Why is everyone so happy?
I’m feeling so disheartened tonight, and I have been for a while. I so badly want to open my heart on my blog, but it’s tricky. There’s this invisible line in this whole blogging business that you might not know about. Talk, but don’t say too much. Be personal, but don’t air dirty laundry. I don’t know about you, but every person I’ve ever met has a bit of laundry that needs doing – you know? I’ve experimented with different writing styles and gone through my own emotional growth in my blogging years. I’ve experienced different kinds of reactions from all angles, both personally and by listening with open ears when others are talking… about each other.
Someone I know wrote a beautiful and heartfelt article on her struggle with depression. Weeks later, I felt nauseated when I overheard other bloggers referring to her as the ‘sad’ one with all the ‘problems’, clutching flutes of complimentary champagne while perched in a huddle, overdressed with made up faces as genuine as their personalities. Nothing annoys me as much as phoniness. Be real, show an abundance of character and authenticity, then you have my full attention and my respect. Intelligence, quick wit, knowledge and an education in both books and life are what will set you apart from those who are easily herded in to social corners and cliques.
I admire people who show their unique and creative spirit. People who disagree and argue. The non conformists and the trouble makers. The kind and fiery hearts with exciting stories to share about their lives and experiences, and not about other people and their misfortunes or personal struggles. I may have crossed a line here, and perhaps there’s a press release or event invitation that will skip my inbox next week, but I believe in authenticity… to a degree. Tricky, I realize. Let me explain.
I had a quick chat with Jane over on her blog this week, and I’ll share an extract. She asked if there was anything I’d want my readers to know about me, and I said:
I think that people assume that they genuinely know or understand people via following them on social media, but it pays to remember that I don’t share intimate details of my life involving my kids or husband, marriage, work or extended family. While you might see a cute picture of my son on Instagram, I may have lost a big client that day. Maybe G and I had an awful fight or maybe one of the kids is struggling at school and it’s breaking my heart. While I want to talk about all these things, I do value and respect the privacy of those around me.
These are the boundaries that we all face in our lives. We sensor ourselves. We show the good and cheerful parts and try fit in and be likeable. Desirable, even. Maybe we don’t want people feeling sorry for us, or looking down on us. Maybe we don’t want to appear weak or fragile in this world of filters and selfies and perfectly styled breakfasts.
Last year my heart bled like a broken reservoir. Our little Benjamin was diagnosed with asthma. He’d had it for years and I didn’t know. I’m his mother, and I did not know that my sweetheart of a boy was struggling with something that I was not making better for him. He got in to a whole lot of trouble and in to a critical condition. We carried his little body to a hospital and sat at his bedside for four days watching people try fix him. If we’d waited an hour, things would have been different, they said. I thought he just had flu. I thought. he. had. flu. Specialists were coming in and out, syringes filled with blood and oxygen and nebulizers were being passed around and I sat next to him feeling like the worst human that ever existed. Like I didn’t deserve to be his mother. I wanted to tell everyone, I wanted to tell all our friends and I wanted to tell complete strangers because I wanted help. Advice. We needed support. Even now, it’s hard to talk about because the guilt pushes my tears forward every time I think about that week. How awful I felt. How scared we all were. I didn’t want to tell you because it was personal, and it was about Benjamin. So I wrote about houses and holidays and a bunch of other things and I pretended that I wasn’t terrified and desperately lonely in all my fears and feelings.
6 months later, Ben is so in control of his condition. After several tests, we’ve established that his asthma is allergy induced. Bunny Banana struggles to get his breathing straight when something (we don’t know what) in mother nature annoys his tiny boy chest. He’ll tell you all of this himself, like he’s telling a really good story. The asthma is something he’ll probably outgrow, and he’s completely the boss of it. He is not ashamed in the slightest. He pulls out his pump at play dates, in class and amongst friends like it’s just no big deal at all, because it isn’t. He is strong and proud and true to himself, so why was I so ashamed? My boy is perfect and he’s going through the business of growing up and with that comes all sorts of challenges, developments and obstacles. As he grows and changes, I’m learning and growing as a mother too.
We’re not all as happy as we might seem online (not even you) so why all the masks and faces. Are we seeking validation? Do we appear more desirable if we pose our lives in a sunny disposition? We’re sharing our good times and happy memories. Our journeys, travels and experiences. I get that, I understand that and heck you guys – I do it too! Let’s celebrate our lives and be grateful for all our blessings, I know – let’s do that.
