Trendy isn’t always good. Slap bracelets. Gauged ears. Justin Bieber. You know what I mean. But there’s a new popular thing to talk about. Brene Brown calls it being whole-hearted. Ellie Schoenberger created her nonprofit, Shining Strong, for it. Britt Reints rearranged her life to do it. Glennon Melton has her Monkees. AB Chao was just talking about it. And on and on.
We want to tell the truth. All of it.
Maybe because I’m interested in this, I seek people who are too. But I think we’re collectively and individually realizing that we have to. We have to tell the truth. Our whole truth. We can’t keep letting ourselves lie by omission and just tell the nice parts of our stories; it’s killing us. We’ve been used to the media comparing us to celebrity lives and giving us 101 ways to be thinner, richer, sexier. Now, though, we do it to each other, and I think that’s what’s too much. Our social networks show the brightest and shiniest parts – the most creative, the best-dressed, the cleverest moments. When we look at that all day, it can seem like we’re the only ones whose lives are messy. As if honesty is to be avoided.
My friend Audrey is a blogger, author and TV personality. Her husband is award-winningly good-looking (literally). They live in a picturesque seaside town with their four boys, and she’s a month from giving birth to their first girl. Their pictures from a recent portrait session show sandy-haired moppets cuddling loving parents, smiles all around. They seem to be an exhibit in intimidating flawlessness. Except Audrey explained that, while one particularly ethereal shot of her was being taken, she was actually gritting her teeth watching the kids chuck sand at each other behind the photographer. To me, that made the photographs lovely – because it made them real.
Messy reality makes us like each other more. We’re here to help each other’s messes. Being a mess is the point. If we keep pretending, nothing gets better and we never get closer.
I think it’s human nature to fight it – to prefer letting things get worse rather than admit needing help. At its extreme, that’s addiction. I’m too ashamed to admit how badly I’m struggling, so I lean on something to get through life. But we all want to avoid something we don’t feel good enough at. I’m doing it in choosing to work on this post. Whether it’s writing or heroin, isn’t the point the same? We’re scared we’re not good enough.
The thing is, it’s true. I’m not. Neither are you. Every one of us fails a hundred times a day. None of us is good enough.
I guess you can take that as a disheartening revelation – some nihilist call to throw in the towel. Or, I guess if you were a very pious person, you’d say that the only way that life works is when we let God in.
Me, I just believe it’s freeing. I believe we have to stop waiting till the house is clean to have company over. I believe that when you let people see that you’re tired and scared and broken and your shit is so not together that it’s either horrifying or laughable or maybe both – that that’s when God wants the chance to come in, and that’s when good people want the chance to come in too.
In the last few months, I’ve gotten closer to people. And it’s sucked. I’ve been weepy, swollen, drug-addled, cranky, unwashed and despondent. These have not been picturesque moments. But I’ve learned more about how wonderful people are than I would have in ten years of polite small talk.
So I’m not saying honesty is comfortable. I’m just saying it might be worth it.
Robin Williams says it best in Good Will Hunting… your move, chief.