Posts Tagged ‘Life’

You Seem So Happy on Facebook

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

This post has been bubbling up for a while, and it’s not anything that hasn’t been said before. This is a post about perception and image. It’s about the face we put on for the world, and about the assumptions we make about others’ lives based on the face they choose to put on every day.

I talked to my close friend Camille for hours the other day. She is one of those prized and dear friends that knows me in and out, and whom I can go without talking to for months and then call and pick up as if we never skipped a beat. We have talked about it all over the years – boys, music, dreams, addiction, sexuality, marriage, fertility, friendship, siblings, parental relationships, and death. She has been through her rough spots, and I have been through mine. She’s currently in a great place. If you read my blog in the past year, you will know that I am in a rough spot that feels like being caught in the trough of a wave; I occasionally see over the horizon of the cresting wave, but mostly i feel like I am stranded in the trough, trying to get to the top of the wave so that I can see out in all directions. I’m treading water. I have good days and bad days. I have good minutes and bad minutes. I have laughter and tears, and laughter through tears. I’m working on it. I am a work in progress.

When I told Camille that things were okay, but not the best, she seemed genuinely surprised. “Wow. I had no idea things hadn’t gotten better. You seem so happy on Facebook.”

You seem so happy on Facebook.

How many times have you heard someone say that? Or “They seemed so happy.” “Her life seems so perfect.”I bet her house is never messy.”

I have always enjoyed Facebook. I guess I’m addicted. There are things I hate about it, but its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. I use it often to quickly chronicle things my kids do that I just want to put down in writing so i don’t forget. I stay in touch with family. I get to see and stay in touch with people that I never thought I would see again 15 years ago. I reconnected with and stay in touch with childhood friends i haven’t seen since moving in 4th grade, people from high school that i always liked but never would have kept up with otherwise, and college friends who have gone their separate ways, but whom i get to witness doing amazing things and living precious lives right in front of my eyes. Without Facebook, so many of you reading this would only be a sweet or funny memory. You would still be 7 or 17, or 27 years old in my mind’s eye. Instead, you are real people with real lives that continue with time; You grow, you change, you become things that I never imagined you would be. You often wow and amaze me.

I always get a little frustrated with people who hate Facebook because it ends up making them feel bad about themselves. It makes me happy to see old faces, to connect with new friends and learn more about them, and to follow bands and authors and comedians that I like. I don’t look at other people’s lives and think, “Wow. I really need to get my kids into more activities. Mine only play one instrument, know one language, play one sport.” “Wow, look how happy they look. They really have the perfect marriage.” “I wish my skin looked like hers.” “She must work out all the time. I wish I had a personal trainer.” “Why didn’t they invite me to lunch?” “Why didn’t they invite me to that party?” I guess it’s a matter of self-esteem for some. I haven’t had trouble with self-esteem since early high school. One day I just realized comparing myself to others was too exhausting.

There’s more to this, though. Not just the fact that we often compare ourselves to others, but the fact that we assume that the pretty family photo on the beach is that family’s life. Life is not a beach. Life is messy, and full of things that go unsaid. And honestly, we don’t really want to hear all the messy details. We want the pretty.

The perfect meals, pretty front doors, the crafts, and art, and jokes and music. The beautiful, smiling children. The wedding gowns. The couples who look as in love in photos today as they did 20 years ago. So for those who are comparing themselves to others, and thinking they wished their lives looked more like someone else’s, they need to remind themselves of what people don’t say on Facebook. It’s their anniversary. Of course they will wish each other a happy anniversary with a pretty wedding photo of the glowing newlyweds. You don’t not wish your spouse happy birthday, or happy anniversary, or “Congratulations! I am so proud of you for working so hard to get that new job.” You do all those things. We see them all, and we compare ourselves to them, but what are the things that are being left unsaid?

They don’t much talk about how depressed they are, or how confusing their sex life has become to them. Unless they are me. (I kid. Kind of.)

You tell your brother you love him on his birthday. Even if he knew about the treatment you had growing up all those years. Even though he never spoke up about it or acknowledges it now. It’s all there between you, but only the two of you see it.