But let’s also be real. I miss humanity. I miss the connection. Our poses and masks are leaking like bloodied ink from our smart phones in to our real lives. Like the idealism of our highlight reels are becoming our misguided realities. Sit around a dinner table and it’s like getting the commentated version of instagram. A podcast of your social media lives, printed and transcribed in to a dialogue for all to hear. “Look how happy I am” we say. “Look how great everything is” we try to convince each other, and ourselves while adding more filters and hashtags so that even more people can see how great everything is.
But is it?
I had an awful night tonight. I’ve cancelled two overseas trips this past year, and my social media feeds are covered in photos of international museums, concert tickets, the Eiffel tower and exotic beaches. A reminder that I haven’t quite got my shit together this year (again) and another nagging reminder that I’m sinking so deep in to the ‘suburban mom’ persona that I genuinely fear that I’ll never get out. Am I too selfless? Am I just unorganized? Why am I so busy all the time? Am I doing something wrong, is everyone else better at everything than I am? I haven’t gotten round to returning our library books, so how will I ever manage to sort my visa out. Am I not making it a priority, or is it secretly not actually important to me at all. Is it an escape tactic? A rebellion against the school commute, play dates and soccer practice? It’s always like that, isn’t it. When you’re trying to lose weight, your social media feed is consumed by pictures of people who look like they haven’t eaten in three months. The best decor posts will always show up right after the dog ate half your couch. A perfectly styled picture of a nutritionally balanced salad will punch you in the chest as you’re digging in to (another) defrosted pizza base, reminding you just how awful you are at everything. How much more organized everyone else is and how much more money everyone has than you. Seriously though – where do you all get all your money from?
I sound bitter and ungrateful tonight, don’t I? I’m not. We’ve been blessed in more ways than I’d ever hoped. My life is riddled in privilege and happiness, I admit. We don’t want or need for anything, and yet lately I find myself feeling quite greedy about it. Like we need and want more, but we don’t. Not really we don’t. Yet, some days I feel like a wild spirit captured in a mediocre life. Some days I feel disappointed in how ordinary everything is. The routine of it all. I want to pack up this house and the boys and trek through Africa for a month, but then I remember that we have full time jobs, and those darn library books. Some days I really just want to shake things up. I also remember how incredibly blessed and happy we all are, just the way everything is right now.
Obviously I genuinely want all the good people on earth to be happy and healthy and for all your dreams to come true, hard work to pay off and for every success to be granted in your very and exact direction, I do. Maybe social media mirrors our own shortcomings back to us and hits us in the emotions in case you really were numb inside, and maybe that’s a good thing. Like a reminder of our own obstacles and shortcomings. A kick in the butt, if we’re being eloquent. Maybe social media is the new nagging housewife, except in pictures. And while the nagging housewife is annoying AF (ask Graeme) maybe we need it, and to keep track of everything we’d like to achieve. But then I question – is social media selling us a preconceived idealism of flashy cars, expensive restaurants, stylish clothes, perfect bodies and international trips that we don’t really desire? Is the augmented reality of other people’s lives encouraging and motivating our every success or making us feel disheartened and depressed? Depends what mood you’re in, I say. Some days I feel so inspired by everything around me and other days I want to unfollow every single person I’ve ever met. Because emotions. The thing is, it’s not jealousy. It’s a reminder. When I see someone who has lost 10kg I instantly feel happy for them, but then I feel super guilty because I skipped a run (or six) and ate that second bowl of pasta last night. You know? And sometimes I don’t want to feel that guilt. Sometimes I just want to eat my pasta and be happy with my muffin top without questioning my life on a Tuesday night.
Then I remember that we’ve got some great trips coming up, and we’re really trying to make our home look beautiful and cozy. And I wonder if there’s someone out there, looking at my or someone else’s social media feed, wondering if they’ve gone wrong and how they ended up alone on the couch on a Saturday night. And if that’s you, I want you to know that I feel like that sometimes too, and it really is awful. We’ve all got a different ‘ordinary’ and it’s up to us how we reflect these mirrors shining their light in our faces.
It’s okay to feel pretty sad about all of it sometimes. Sad about being tired, and not seeing your friends and family often enough, or eating junk and not living your best life. Sad about not being on top of things all the time. And sometimes it’s good to talk about it, even if nobody is listening.