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,
P.S Can you relate to this post?
I'm sharing this post with a few friends:
Inspire Me Tuesday
The Scoop #254
I'm sharing this post with a few friends:
Inspire Me Tuesday
The Scoop #254
I try to remember that verse (above) because you are right, we never know what is going on in someone's life, especially if they put on a happy face for all to see. That was so thoughtful of you to take the time to listen to the yoga friend and offer a few supportive comments. When it comes right down to it, that's all most humans want. Understanding and kindness.
Oh yes, I do relate to this. I think the holidays are a sad time for many people...probably just as many who would say they are feeling happy. Everyone is going through stuff...some worse than others...and I really do assume that everyone is going through hard times, they just aren't sharing it. I know that I personally don't get on Facebook nearly as much anymore, because I do find it depressing. I am glad you reached out to the woman last night, I'm sure it was very good for her to be able to share right now. Love to you, Leslie...thank you for sharing this important message...xoxoReplyDelete
I believe you were meant to be there, talking to this young woman, sharing these words this morning. You offered her some peace and in sharing here have touched many others I am sure. Whether your loss is a loved one or a circumstance the holidays can be difficult. Some are missing family and friends, others lamenting life choices or situations. It can be easy to fall into the Facebook, online, blog envy. You are so very right that the surface or ideal we see is not the complete picture and that everyone has or is fighting some sort of battle. For those of us who are extremely sensitive to emotions, media, news etc it can be overwhelming. At sixty I have learned to not only know myself well enough to understand my need to retreat and turn off the news, to protect my heart from negativity, to redirect my focus from the bad to the good in people and situations. I do not regret having a tender heart for I have come to understand that feeling the sadness and pain also comes with a heart that feels great joy and love. Being sensitive allows me to see beauty in places most people do not. Being so aware is a blessing, one I hope this woman learns. Thank you again for sharing your words this morning!ReplyDelete
Leslie, I'm so glad you were right where you needed to be last night! That young woman received hope from you... Interestingly, just last night our church had a Blue Christmas service -- to be "open arms" for people who are grieving during this season, for whatever reason. You are so right. We really don't know most of the people around us. It's why I try to remember to walk slowly through the crowd and pay attention. Boy, do I have a lot of learning to do...ReplyDelete
Merry Christmas to you and yours. Thank you for responding to the urgency you felt to write this post. What you said is important.
Hi Leslie. That quote about kindness is one of my favorite all time. Because it is so true. I think if the truth were known Christmas is the most awful time of the year for so many people. I'm apprehensive about the next week for us, because we are "home alone" for the holidays. I'm not sure what that is going to feel like. My days post surgery have been physically painful and I've been grateful enough just to be able to go to bed at 7 pm and sleep the discomfort away. My fingers are crossed that we, in our solitude, eke out some unique ways to create joy over the next days.ReplyDelete
As usual, you are on target with your kindness and thoughtful words. Lucky are those who share your universe.ReplyDelete
This young girl needed you, and you were there for her.
Amen sweet friend! We all need to be especially sensitive this time of year. We can never know whom we will come in contact with who has suffered a recent or not so recent loss this holiday season.ReplyDelete
Perfect message at the right time, Leslie! I have dealt with clinical depression, my adult life. Thank goodness for medication! Thankfully, I have a full life and am able to pursue what matters most to me. I've benefited from the luxury of good counseling.ReplyDelete
I remember telling my kids, when they idolized another student(s), that everyone has their own private set of challenges in life. Our public face and private faces can often be so dramatically different. We compensate for our missing parts, in a variety of ways, so no one will know the real, vulnerable, "us".
There are millions of us, I imagine, who find this season a challenge. Let's try not to judge. Instead, let's ask God to bless our neighbors, challenged by any number of things. I used to belittle the homeless I saw. Now, I ask my guardian angel o give them some peace, if only for a moment. Who knows what battles they have faced?
And the world goes round and round. Let's love one another.
