It seemed like such a fun activity. A big plastic ball that you fill with cream and sugar and ice and salt, you roll it and throw it around for a while and then – presto – ice cream. At least, that’s what we pictured when we purchased said ball.
The reality was quite different and went something like this:
A: She’s pushing it too hard at me!
D: Well, she’s not pushing it at all!
M: How long do we have to do this?
And that was just the first five minutes. It turned out that it took more than forty-five minutes for the cream to become anything close to frozen, and since we thought the quart size would be such fun, it was far too heavy to throw. Rolling it around on the ground on top of towels was the only option, and as the ice started to melt the whole thing had such an obnoxiously loud sound I could barely stand it. It caused such drama, I wanted to throw it out. But I couldn’t. I kept trying it over and over somehow hoping for different results. I kept hoping for the moments I was promised in the pictures on the packaging.
But WHY??? Why do we believe we can have that life we picture? And why do we think we have to present our lives to others as if we are living the picture? Why do we think we even need to have this picture perfect life?
Why do we believe we can have the life in the pictures? Because we’ve convinced our selves that everyone else already has it. A lot of people seem to believe this is all a new problem brought about by social media, but I don’t agree. I don’t believe it’s any harder or easier to fool people into believing our lives are what we present them to be than it has ever been. It’s easy, because we don’t really know people. We don’t see their whole life, ice cream ball incidents and all.
I once told someone I wanted the kind of friends that “know where you’re spoons are”. She informed me that I was asking too much. It’s rare, she said, once in a lifetime to have a friend like that. REALLY?
It’s what we were all made for. It’s what we all desire.
So why don’t we have it? Why don’t we all have a close group of friends that are privy to all our dark secrets? I’m sure you know the answer. No one is that comfortable showing off all the bad stuff. I believe the phrase “airing your dirty laundry” comes to mind. But I’m not talking about just broadcasting our problems randomly for everyone to see and hear. I’m talking about having a small handful of very close friends who know us and love us no matter what.
Every so often when there’s a story in the media about someone committing suicide or someone going to the police about ongoing abuse, we see all kinds of stories popping up about how important it is to talk about these things. We all agree, and share, and like the stories, and we feel like we really mean it. But imagine actually BEING the first person in your group, in your family, in your church, to be totally honest about your life?
I’m not talking about little anecdotes like the ice cream ball, though. Admitting our children and family life aren’t exactly picture perfect is just the start.
I think for years I was convinced that my husband was the only husband who ever had bad days and that I was the only mother who ever yelled at my children. I drove myself crazy trying to convince myself we could become the perfect family. I would waste away the good days trying to figure out how to recreate them. I secretly hoped that we didn’t have any more problems than other families. On bad days, everything was overwhelming because it wasn’t just a bad day; it was a crack in the surface of the façade I was trying to believe in. No one ever was honest with me about how bad life can look some days. I knew there were moments of “mess” but screaming matches ending with slamming doors – that was something I was fairly certain wasn’t supposed to happen in a “good” family.
But who wants to be the first to admit their family is the one that lacks perfection? It’s incredibly humiliating to take that step only to be greeted with “Wow. I’ll pray for you and your family.” in response. I know, because I’ve been in that position.
It seems sometimes like our comfort level with our own life depends largely on how much better than average we perceive it be. And our definition of average depends on what we can easily see and hear about other families – from the outside.
You may have heard about the year Nebraska passed their “Safe Haven” law allowing parents to abandon their children at a hospital with no questions asked. It was meant to prevent “dumpster babies”, but the Nebraska legislature decided not to put an age limit on the law. What happened next was incredibly heartbreaking. Dozens of children from infant through teenagers were left at hospitals until the law was finally changed. It was a wake up call for the very independently minded Nebraskans that there are people all around that are in dire need of help. Imagine the circumstances that would drive you to voluntarily give away your children. Yet, in many cases, no one in their circle of family or friends had any idea there was a problem.
When I am at the end of my rope, there are only a small handful of people that know, and that is only because I tell them. It’s so frightening to imagine being open about the dark side of my life. Rejection is painful and the consequences can be far reaching. But I just keep thinking … “If not me, who? If not now, when?”…