You smile for the family photo in front of a Christmas tree, even though you know you are leaving your spouse after January 1st. It is just easier to smile. Your sister is smiling, too, even though she knows and it is still a secret. What else can she do? No one wants to ruin Christmas.

You post all those photos about your vegetable garden, or your love of yoga, or how much you ran that morning and what a high you got from those endorphins. None of your Facebook friends know that you absolutely need those endorphins, or the sunshine and dirt, or the deep breathing, just to make it through another day of the emotional desert that your life has become. The running, and flowers, and downward facing dog might be all that person has in the world that gives them joy.

The one who posts nothing but photos of her kids. What you don’t see: She is miserable and hasn’t had sex with her husband in over a year and doesn’t have the financial means, or the will to leave, or doesn’t want to hurt her children.

What an amazing handbag that person just bought. It’s beautiful. What you don’t see: She is $20,000 in debt.

Wow, those two couples seem like the best of friends. What we don’t see: Last night, two of them made out at a party. And not with their spouse.

The friend who travels and works, and lives in that amazing downtown loft with the view and seems to have the most fabulous life. She is lonely. She cries herself to sleep, thinking she will always be alone and never find someone to love, and wonders why she is so defective.

Can’t wait to see the new Marvel movie! What we don’t see. He is just thinking, how do i voice my worry to my depressed girlfriend? I love her and i want her to be happy, and I don’t know how to help her.

The person who cracks the jokes, posts the cat videos. . . what are they hiding? Bulimia, depression, heartbreak, divorce, addiction, that they hate their body, or wish they were dead, or hate their spouse of 50 years and wishes they would just go ahead and die, or the fact that they found out about their spouse’s affair and they’re just keeping it quiet for the sake of the kids, their own affair, the cancer diagnosis, their realization that they are gay, but can’t say it yet, the infertility, the impotence, the fears and guilt about their children, that they cried themselves to sleep because their mother does not remember their name, or the fact that they still haven’t gotten over their mother or father’s or dog’s death. These are real examples of things people have told me. People who confided in me, but who, if you looked at their Facebook profiles, seem pretty happy.  I cannot even begin to imagine the breadth of untold secret pain of so many people who seem so happy on Facebook.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is being left unsaid. A few people have told me, “I wish you would post more, blog more. I miss your writing.” What a wonderful compliment that is to me. I take it as such, but the truth is, there are often things that I leave unsaid. There are many reasons for omitting the dark, painful, brutal truths. I want to try and be positive. Focus on the good things. Be grateful for the beautiful moments. I don’t want to be a sad downer. As my mama taught me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I don’t always take that lesson to heart, but i try sometimes. And so I write less. I post less.

A lot of y’all are probably thinking, “I thought she said everything. She says things that I could never say. I have always admired her brutal honesty and her ability to say the things I think, but don’t have the courage to say.” Writing this down, it sounds arrogant, but it is true, because people tell me this all the time. “Thank you for saying what I wanted to say, but was scared to say.” “I totally agreed with you on xyz, but I would never have said it in public.” What can I say. I have a big mouth, and I value the truth above almost all else.

Almost all else. I also value people’s privacy, their feelings, and my loved ones. There are so many things I don’t say because it might be painful to someone I know or love. Or because to say it would destroy everything. Or would be giving in to the darkness, and giving up. And so there is a framework to social media platforms like Facebook. There are things we really cannot say out loud. Even me.

When people ask me how I’m doing, I say okay. This is not a lie. They sometimes seem surprised that I am not completely fine now. I am better than I was. I am hopeful. I am trying to be more content in the moment, to slow down and enjoy the little things. I am trying to be grateful, and live in the moment. Those little contentments and momentary joys are the face I put on for the world.