Unable to sleep, Barbara
How wonderful that you had that encouraging conversation with that young woman. It was just what you both needed. We all need to give and receive love and support.ReplyDelete
It can be so easy to get depressed by comparing, or remembering what we 'had' but don't have anymore and sink into a pit of despair. In my case, my dear husband went to be with Jesus on the 9th, 4 years ago. His 69th birthday was yesterday. We had 43 years together and for that I am thankful. Knowing he is with God gives me peace, but it doesn't stop the missing him every single day.
What we can do is love and encourage others, be kind, be forgiving, smile and remember to breathe. Reading the Psalms and prayer helps me a lot. Talking to God anytime of day, about anything, helps me continue on in this journey of life as a widow.
Have a lovely Christmas and a great 2017 and thank you for your encouraging and thought provoking posts ~ FlowerLady
Thank you for that beautiful post. I recall you mentioned you have worked as a therapist in the past, and to my knowledge, are on a different path now. But as a social worker myself, I just want to tell you how impressed I was at the "work" you did in that moment. I know it wasn't a session, but it just shows that you have that natural ability to get to the core of things with people and they respond to you. It's a gift you have, and undoubtedly continue to help others in life. Thank you for sharing your inspirations and thoughts in your blog. You always inspire me….ReplyDelete
Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season.
I truly believe in practicing random acts of kindness because you really don't know the private battles that people face in their daily lives. A smile, a sympathetic ear cost you nothing but may make a world of difference to someone in pain.ReplyDelete
I also feel that sometimes our expectations are too high around the holidays. We are bombarded with commercials that feature perfect, multi-generational gatherings. But, families are not perfect.
For instance, blended families, in general, do not reach "The Brady Bunch" perfection! I think many people are sorrowful that their families are not the perfectly groomed, smiling group they see portrayed all around them.
We need to be accepting, loving and caring and realize that perfection is an unobtainable goal.
Marilyn (in Dallas)
GOOD OF YOU TO LISTEN.
You said it perfectly Linda..'everyone is going through stuff.' I do always appreciate your quiet wisdom. And I think it's quite a loving approach to go through life assuming that everyone is going through some kind of hard time. It keeps us kinder I think. Thanks Linda for reading and sharing with me throughout the year...I truly love hearing your thoughts. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Wishing you love and health in 2017!
Susan you are such an inspiration to me. And your humble, understated style that always accompanies your words makes you a very special person. I'm absolutely smitten with the idea of a Blue Christmas church service aimed at those who are struggling during the holidays. This seems to me to be the essence of the true Christian--Jesus Christ like--way. Wow, your pastor sounds quite extraordinary. And thank you for acknowledging what I'd missed. Yes, it had felt like a sense of urgency in the early morning hours to write that post. I write and never know who- if any--will read my words and i secretly hope they find the right person at the right time.
sending you love and blessings.
I hear your vulnerability when you talk about the upcoming Christmas. Being 'home alone' on this holiday for whatever reason will make this an unusual Christmas for you and even through you have such a strong and funny component to your personality I can understand your apprehension. i'm so sorry to hear that your post surgery has been a painful time, especially because I've noticed that when I'm physically not fully myself, I feel more emotionally vulnerable and raw. I know I've mentioned this to you, but I think that having very low expectations seems to help me get avoid disappointment. I think that Christmas especially is one of those holidays that can easily leave us feeling disappointment because we get these images in our heads of the gushy, happy way it should be. I've been trying to practice that whole idea of gratefulness i posted about the other day. I basically write about my own flaws and struggles so I guess that means i'll have lots of subject matter to keep my posts coming hahaha
seriously. I'm sending you love and support to be received on christmas day. One more (invisible) friend that will be with you.
