On Her Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cool 2 B Real

The title of this post is inspired by my second favorite website marketing beef to tweens as a hot commodity. Okay, it’s really my first favorite website hawking beef to tweens. Okay, I think it’s the only one. But that doesn’t matter. All I’m hoping for with this intro is to become the number one google search result for “beef and tweens.” That would be really… something.

Today I want to say "it’s cool to be real." It’s okay to experience “negative” emotions, to feel hurt, betrayed, alone, abandoned, afraid or even angry. I hear so many women (myself included) expressing raw, heartfelt emotions and then apologizing for them or brushing them aside as a product of weakness, hormones, or some flaw of personality.

sad babyAs a new mom, I became friends with an amazing girl. She is beautiful, kind, loving, positive and strong. We had children close in age and got together quite often for playdates, even when our first-borns were too young to drool in unison, let alone play together. During these times we would talk about our lives, share pleasant stories about mutual acquaintances and talk about how wonderful and glorious motherhood was.

After countless visits with this friend, there remained a wall between us that I felt could not be penetrated. I enjoyed our excursions together and came to the conclusion that for some inexplicable reason, we would never be truly close. Then one day, she confided in me that the past several months had been extremely hard for her. Although our children were almost a year old, her daughter was still rarely sleeping for more than 2 hours at a time without waking up. She was worn out and fed up and very cautiously expressed her feelings of frustration.

I was stunned and felt suddenly closer to her than I had ever felt. I finally saw past her perfect veneer to someone with doubts, fears and frustrations.

She quickly apologized for speaking negatively of her child. She thought it was inappropriate to express those feelings out loud, while I was thinking how refreshing it was to know that I wasn’t the only one who was struggling. I now see that conversation as a turning point in our friendship, a moment that has allowed us to grow closer and form a more solid connection.

I have friends who have been betrayed but apologize for feelings of resentment, friends who have suffered real loss but apologize for feelings of sadness, friends who have been marginalized or berated by someone they trusted but apologize for feeling angry or confused.

I’m not advocating wallowing in pools of self-pity or refusing to take control of your life. What I’m suggesting is that it's okay to just feel and be, to linger for a moment and experience emotions that are real and poignant before we pshaw them away, fix our mascara and put on our “happy face.”

Repressing feelings, discrediting them or imagining them into oblivion to avoid the appearance of weakness does nothing but magnify the emotions and cause problems down the line.

I learned early on in my mothering that I did not want to marginalize my children’s feelings. I would catch myself saying, “You’re not sad!” when I felt that Laylee was crying “for no reason.” It took a while to realize that if she’s feeling it, it’s a real emotion, whether I can personally identify with it or not. Some of the things her little heart breaks over seem downright silly to me, but if I tell her she has no right to be sad or afraid, will she feel that she can confide in me as she grows up to be one of those beef-eating, junior-high-struggling tweens?

Answer=No

Our relationships grow stronger when we allow each other to see inside our quiet hurts and to “bear one another’s burdens that they may be light.” It’s cool to be real, and hey – beef has a lot of protein and whatnot.

37 Comments:

Blogger Mel said...

Hey, I'm first here!

I totally know what you mean, too. That's because I'm 100% Real.

4/18/2006 11:36 PM

 
Blogger Katy said...

Mel stole my thunder! I'm 100% real, but not very uniques, I guess, since I'm just like Mel...

This is a great post, Kathryn. Yesterday, Oprah interviewed guests who are all "faking it" in some area of their lives. One 24 year old girl owns at least 20 pairs of shoes that cost more than $500 each! She said if she isn't always trying to imitate some celebrity, she becomes frantic. She's afraid to "be real."

I thought of my own 24 year old daughter, who's taken a five-week unpaid leave of absence from her job to work in an orphanage near Kingston, Jamaica. She's the realest person I know! Except for Mel... :)

Katy www.fallible.com

4/19/2006 4:33 AM

 
Blogger MrsWndr said...

I want to be real...

4/19/2006 4:35 AM

 
Anonymous shannon from rocks in my dryer said...

Kathryn, good for you. You are a good mom, and a good friend.

4/19/2006 6:00 AM

 
Blogger Odd Mix said...

Us guys can be real, too, ya know.

This was an excellent post.

4/19/2006 6:04 AM

 
Anonymous krista said...

Wise woman. I wish that my mom would be real with me. I am 26 and she still says things like, "You aren't sad"

I guess my challenge is to be as real with her as possible, and tell her how that type of stuff makes me feel.

4/19/2006 6:31 AM

 
Blogger Heth said...

Great post Kathryn! I love how that moment in your realtionship with your friend was a turning point. I think sometimes as moms, we put on our "perfect" face and it ends up intimidating those around us when really, we DON'T have it all together.

That's why I let my house stay a little messy. Wouldn't want to scare others away. *grin*

4/19/2006 6:50 AM

 
Blogger Beth said...