But I still have some depression. I am still confused about a lot of things in life. I know that some things will not get better, that many things are a compromise, that so much of it is out of my control, and that the only surety is change. I am anxious about the unknown factors and variables in mine and my family’s life. I sometimes worry myself sick about friends, about my career choices, and about my marriage and family. I often feel like I’ve failed in promises to myself about what I want in life, about the things i planned to do but never did. I doubt my decisions. I wring my hands, don’t sleep, don’t eat, binge eat bowls of shame, drink too much. I keep things inside because I don’t want to cause others pain. I wake up sweating with my heart pounding about things I would never voice on Facebook, or on this blog. And I know I am not alone.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 40s, it’s that we are all just children masquerading as adults. We hurt and yearn and cry and wish like children. We have situations that seem insurmountable, endings that are inevitable, situations that make us feel stuck in concrete, and which break our hearts. We never know quite what someone else is going through. We never really know what someone’s childhood was like, or what demons they battle, what road they have walked to get where they are, or what confusing crossroads they are at right this moment. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that things are not always what they seem. We never know what is going on in someone else’s life, and that maybe it’s best not to judge someone unless we’ve walked their path. Chances are each person is on some journey of his or her own, one that might be slightly more or less difficult, more or less apparent, or just really different than our own.

So, the next time you are thinking, “They seem so happy,” think twice about it. Few of us live perfect lives.

p.s. If you do live a charmed or magical life, please list all your secrets for achieving perfection in the comments. All of them.


Update: Just wanted to add a big “Thank you” to all of you who shared my post. I take that as a huge compliment and it really means the world to me.

She Cracks Me Up

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Tiller: “Can we eat out?”
Me: “No. But we will probably eat out tomorrow before Rollie’s game.”
Tiller: “Can we have S&S?”
Me: “Well, i guess so. I was thinking Jason’s Deli, but we could do S&S instead.”
Tiller: “Okay, well, let’s agree.” [Her head nodding affirmatively, palms face up, and out to the side.]
Me: “Good idea.”

Melancholy, Twisted, Beautiful

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Just finished writing an obituary for my dying grandfather. It made me feel weepy and it made it seem real that he won’t be with us much longer. Felt the same heaviness when i dropped off a porch swing that he made with his own two hands at a friend’s house last night. It did make me laugh in a bittersweet way that she will be painting it bright pink. Listening to Frightened Rabbit’s “Old Old Fashioned” and reading a story about kids during WWII driving out to a new bridge in Alabama, parking on it, and pulling out an old crank record player and dancing in the moonlight.

Feeling melancholy and weepy, in a life is twisted and beautiful kind of way.

The Living and the Dead, Heaven and the Moon

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Recently, on Friday nights, we go out and get mexican or pizza with the kids and then come home and have movie night. This is kind of Todd’s thing, and he and the kids pick out the movie and he cuddles up with them. Meanwhile, I pour myself a drink, and I sit and write or read or fuck around on Facebook. This also means that when the pick isn’t that great, i can blame Todd for its failure. Like, oh, say, tonight.

We had a discussion at the dinner table the other night about what movie we would watch on Friday. Tiller voted Bolt. Rollie voted Wall-E.

“Hmmm,” I said. “I think i would like to watch Wall-E too. Todd, what would you like to watch?”

Todd knew by the tone of my voice that he wanted to watch Bolt, so as to create a tie, and a teaching experience. We would teach them how to share through the joys of a family movie night tie-breaker.

“I would like to watch Bolt,” Todd said. Cause he knows what’s good for him.

Rollie and Tiller both sputtered. It is inconceivable to a 3 or 5 year old that things might not swing their way.

“Seems we have a problem,” I said. “We do not have a majority here. What are we going to do?”

We all looked at each other around the table. Rollie was obviously mulling something over.

“I know,” he said.

“What?” said Tiller.

“Well, Daddy and Tiller can watch Bolt, and me and Mama can watch Wall-E. We get the upstairs tv!”

Todd and I looked at each other, knowing we had been outsmarted by a five-year-old. Not exactly what we had in mind.

“I’ve got an idea,” said Todd. “I’ll go by the library tomorrow and get us a new movie.”

He did.

So, tonight, he got ready to go out for his Friday night outing, I poured a Bloody Mary, and the kids and i piled up on the couch, lights turned off, movie cued up, the setting sun illuminating our west-facing room. The dog and the cat were our bookends on the couch.

We had been talking all day about Daddy’s pick: The Corpse Bride.

