Today after church, I was stopped by a man in my ward who asked me how school is going. My response was hesitant at first. I didn't know what to say because I'm constantly fighting depression, and honestly, school is hard. And saying that is being relatively optimistic. When I answered him, I chose, "School is great. (smile and pause.) But it's also hard and stressful." I thought that was a good answer. It was the truth, and I was not dragging on about the hard and stressful part. Then he looked at me and said, "So it's great."
"Well yeah, it's great. But it's also hard." Not really sure why I couldn't just leave it just at great.
"It's great." Why can't he accept the hard part?
"Yes, But hard too." Still not sure why I had to keep saying it.
"Well you only needed to say its great. I don't need to know its stressful."
Then he said, "It helps you be more positive if you focus on the great and not the hard." Good advice, I guess, but as I wrote in my last post, I've been in denial about things going on in my life. I don't think dishonesty with myself is the answer to being more happy. My final response to him was, "Well it really doesn't help me feel better about things if I have to lie to people about how I feel when they ask me how it's going." Then he laughed and said his job sucks, and that he keeps telling himself it's great in hopes that it will somehow change the situation, and he will convince himself it really is great. Hm... doesn't seem to me like lying to yourself is the answer to optimism. But we're all different, and maybe that works for him. I like the quote I found for my picture at the top of this post. "If you want to be happy, be." That's my philosophy. I can't force myself to be happy. I can only be and make the best of what is, and that is how I can become happier.
Okay, this conversation made me think about a lot of things that have actually been on my mind lately. Why do we have to be so closed?! Why is it not okay to say I'm stressed out? Why is there this societal phobia of saying anything negative in public? (Okay, maybe an exaggeration. But you have to admit, it is pretty bad. People don't want to hear negativity. Even if you aren't being negative, even if you are being realistic, people don't want to hear it.)
My issue isn't with this guy and the conversation I had with him. My issue is with the fact that it's how society as a whole expects us to be. Closed. Tough. Perfect. No one should know about our inner struggles. We're supposed to pretend we don't have any.
I disagree. How much better would our lives be if we gave honest answers to the "Hi, how are you?" question? How much better would our lives (and others' lives) be if we actually cared to know people's honest answers?
In my ideal world, people would ask me those kinds of questions and actually care about the answer. I could say, "You know, things are kind of hard right now. But I'm holding on. I'm trying to make it work." Maybe I could even mention porn (gasp!). If they asked what they could do for me, they could accept a simple answer like "Please pray for me." They wouldn't need to solve all my problems--they would just let me cry, and they would cry with me.
I think we could all be more compassionate and understanding. I think we should speak up. For heaven's sake, if someone asks you how you're doing, and you're not doing well at all, tell them. Okay, okay, you don't have to go into detail because that may be pushing it, but you could say something like, "I'm actually having a hard time right now, thanks for asking. It's nice to know someone cares about me. How are you?" And maybe, if they really do care, they will ask to know more about why you aren't doing well. And maybe you will feel safe enough to tell them. And maybe they would show some love and compassion towards you when they see that side of you. I think it's safe to say we would all be at least a little more compassionate if we knew what was really going on in people's lives. (And society could sure use a little more compassion.)
We all have stories. We are all living hard lives. Seriously, that is what life is. It's hard. We are here to experience pain and grow. We are here to live this life and become more like Christ through it so we can live with God again. It just makes it all the more hard when we have to put on that perfect persona and waltz through life like we are sitting on clouds and eating ice cream like it's a vegetable. No one is doing that. No one has that perfect life.
People have mistaken me for having a perfect life. You know what I want to say to them? I want to word vomit all over them. I want to share with them every little detail about how hard things are and then say, now tell me how perfect you think my life is. But I don't. Because I am told that society doesn't want to hear my inner struggles. Those inner struggles are for me and those very intimately close to me. Like my husband, who is addicted to porn (not a jab, just an honest statement for effect). But as I've shared more with people, that has helped me develop more intimate relationships.
Like I said, we all have stories. We have different abilities to carry trials and bear different burdens. Some people's trials may seem impossible. Our trials may seem impossible to others. Some trials may seem trivial, but to that person, it's HUGE. We all have stories, and I think there is power in coming together with our stories. I think there is power in letting people be open and share themselves.
There is power in vulnerability.
I wish society would let us be more vulnerable instead of saying, "I don't want to hear that. Just tell me how awesome and perfect your life is."
"If you want to be happy, be." Be you. Be brave. Be honest about your life. Let things be, and let them work themselves out how they need to.