I’ve been kinda obsessed with the idea of candid truth telling and vulnerability ever since I read my first Anne Lamott book “Operating Instructions: A journal of my son’s first year,” over a decade ago.
She was so open and honest about dealing with life as a new mom, a single woman and a recovering alcoholic.
“I cry intermittently, like a summer rain. I don’t feel racked by the crying; in fact, it hydrates me. Then rage wells up in me, and I want to take a crowbar to all the cars in the neighborhood.”
I mean, does anyone say this kind of stuff in real life? A lot of people seem to pretend everything is fine all the time.
Years later, I fell in love with another writer, Glennon Doyle Melton.
Again, a brash truth teller.
One of my favorite passages from her is when her husband came home from work and asked her how her day was. She had been home with their small children all day. This is how she responded ...
“How was my day? Today has been a lifetime. It was the best of times and the worst of times. There were moments when my heart was so full I thought I might explode, and there were other moments when my senses were under such intense assault that I was CERTAIN I’d explode.
“I was both lonely and absolutely desperate to be alone.
“I was saturated — just BOMBARDED — with touch and then the second I put down this baby I yearned to smell her sweet skin again.
“I was simultaneously bored out of my skull and completely overwhelmed with so much to do.
“Today was too much and not enough. It was loud and silent. It was brutal and beautiful. I was at my very best today and then, just a moment later, at my very worst.
“At 3:30 today I decided that we should adopt four more children, and then at 3:35 I decided that we should give up the kids we already have for adoption.”
It sounds dramatic and it’s more eloquent than most of us could be. But I bet if you have any mother read this she can relate to that craziness and the contradictions in emotions felt in being a mom.
I guess that’s possibly why I love so many comedians, and always read their autobiographies. They cut right to the chase. They know that showing vulnerability makes them relatable, and honestly, embarrassing stories are the funniest.
So, why is it so hard sometimes to be frank all time?
I have a few theories.
Well, for one thing, if Frank the butcher asks how your day is going, maybe it’s not really the time and the place to tell him you’re mad at your kids or you’re struggling with your marriage.
Then there’s the overly perfect people. You notice Susie’s kids are wearing perfectly matching outfits that look freshly ironed while your kid has two different shoes on. You’re not about to bring up how you also forgot today was the school bake sale.
And don’t forget about the overly positive type. You know things aren’t perfect but they only want to hear positivity! So Miranda won’t offer up any details but everything in her life is all good! You may wonder if she is a robot without any feelings. It kinda makes you feel like a negative nelly if you aren’t all sunshine and roses.
And of course there is the judgy type. Face it, if Laurie is gossiping and making fun of other people all the time — a la mean girls — how do you know it’s not you when you’re not around? You don’t want to give her any fodder for later.
So it’s tricky finding that balance. The point where you can cross the boring talk-about-the-weather-small-talk line and enter into the real-life-tell-it-like-it-is talk.
But the thing I’ve realized is that Frank might actually care if you are mad at your kids. He’s at his job and maybe he’s bored with the small talk too.
Susie and her family may look all out together but that doesn’t mean she’s put together in every part of her life. Maybe her family has hot pockets for dinner every night. Or maybe her husband travels all the time and she’s crazy bored, and has a flair for fashion, so she spends a lot of time on their outfits.
Then there is positively perky Miranda. Sadly, Miranda will out of the blue announce she’s getting a divorce and you had no idea. It may have been too hard for her to admit her truths. Show people grace, though. Everyone really is fighting their own battles.
So, bottom line is, it’s a balancing act. But I find when I do share my truths, some people will share theirs too. And we have a deeper relationship. So keep trying. You’ll learn who you can talk to. Doyle Melton also has a saying, “You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people.”