I saw a fellow mom the other day while browsing in my favorite store. We aren’t super close, but we both know enough about each other through social media and the occasional meetup over coffee.
She knows I’m a divorced, working mom, and she’s in the same boat. Because of that, when we see each other there’s a level of comfort that allows us to let it all hang out like an unbuttoned pair of Levi’s after Thanksgiving dinner.
I asked her how she was and she replied with the standard, “Good.”
Then she returned the question, and I said I was great. Which was a total lie.
She stopped, her eyes dropped to the floor, and she laughed. Then she looked up at me and said,”Actually, I’m really shitty.”
And oh my fucking God, the relief I felt pouring out of me because we could actually have a real, raw conversation made me realize when I lied between my clenched jaw about how fucking fabulous I was, my shoulders were tense, and I probably wasn’t breathing properly.
I didn’t know how badly I needed to tell someone I was hanging on by a thread that week. How badly I needed to really be seen. How badly I needed to just be real.
We’ve become so used to rushing through our days, white-knuckling it through life to make it to the next thing, we have become immune to taking a second to be truthful about how we feel.
The other mom and I only talked for a few minutes — she was late for something and my daughter was in the dressing room trying on her 45th dress for an upcoming dance — but in those five minutes, my day changed dramatically. I’m hoping her day did too. After all, she must have needed to talk about it or she wouldn’t have let me into her world, and I feel lucky I was there to help her.
I certainly wasn’t happy she was struggling and having a hard time wading through this life of hers by any means. But I noticed right away how my pulse slowed down immediately after joining her in the “let’s get real about how we’re really doing” club.
I felt cleansed because I knew I wasn’t alone. It felt amazing to tell the truth and not walk through the store saying I was fine, feeling like a frozen version of myself and then trying on some heels and leaving feeling like a shriveled-up skin pod. But that is exactly what would have happened had she not peeled off her mask and admitted she, in fact, was not “fine” and no, life wasn’t great at all.
We are not robots. We don’t need to put a positive spin on everything despite all the positive, uplifting memes that are tossed around about choosing happiness. And for fuck’s sake, we are not always good, or great, or fine, or whatever code word we use when we’re feeling like a useless bag of dicks but think we need to cover it up lest we make anyone uncomfortable or someone actually see us as a human being.
You can be grateful for all you have and still feel like life is trying to get you right in the Achilles’ heel.
I know it’s okay to not be fine, I know it. But, for some reason, it’s harder to admit that to others. Which is why I’m so grateful this woman took it a step further and made me realize it’s okay to be real about it too.
Not only did I feel lighter for being my real self that day, but I also realized that real conversations, where I can actually share how I’m really feeling, are the only conversations I want to have. Shame on me for saying I was great when I felt like I’d been put through the garbage disposal that day. From now on, I’m going to tell someone if I’m having a bad day (or month) instead of painting a glossy picture that isn’t true.
Being real doesn’t mean you have to go into the grittiness and deep corners of your life, divulging every gruesome detail. It doesn’t mean you have to unload all your drama, either.
But simply letting someone into your world a little bit and not feeling like you have to fake your way through your days — especially if you have the opportunity to talk with someone who is willing to take a few minutes out of their life to let you know they are there, they understand, and yes, life can be a shitshow for them too — wouldn’t you rather get in that lane?
It’s not easy and can make us feel vulnerable and weak, but being honest isn’t weak at all. It’s a sign of strength to admit you are breakable — we all are.
And by admitting that you’re having a shitty day or struggling, you give others permission to be real too. Sometimes it’s all someone needs to get through the rest of their day. Who knows, you just might lift someone’s spirits a bit — just like that other mom did for me.