So my WISA blog post was written and ready to be sent to Ann Marie for posting on Wednesday and then just a few minutes ago I received a DM on my twitter account that read, “Really need some prayers for strength and perspective today. Struggling more than I have in a really long time”
I had been struggling with this blog post since I agreed to write it. I am not really good at writing on demand. I have to somehow feel my subject and while I have had plenty of wonderful opportunities recently about which I could write none of them had really given me inspiration. I knew what I wanted to write about but was not sure that I could or should.
I am a believer in signs from above and I think the DM was my sign to write a blog that has been on my heart for some time.
Picture the airport on a busy weekend afternoon. All sorts of people are briskly walking through terminals, coffee shops are full, and travelers are buying last minute souvenirs to take home to children, partners, grandchildren, colleagues… Most of the seats in the gate areas are filled; children are alternately happy and whiny. Parents are doing their best to keep the little ones occupied as the plane has been delayed yet again. Tempers are short and yet everyone is smiling and making the best of their travel day.
And in the corner is the woman. She looks like she is trying to blend into the wall. She is on her cell phone. And…she is crying. Not just crying but very nearly bawling. You can’t quite make out the words and you are very uncomfortable with her presence. She is me. Very literally she was me this past weekend.
I have a secret life. We all do.
Mine is filled with a father struggling with Alzheimer’s. He was a college professor, a thinker and now he spends his time desperately trying to focus on small things. He calls my husband several times a day to ask about the garden. He asks me each time we talk me if my daughter is happy in high school. He asks me 13 times in a 10 minute conversation. He still knows my name. I sit near him at church to make sure he knows the people who come to talk to him after service.
Mine is filled with a mother who is now a caregiver. She married a man for his mind and the deep and rich conversations they would have about education, religion and their children. Her life is now filled with making sure he eats enough, listening to his stories 40 times an hour and pretending to be okay. I stop by many times a week so she can have someone to talk with about her day. Usually she says everything is fine. I know she is lying.
Mine is filled with a teenager who is often so angry she tells me she hates me and wishes I would die. I know she does not mean it but it does not make the words hurt any less. The tension at home can be so thick that on many days that I wish I could stay at the office and keep working.
I am nervous sharing this with you because I don’t know if your perception of me will change. To the casual observer I am a woman who has it all together. I am a woman who successfully navigates both work and home, who has a great marriage and has raised terrific children. I am the role model. I like that illusion. It is much easier to live in the perception than to share the reality of my daily life outside of work. Women are really good at pretending. We have learned to be happy, to smile, to support those around us, to role model that you really can have it all.
We all live our lives in perceptions – the ones we hope that others have of us, the ones that we have of others, of circumstances and incidents. I am thinking about whether those perceptions are influenced by my gender. As a woman I was raised to be strong and confident. I was raised to challenge opinions and to speak up for those without a voice. I was also raised to serve those around me and to be inconspicuous about it. I was not raised to ask for help. I was raised that my dirty laundry stays in the basement.
What does this mean for me as a woman to live in a world where most perceptions don’t match the invisible realities of my secret lives? Do we want others to think better of us than we do of ourselves? Do we do anything to counter the incorrect perceptions others have of us or does that simply take too much energy? Do we spend time trying to discern whether our impressions of others are accurate?
We all have a secret life. We all have those parts of us that we don’t readily share and yet it is often those parts that have so mightily influenced who we are and who we may become. What would your world be like if you shared those secrets?
I love my life and would not trade it for anything but sometimes it makes me tired to walk the tightrope between the perceptions and my secrets.