It's still dark outside as I write these words.
It seems that I woke up this morning thinking about the young woman I talked to last night after yoga class.
And all of a sudden it seems important to write this post.
It happened as the class was emptying, I had asked her a quick question about her tattoo and before I knew it we were talking about loss and sadness and Facebook feelings.
Before this I only knew her from a distance, as a smiling, cheerful ball of energy waving at her friends when she entered the studio.
I'd never been part of her universe before this moment.
But here in the dimly lit silence of the empty studio it was just her and I and the yoga teacher.
When suddenly her effervescent mood softened into something serious.
"I get depressed during Christmas," she shared.
Of course she said a lot more before this but it was these powerful words that drew me to her. Once upon a time I used to be around a lot of sad, vulnerable people and the holidays were hard on them; but that's another story.
So I ask her, "Have you experienced a loss during the holidays?'
"No" she answers sweetly. "But I don't have any kids, and it's really hard for me during the holidays."
"Oh. Well...that's a loss.." I say gently.
And she instantly looks back at me.
"Yes, you're right. That is a loss."
And truthfully, she looks relieved.
She tells me that Facebook is especially painful for her to look at right now.
And we continue to talk about other things that are hard for us to see. Anything about Alleppo and dying children. Anything about neglected animals. And especially for her right now, we come back to those happy, gushing Facebook pictures.
I want to tell her that being one of those sensitive souls is a wonderful quality but it requires that we know ourselves really well. That we recognize those certain 'triggers' that can affect us--especially when we're feeling vulnerable.
Because the worst thing that can happen when you're struggling with loss and sadness during the holidays is feeling bad about feeling bad!
My god. If this is you, please find someone you can really talk to, some like-minded person who accepts you, exactly where you are. Because when you're sad the last thing you need is someone telling you that "you're just being too sensitive."
Or, even worse, are things like "what's wrong with you?"
As if having raw, tender feelings is a bad thing.
I feel a special kinship for people who walk around with a heavy heart, and a nagging feeling that something is wrong with them because they're not being 'happy.'
If you can relate, please know you're not alone.
All your feelings matter. And when you give yourself permission to know them all, they will begin to make sense.
I learned this inside the session room. Where I-- thank god--spent time on both sides, as the helpee and the helper.
And believe me, your painful feelings will transform into something that feels easier to bear... if you're curious about them.
I wish I could tell my new friend all this.
That no matter what you see on someone's outside, on the inside we all look the same.
And--- there's no one living some perfect life out there, no matter what you're seeing on FB or social media. Although it's easy to question this when you're going through your own tough time.
Which is why I suggest to her that it might be a good time to lay off Facebook right now. Especially when you're seeing all these perfect looking Christmas images--and photos of big, happy families. It's too easy to compare your own life with these images and feel worse. Not only can it distort your perspective, FB has even been linked to depression.
I think I mentioned this as we head to the door, because when I'm leaving she says,
"I am so glad I talked to you tonight."
And when she smiles I know what she means. Our short conversation felt like a little gift, one of those impromptu moments of realness at the end of a busy day.
And more than anything it humbled me.
Because I thought I "knew" this person. And honestly, I'd even felt vaguely ignored by her in the past, which had led me to unconsciously judge her.
Only I had no clue who she really was.
Isn't it interesting how we do this in life? Go around making assumptions about other people?
The truth is, I knew nothing about her heart or about her struggles or her private pain. And these are ... the real ways we come to know the deeper person.
So I'm thinking about all this over my morning coffee.
And this conversation reminded me of all the people right now that are quietly dealing with some kind of struggle, maybe they're physically sick or maybe... just sad.
I'm thinking about other people who--like my yoga friend-are dealing with loss--and that no matter how current or distant that loss may be--Christmas time can trigger old tender feelings.
So today let's be aware of this while we're talking with others.
Especially when we're in our own happy bubbles, let's keep our sensitivity close by...just in case.
For me personally, I'll be walking around with this beautiful Christmas message in my head:
love and peace to all my dear readers,