Social media certainly has its positives but it also has its gross distortions of reality. Article after article has been written about the decreased happiness levels of those who use Facebook on a regular basis. Studies claim that this may be due to the comparisons we make to the fictional personas of our online “friends”. It’s hard not to feel blue when one is inundated with pics of tropical vacations, stories of perfect, high-achieving children and spouses, love stories, modelesque selfies, posts about promotions, fast race times, pics of new houses, cars, gourmet homemade dinners, etc etc etc. All of these posts true but not fully true. Smoke and mirrors. Facebook becomes a place of glorified and amplified brags. We begin to put others up on pedestals of perfection while drowning ourselves in an envious reduction of “everyone’s life is better than mine” mentality.
I’m a FB user, so you see, the problem is, I’m part of the problem. To continue in this journey of Living Out Loud, I’d like to be honest here and present the full truth vs the pedestal truth my FB posts may have led you to believe.
I have been getting my hair colored for as long as I can remember and have always had the funds to do so. The last two years, I have not had the funds to do so yet continued to color my hair. When I posted this pic, I loved the way my hair looked so much that I was literally denying the facts that my budget does not allow for this. I just wanted to feel pretty. It took two years but I have finally accepted that this was the last time for a long time my hair would look that great. I am now currently growing out my gray and accepting my reality that I cannot keep up with my FB envy of hair, pedicures, manicures, lashes and all the other beautification pics I see on FB. My reality is gray, unpainted, and all natural. And that’s okay.
The truth behind this picture (left) and others from this day is that my family was judged harshly throughout our visit. We were visiting family that criticized my parenting because my son has long hair and talked to me about how I’m not raising “real” men of god. I was not only judged for the looks and behaviors of my sons but I was also judged on my tattoos and my choice of clothing. When I asked for water, I was told I could not go in the house but rather that I could fill my water bottles with the yard hose. Yeah, not quite as happy-go-lucky as the pictures make that visit out to be.
When I posted motorcycle & meditation pics from Tucson in March, the truth is, that I was in Tucson trying to find any way to manage dealing with my broken heart. It was my 17 year wedding anniversary and Adam and I had just separated two weeks prior. I spent my wedding anniversary hiking Sabino Canyon alone and seeing a therapist. Hardly romantic.
While Adam and I were coaching little league baseball together, every person believed that we were a happy, unified family. We were selling a lie. The truth was that I would cry before baseball practice and after. I longed for those two hours when I would have some connection with Adam. The truth was that I was madly in love with the man on the baseball field but our relationship had become toxic. Games usually ended with us arriving together but leaving to our separate homes.
When I posted pics of Adam and I taking a motorcycle trip to Smith Rock in May, the truth is that this was a trip to burn, bury, and bathe our old relationship so we could move forward. We burned our marriage license and goodbye letters we wrote to our 20 years together. We buried our wedding pictures with other mementos from our wedding day. And we bathed each other in tears and rivers. While it was one step in our reconciliation, I was still neck deep in torment and pain.
I received a lot of praise for how “thin and wonderful” I looked in some of my summer pictures and the truth is I was as thin as I’ve been since my early 20s. And the deeper truth is that I became that thin, not because I was healthy, but because I was unhealthy. I was not able to stomach much food, I was vomiting, I was running miles on an empty stomach, and I was experiencing deep levels of heart break. I was literally starving emotionally and physically. Because of the praise, when I gained 10 of those pounds back, I became extremely tempted to stop eating again for fear of being “fat” or unattractive. Now I see those 10 pounds as 10 pounds of happiness. I am only that thin when I am in pain.
I hid my separation from all of you for multiple reasons. One, it was not only my story to tell and I did not have Adam’s permission to share. Two, I needed to process the changes on my own. I knew whatever decisions I made needed to be mine and mine alone. I am the only one who needs to live with the choices I make. Three, I knew there would be judgement and I had zero room for judgement.
I have posted on FB that I haven’t finished my children’s book because I was waiting to change my name and obtain my CVT license so that my book would be more respected if it is authored by a professional in the field. While that may be partially true, the real truth is that I’m scared to death that the book will be laughed at and a waste of my time and the illustrator’s time. I now have my CVT license and an illustrator I want to use, so there’s no more excuses. I’m finally willing to take the risk of failure.
When I posted pics from a brilliant, summer day, it looked like all fun and games. Joy and happiness. But the truth is, it was a day that both broke me to a new low and, at the same time, allowed me stand a lot taller. On this day, I found my truth. I stood up for myself. On this day, I also decided that I no longer wanted to try and reconcile my marriage. I knew I was finished with the way things were. I’ll write more about this in another post.
When I posted about my home finally selling, I was celebrating a lot more than just a home sale. What I have not admitted to many of you (and to myself) is that our family has had real financial hardships. Since the whole CFA thing (which I’m finally ready to live out loud about too), we have not had positive cash flow in over 2 years. Our ENTIRE retirement is drained. This is the first month in 2 years that we have made enough money to cover our basic costs. Just two months ago, we were in a position of deciding if we were going to move the six of us in to our RV or in to my mom’s garage. I have not wanted to admit that we’ve gone from our dream home on 3 acres with a dream job to applying for food stamps, accepting free handouts, exchanging clothes, and having to turn down fun events because of budget constraints. It’s been a challenging, humbling two years and I’ve been embarrassed to admit the whole truth. I am no longer hiding.
When I post happy pictures of my family, the chances are that one or more of my boys just had a huge mental breakdown prior to the picture. For example in the picture to the left, I had to introduce a swearing bubble because the family was full of negative energy and we needed an ice breaker. My boys are far from perfect. My parenting far from perfect. Our family FAR from perfect. But when I scroll through my FB posts, we sure look perfect. We look like we are always having fun and out having adventures (which we ARE having lots of fun and adventure…I mean, life is pretty damn good) but nobody on FB (me included) is posting tantrum pictures, pics of their thieving child returning a stolen stone to the World Affairs Council, soundbites of their child screaming “I fucking hate you, Mom” when they are about to have their finger pricked in the Dr’s office, or pics of the cereal the boys’ are eating for the 4th meal in a row.
I’ve posted pics of my sister’s baby shower that fail to show that I was really missing one of my other sisters because there’s a riff in the family. I’ve only posted my best workout times and not my slower runs. I’ve deleted plenty of pictures saving only the “best” for FB. I never said anything about being separated or my dating life or Adam’s during that separation. And because I never shared with you my separation from Adam, you wouldn’t know that we recently decided to recommit to our marriage and I am once again madly in love with my best friend. Because I sometimes live in fear, I don’t post anything specific about the journey we are currently taking with the CFA incident. You wouldn’t know that I still struggle with rage when people tell me that I am lost or need god, that they feel sorry for my kids. You wouldn’t know that I like my new job but incessantly think about the ways I’m failing and could be better.
So you see, I, too, have painted a picture of perfection that is so far from the truth that you may have put me on a pedestal. You may have thought things about me that are not true because I presented you with a half truth. I am tired of contributing to the perfection myth. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Your life is not better than mine and mine is not better than yours. I am hoping that by Living Out Loud, we’ll start to see we’re in good company no matter where we are in life.
What half truths are you selling on social media? What pedestals have you built? Care to tell the full truth and step on down? It’s liberating down here. Join me!