our infertility, and other crises big and small that we were dealing with. Opening up about my journey, and not keeping it all inside, has given me amazing opportunities to create relationships with others experiencing the same thing. This in turn fashions a wonderful two-way street of giving and receiving, wherein I have been marvelously blessed.
When we do away with the façade that everything in our life is perfect, or that we are sufficient by ourselves, we in turn allow others to be more vulnerable with their own struggles. True community and relationship can happen.
Now, there is something to be said about discretion. It goes without saying that not everyone needs to know your dirty laundry. And not everyone is being helpful and selfless when they show curiosity. Being aware of the people with whom you can share struggles and grief is significant.
But when you find a person or group of people with whom you feel safe, make the most of those relationships by practicing – here comes that word again – authenticity. Be real, laughing and crying together, treasuring the paths you’re on because they are yours. Be ready to ask for support for the problems of life, and be ready to be the support for others when they need it.
Life isn’t always “fine” or “okay,” and that’s all right. What a gift it is to be in relationship through every day that comes along!