I received a text from a friend the other night. “Thinking of you. Hope your day went well.”
I sighed deeply at the memory of the day. At the way my feet waded through it like sandbags were tied to them. Each movement was feeling heavier than usual. The truth was that life felt incredibly hard at that moment. The kind of hard that feels like a dark night of the soul, lingering after the rise of the sun. When there are more questions than there are answers. Where there is no clearly marked direction of which path to take or what is next. No easy solutions. No quick relief. No exit plan. Leaving room for the wandering of the imagination into dark crevices with cobwebs and worst case scenarios.
When I was a little girl, I used to have a red vintage suitcase that I loved. When I was upset (probably because I wasn’t getting my way), I would drag out my suitcase and pretend to pack as if I were going to leave home. My destination plan was actually to nowhere, other than to wallow in my feelings that felt much larger than my small self.
And sometimes that little girl resurfaces. Sometimes her tendency is to run back to the closet and drag out the small red suitcase that is no longer there and avoid that which feels overwhelming. Parenthood. Finances. Leadership. Relationships. Responsibility. Life.
Like the coffee mug that says “I can’t even.” Or the t-shirt that says “I can’t adult today.”
I could easily rock both on some days and yet, don’t own either. Raise your hand if you've been there before. If there were full disclosure and we were all together, you'd see a room full of hands in the air.
So I responded to my friend's text by vomiting the truth all over her.
The truth came out much like watching my husband heave into the bathtub earlier that morning. Yes…the bathtub, unfortunately, because sometimes that’s as far as you make it after an all-night venture with suspected food poisoning. I stood behind him reminding myself that I was once a nurse, although that version of me didn’t handle such scenarios well either. I. Can. Do. This. I straightened my spine, held my breath and offered a cold rag, a soft tone, and a brave face.
And that’s what my friend also did. After I apologized for vomiting on her and told her that I know she didn’t want “all that" at nine p.m. on a Tuesday night when she has her own life stuff she’s dealing with.
Because the lie we believe is that people only want the best version of us, when in fact, they want and even dare say “need” both versions. The one that has struggled with some stuff and can impart wisdom and strength and the one who is desperately in need of it.
We answer that we are doing “good” or “fine” or “okay” because we think the person asking couldn’t possibly want the messy version of us. The unfine version. The person who doesn't have it all figured out. The person who doesn't have a good day every day.
We fear to be too much when our too much is actually the thing that makes us relatable to others. It's how the world you interact with connects to you. It's how our children learn to manage conflict and what gives them permission not to be perfect. It's what makes us a safe space for our friends to struggle and not hide behind a mask. It's what gives you the mark of being human, not superhuman, not exempt from the hard stuff we all face.
Be brave enough to admit it. You aren't meant to carry it alone. Someone out there needs the real version of you, not who you long to be or think you need to be.