I don't think I have a problem being real. In fact, I think I'm too real for people sometimes. Ask Longos3 (she posted up there somewhere), she'll tell ya' ('cause she's my sister, and I LOVE HER).

I stopped apologizing a long time ago. I also get really upset when someone (usually The Hubster) tells me I shouldn't be feeling some way that I am. Like you said, if I'm feeling it, it's real, and I should be feeling that way.

I've caught myself (and others) telling The Girl that she shouldn't be sad or feeling some other way. I'm quick to stop myself (and others) when this happens, because I know how much it sucks to have people do that. It might seem silly, or wrong, but it's right for her.

Great post. And hey, being the number one website in searches for "beef" and "tweens" is something I would aspire to, if I had thought of it first.

4/19/2006 6:57 AM

 
Blogger Cheerio's on my butt? said...

I am soo real people hate me! Just kidding! Thanks for the post. It was a great reminder. Especially on the child part. Oh by the way, YOU'VE BEEN TAGGED! Ah ha ha ha ha! Visit my site to find out for what, okay?

4/19/2006 7:07 AM

 
Anonymous Amber said...

I've always had a tough time connecting with folks who only see things through rose-colored glasses. Part of what connects us all is to find common experiences, both positive and negative.

On the flipside, I just had a friend come to stay for a few days who is the most critical person in the world. Everything is viewed in a negative light and by the end of the weekend, I felt drained and vowed I've come too far in my life to expose myself to such folks. Balance, I guess!

4/19/2006 7:09 AM

 
Blogger kelly said...

wow, I know this is a little silly, but I love love love that your tulips do not scroll along with all the content!! that is fantastic. neato.

4/19/2006 7:26 AM

 
Blogger Hotwire said...

good for you - i refuse to tell my boys not to be sad or not to cry.

thanks for the nice post.

4/19/2006 7:49 AM

 
Blogger Peter said...

Life is way to short to be pretending. If you hold it down it can't get out, it is better to experience the feelings express them and accept them.
As I tell Heidi just don't act on them.

4/19/2006 7:57 AM

 
Blogger Stephanie said...

Yeah, I think not being real is what keeps us from close relationships. I have a sister-in-law who I just can't relate to because she always has the appearance of perfection and she never opens up about anything!

Nice post, friend.

4/19/2006 8:27 AM

 
Blogger RGLHM said...

ihSo true, so true. It is totally in those moments of heart felt sharing that I've come to really understand my friends and family. I think those moments allow us to heal and begin to live life more fully.

4/19/2006 8:49 AM

 
Anonymous Lauren said...

Connection is so important, especially in this age where everything is so isolated and rooted more in technology and less in community (except for the places where technology creates community, like, oh, say, blogging) and I feel like one of the greatest gifts we have as people is to just give each other who we are, in spite of and because of our struggles, because it makes that connection so much more authentic, and how awesome is it to be just authentically known and loved?
Whew. That was the longest sentence EVER. Do I get some sort of prize for that? ;)

4/19/2006 9:05 AM

 
Blogger Carbon said...

Yup, I agree. Two thumbs up.

4/19/2006 9:45 AM

 
Anonymous HolyMama! said...

Yea for this post! I may be guilty occasionally of brushing off stuff like you describe, so thanks for this reminder that it's ok not to.

i mean, honestly, i really feel intimidated that you posted this and i'm SOOO sorry, because that's wrong and weird of me.

Ha ha. Gotcha.

4/19/2006 10:32 AM

 
Blogger Amber said...

I hear ya. I struggle with this- sometimes with some people I'm too real- with other people I have a hard time being real ever. Not sure why the divide.

4/19/2006 10:58 AM

 
Anonymous Melissa said...

Delurking to say that one of the most surprising things that I experienced when I had my baby twelve weeks ago was how many dozens of women from our neighborhood and church called me up not just to congratulate me but also to say, "I remember being a new mom. How are things going? No, really. How are things going?" So kind and comforting to know right from the beginning that even that motherhood is wonderful and glorious, it's also painful and difficult--and it's okay to show both sides.

4/19/2006 10:58 AM

 
Blogger Shalee said...

Everyone has said it already, but real is always better. It makes life a lot easier too.

Great post, Kathryn. You are leading a great example for your kids and us.

4/19/2006 11:31 AM

 
Anonymous Lisa said...

My mom recently had the opportunity to attend a few sessions with a grieve counselor after the death of her oldest grandchild. One thing she expressed to me, after her first session, is that feeling of validation and that her feelings were normal (just like your friend). The counselor assured her that is was natural to feel out of control especially after experience a tragic event in her family. I think we all need different counselors for each aspect of our life. My friends, sisters , sometimes perfect strangers and frequently my husband are my best counselors! Its comforting to be your real self and feel accepted for who you are.

4/19/2006 11:56 AM

 
Blogger Kelli in the Mirror said...