It is PG. We debated if we thought it was okay for them to watch. They saw The Nightmare Before Christmas and loved it. Rollie saw Coraline in the theater, in 3D no less, and loved it. We figured this would be a piece of cake. Tiller fell asleep about halfway through and Todd took her up to bed. Then he left and Rollie and I finished the movie, his head nestled on my chest to my left, Quint curled up in a donut to my right, and Scully sitting in a curl next to Rollie. One big happy family.

For those of you who haven’t seen The Corpse Bride, it is great. A brief synopsis: Gawky, geeky Johnny Depp-looking guy of modest means, Victor, is set up to marry the well-to-do in name, not so well-off monetarily bride, Victoria. They fall in love. The wedding turns into a disaster and ends up not happening. Victor accidentally marries a corpse instead. Corpse loves Victor. He grows to care for her, but still loves Victoria. Stuff happens. Skeletons do a catchy musical number. To make marriage the real deal, Victor must die. Meanwhile, Victoria must wed bad guy who actually made the corpse bride a corpse in the first place. In the end, Victor and his true love Victoria end up together and the corpse bride is set free and the bad guy gets his comeuppance. So, suffice to say that there are three weddings, and a whole lotta dead folks.

During the third wedding, Rollie says to me: “I don’t like weddings.”
Me: “Why not?”
Rollie: “They’re boring.”
I laugh.
Me: “Yeah, actually, sometimes they are boring. You know what, though? If your daddy and I never got married, you wouldn’t even be here now, right? So, that’s a good thing.”
Rollie thinks this over, then says, “I went to a wedding. It was boring.”
I think to myself, no way you remember the last wedding you went to, which was Aunt Lisa’s. You were three.
I say, “When did you go to a wedding?”
Somehow, I knew what he was going to say before he said it.
“Grandma and Papaw Johnson had a wedding.”
“What?” I say.
“They had that girl that used to sleep in the chair all the time.”
My mind was racing to figure this out, hoping he wasn’t talking about what I thought he was talking about.
He was looking at me, waiting to see if I knew what he was talking about.

When Todd’s grandmother was alive, and living with my in-laws, she spent a lot of time sleeping in a chair in her room.

“Honey, do you mean Meemaw?”
Rollie said, “Yes, we went to the wedding and she was dead.”


I took a deep breath.
“Sweetie, that wasn’t a wedding. That was Meemaw’s funeral. A wedding is when two people who love each other promise to be together forever. Like Mama and Daddy. A funeral is when people get together to celebrate the life of a person who has gone to heaven. Like Meemaw.”

Rollie: “Oh.” He seemed to accept this all and go back to watching the movie. I, on the other hand, will need therapy after showing my son a movie that totally blurred the lines between the living and the dead in such a believable way.

We sat on the couch quietly watching the movie, him getting the dazed look kids get when they are tired, me thinking quietly to myself that the movie seems so benign and sweet, but I can see where all the living and the dead people hanging out together could be confusing to someone so little. At the end, Victor and Victoria stand together on the church steps, watching as the Corpse Bride disintegrates into a beautiful cloud of. . . well, I won’t give the full imagery, in case you haven’t seen the movie. (See the movie!) But the particles of her being float apart and up into the moon.

“Where is she going?” Rollie says to me.

“She’s going to heaven, Honey. She found love and acceptance, and that freed her soul to go to heaven.”

Rollie mulls over this and then says, “Is Meemaw in the moon?”

“Yes, honey, i think that if the moon is heaven, then she might be in the moon.”

“I like the moon.”

“Me, too, sweetie.”

Excuses, Excuses . . .

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Well, I started an awesome, fun post about childhood stuff, but then it was seventies and sunny, so I took my bike out for a ride. Then halfway down the hill closest to my house, I threw my chain off and the whole damn thing jammed, so I walked bike back home, and went for a run. That was nice, but then I had to go pick up some free stuff from EAV, then had to get lunch, and pick up Rollie, volunteer for the literary club at his school, take him to the park afterwards (bribery for being good during the lit club), then off to the grocery, where he argued every freakin’ purchase with me.

Just got home. So not going to write my post until tomorrow.

Mostly because
we’re going to see The Pogues!
Along with just about every person I knew in high school and college.

I am sure i will feel awesome tomorrow.

Oh, Pierce if you are reading this, baby update, please!