Barbara. You are such an awesome person. Truly, when i read your comment i felt such an immediate connection to you and the life experiences you were referring to. It sounds clique but I would never have guessed about your depression when I look at the beautiful, efficient, talented, creative shop owner that you are. And yet, here you are so real and wise after years of personal pain and self growth. No wonder I hear such a compassion in your words. I am so glad that when you were unable to sleep you found your way to my post. And then to take a moment to write such a generous, wise comment is a way to spread the love. I like to think that someone will read your comment and feel that sense of hope and love that's so important for all of us.
merry christmas dear!
Dear Flower Lady-LorraineReplyDelete
First, I want to acknowledge your loss. I can only imagine how much you still miss your husband after such an amazing life together. I do believe he is right there with you and it sounds from your wise, grateful words that you're finding peace in your life now. You are such an inspiration. Thank you dear for being you. And for sharing your compassionate approach to life on my blog. I continue to be blown away by the women --like you--who come to visit me and in the process, teach me something valuable about life.
sending you love and peace,
Cheryl. Please know that I think of you and this comment as a little Christmas gift. I'm serious. It's comments like this that seem to come without any face-that-i-can-put-alongside-the-words, that touches me deeply. It's like I'm only seeing the love and support in front of me. The truth is, I never know when i hit the publish button if anyone will know or care about what i'm writing. I'm one of those classic neurotic writers. I basically write the things that feel important to me and then feel honestly amazed--and so encouraged to hear that someone like you finds something helpful in my posts. Yes, btw--I was a therapist once and so i'm sure you and I would have lots of stories to share over coffee.ReplyDelete
maybe some day...right?
love and peace to you and your family on Christmas,
Marilyn! It's so good to hear from you. And once again, thank you for sharing your kernels of wisdom and your life experience with my readers. There is so much truth in what you say, and I totally agree about the expectations that we unconsciously have, about Christmas. Even though i will always have a soft spot for the Brady Bunch--and warm gushy memories of watching all the shows--I know what you mean about that kind of perfection.
I hope all is well in your neck of the woods, wishing you and yours a beautiful, safe and healthy holiday season,
see you--on my blog-- next year my friend,
hugs and love to you Sarah, have a beautiful Christmas dear.ReplyDelete
Thank you Karen. When i think of understanding and kindness I think of you and the energy i get each time i visit your blog. I sure appreciate your friendship in the blog world and I wish you and your family a beautiful Christmas.
Oh my Leslie!!! This post doesn't surprise me one bit. You comforted me so much when I lost my Dad last year and then you remembered THIS year and sent me the most heartfelt email. This, from someone I have never met and only know via our blogs. I was blown away and I can't tell you what your words meant to. More than that. It was that you remembered and I think when you lose someone or feel loss at this time of year you just want to know that others around you have also remembered (but usually they haven't). This post really touched me Leslie, more so because I know the heart of the wonderful woman that wrote it. YOU are the GIFT in this story especially to the people whose paths you cross (such as mine) xxReplyDelete
My therapist once told me this analogy, in life we all carry a backpack and our issues are like rocks, which we pu into this pack, often times we pick up other people(family, friends, strangers) rocks and put them in our backpack as well. Then our backpack becomes too heavy for us to carry. There is not a person that walks the earth that does not have some issues, feeling, illness, etc or lots of rocks. Although we/they may be smiling on the outside they could be dying on the inside because their child is ill, their husband cheated on them, their work life sucks, they have no money or any number of things. Sadly there are many who feel as if they have no one to talk too. How blessed and fabulous that you were an angel in this young ladies life and that she reached out to you. I cannot imagine how comforting it was for her to be able to unburden herself to you and to have you stop and listen. A christmas miracle. You gave her a priceless gift...the gift of time, your time, your energy and your love. If only there were more people life you!
Merry Christmas Leslie. Thank you for ALWAYS being a positive light in this sometime bleak world.
Leslie, I hope you know you are gift to so many people. You took the time to talk to someone who needed it and then by sharing your story, you helped so many more in the process. I love the quote and we should all pay attention to it more often. Thank you for always being such an inspiration.ReplyDelete