This is a wonderful post.

And incidentally, I googled beef and tweens, and you're not there yet. But I bet it's just a matter of time. :)

4/19/2006 12:21 PM

 
Blogger Kristen said...

This is a great post. It can be hard to be real sometimes, but when you are, it's very "free-ing".

4/19/2006 12:25 PM

 
Anonymous Caryn said...

You speak a lot of truth here. I think women so often feel that if they are hurting or angry or sad then they can't take care of others, and there is so much pressure to constantly take care of others. We can feel when everyone else is okay...until then, we don't have the time for it.

4/19/2006 1:04 PM

 
Blogger The Daring One said...

I totally agree with you Caryn. It's funny that the truth is - we can sometimes take care of others better when we are struggling. They feel more comfortable accepting our help when we show them our own weakness.

4/19/2006 1:12 PM

 
Blogger Susan said...

I just want to hug you, because you're so smart and kind.

And cute, too, especially in that picture. But mostly because you're so smart.

4/19/2006 1:19 PM

 
Blogger Lei said...

There is so much pressure to be strong, to keep it together, to not let on that motherhood is tough - because we feel a constant need to validate our decision to have kids! It's unfortunate... that there is enough ridicule in the world that some of us terrific women don't feel like we can be real.

Good topic, DYM!

4/19/2006 3:29 PM

 
Blogger HLH said...

Yup, it is important to validate your own and otehrs feelings. It doesn't matter whether the feelings are justified, right, wrong acceptable whatever- the fact is- someone is feeling it, you must validate that they really feel whatever emotion exsists.

Hope that made sense.

4/19/2006 5:02 PM

 
Blogger Peach said...

Kathryn, thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to encourage that in the rest of us. We all have a need to acknowledge how we're "really" feeling with someone.

4/19/2006 7:25 PM

 
Blogger Gabriela said...

So true. I have had several friendships that have gone from surface to real friendship when we finally shared some of our real feelings. Sometimes you just need to hear, "I know how you feel."

4/19/2006 8:21 PM

 
Blogger April 1930s said...

Thanks for posting this... I will definitely be on my own lookout for letting my children "feel" as they do and not what I necessarily want them to feel. This was a good check for me! :) P.S. As far as sleepless nights go for newborn moms - I HIIIIIIIIIGHLY recommend Babywise or Along the Infant Way (Christian version of Babywise). It literally saved my sleepless life and gave me hope.

4/19/2006 10:53 PM

 
Blogger kyouell said...

I'm with Krista. My 10-month-old son has Down syndrome and I'm very conscious that he is going to experience some things quite differently from me. I guess that it's been in the front of my mind, maybe more than other moms, to make sure I'm not telling him how he feels. My mom on the other hand! Sheesh. She is one of those people who has always known what is best for everyone. Last week my son had surgery to correct his heart defect. We had an "incident" between my hubby and mom, and I finally had to bite the bullet and talk to her about it. I tried very hard to not tell her that she was wrong and be all accusatory, but instead to tell her how her actions made us feel. Her comments included, "That's just dumb," and "That's just silly." Not one apology. I did notice on a later visit that she caught herself when she was just going to go ahead and do what she thought was right even though I was handling the situation another way. It can be very invalidating. Especially when so many other people are giving us kudos on how well we are taking care of him. She'll even agree with others, but then her actions... I don't know. I guess I offer this up as a warning. It can be really important to let others feel, no matter their age. This isn't something you can stop doing when the kids grow up.

4/20/2006 12:50 AM

 
Anonymous Heather said...

Ha ha ha. I too struggled with the first few weeks, then the first few months of motherhood.

As a remedy for bored and stressed feelings (and an answer for WTF to DO all day), my friend and I started the Rookie Moms website.

The great irony is that by being totally honest and trying to come up with different activities and fun stuff to try, we wound up making early motherhood itself look like lots of "fun" to the outside observer. Hopefully, it feels real to the folks going through it!

4/20/2006 9:15 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out this website for new tools regarding emotional insight, development and wisdom:
www.emotionsinc.org

4/20/2006 1:31 PM

 
Blogger Bobita said...

Seriously, this is a fantastic post. Blogsphere listens to you, Daring one! And you are challenging us and calling us to honesty. My thanks to you.

4/22/2006 2:06 PM

 
Blogger Michelle said...

My absolute favorite book on writing, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, has a chapter about writing statements and answering questions. Natalie describes the results of a study done in the seventies showing that women and minorities were more likely to add qualifiers ("...isn't it?" "...don't you think?") and indefinite modifiers ("maybe" "for some reason") to their statements.

She talks about making clear, assertive statements to strengthen one's writing. For example, "It was terrible" instead of, "It was pretty terrible, wasn't it?" Seems to me this sort of confidence would strengthen all sorts of communication.

4/24/2006 8:46 PM

 

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