I don’t think I have fully realized the weight I carry in my heart.
Sure, I know that I’m creating stress by only letting people get to know the Surface Me. By fooling people into thinking that I have my shit together, I am keeping people at arms’ length and no one gets to know the real me.
That doesn’t make it any easier to expose my flaws and my struggles.
Last week, I had a phone call from one of my best friends. Erica and I met 20 years ago in college and have been through a lot together. We’ve been sorority sisters, roommates, co-workers, partners-in-crime, bridesmaids, and confidants.
We live 2 hours apart, in different states, so we don’t see each other often. We don’t even talk on the phone very often, though we do keep in touch electronically. However, we have the kind of friendship where we could go months without talking to each other and instantly pick up where we left off.
Erica was calling in response to a text message that I had sent her about another old friend, Jena. We were all close friends and sorority sisters in college and have remained so in the decades since.
(Some background information is necessary here before I continue: Jena is not the most emotionally stable person in the world, and I have always suspected some sort of mood disorder. I love her to pieces…she has a big heart, and I really value her friendship. However, sometimes she stops communicating with everyone for months on end, and we really start to worry about her well-being. After 20 years of friendship, we know that she only does that when she’s going through a dark time. If someone hasn’t heard from her recently…even just a brief “I’m alive” text…we worry, because we love her.)
I needed Jena’s mailing address, so I Googled her name to see if I could find it quickly. The first search result was her LinkedIn profile, and you could see from the Google preview that she’s listed as “Deep South State – XYZ Professional.” (Specific state and industry masked for privacy purposes.) This struck me as odd, because she had lived for several years in a South Atlantic State. Since when was she in the Deep South? I clicked on the profile and noticed that her job was end dated June 2012. The fact that she may have moved hundreds of miles without saying a word to any of her friends was troubling.
Thinking that perhaps I might just be out of the loop, I texted Erica to ask if she’d heard anything about Jena moving to Deep South State. Erica then called to let me know that she hadn’t heard anything about a move either.
The conversation turned to the fact that Erica feels that Jena goes out of contact when things aren’t good in her life, because she envisions that the rest of us have perfect lives. That our lives are turning out according to plan, and everything is sunshine and roses.
Not true, of course. I am a generally content person, but there are things I would like to change. (Hence the reason I started Rustbeltbliss – to document my efforts to make some positive changes!) I haven’t written in detail about the state of my marriage yet, but for now let’s just say that it is up and down.
And Erica? On the surface, she seems to have it all too: a loving supportive husband, 3 wonderful kids, and a rewarding career.
However, on this phone call, Erica confessed to me that she “single-handedly destroyed the family finances” (her words) a few years ago, and that they are still digging out of the mess she created. She wished that Jena knew that we all have problems, and that true friends will be there for you through the rough times. Instead of shutting everyone out when she’s struggling, wouldn’t it be better to allow your friends to give emotional support?
I didn’t share my confession with Erica. She had to get off the phone before I was able to spill my dirty little secret.
Even though I didn’t get to specifically say that I fear my chronic disorganization is holding me back and starting to affect my kids, I felt a tremendous sense of relief knowing that Erica wouldn’t think less of me if I did.
The weight of that secret has been a burden for so long. I almost forgot that I don’t have to carry it alone.
How many of us carry this weight, afraid to admit mistakes or weaknesses to others?
Even though I started this blog as a completely anonymous way to share my fears and document my efforts to change, I’ve still been holding back a little. There have been times where I wanted to share photos of my chaotic world to go along with something I’ve written, but I’ve been afraid. Afraid of being judged, afraid my readers won’t like me anymore. Silly, isn’t it?
I am going to make an effort to be more open. While I still don’t have the nerve to be an open book with everyone, I can at least start here. Some people might be turned off, but perhaps it will also give me a stronger connection with other people. Even if it means sharing photos or anecdotes that make me cringe!