Things You Can’t Tell by Looking at Us

Family holding hands

I missed my post last week because my family got hit with another firestorm. This time it’s not my story to share so I can’t divulge details. All I can say is that it involves a lot of uncertainty and things outside of our control.

Right now I’m in anger management mode because we barely have one problem resolved and here we are with another one.

I bet if you saw the list of everything we’ve been through in the last six years, you’d wonder how we’re both still standing.

I know we look like we have it all together. 

We walk into church all done up and smiley. I drop my kids at school and wave out the window, “Have a great day! I love you!” Our house is beautiful and always in order. My husband has a good job that lets me stay home full-time.

It all looks picture perfect on the surface. And if the surface is all that matters, then yes, I suppose we have it all.

But underneath our Sunday smiles, we kneel in our pews and pray for the hard things weighing on our hearts. I yell loving words to my children as they enter their school, but I don’t shout out the apologies or the worries or the fears. We both say we love our jobs, but we don’t talk about the moments when we question our purpose.

Underneath my tidy living room is a messy existence.

That doesn’t mean we’re unhappy. Not at all. It means we know that nothing is ever truly perfect in this chaotic world. It means we know that it’s possible—heathy even—to experience simultaneous joy and pain, gratitude and anger, security and fear.

Sometimes the weight of our struggles seems unfair. All around me I see smiling families. I see moms dropping their kids at school with hugs and kisses. Nobody looks tired or anxious or afraid. They all look perfect and carefree.

Then I realize they look just like me. Perfect and carefree. On the surface.

Maybe if I handed you a list of our problems, you would wonder how we’re still standing.

Or maybe you’d whip our your own list and we’d hug because we know we’re both in the company of someone who understands.

I don’t think my family is unique. We’ve all been through a lot, I bet.

I reject the theory that some of us just choose to be positive through every challenge. Life knocks everyone down at some point.

I believe those without their own list simply refuse to acknowledge the ugly side of life, and some of them are quite good at denying that life is ever anything less than blissful. Sometimes I envy these folks. Mostly I pity their unwillingness to experience the full spectrum of our human condition.

Honestly, I quite prefer being among those who can marvel at rainbows without pretending we don’t see any clouds.

It’s not negativity. It’s raw, open honesty.

I dream that someday no one will feel the need to hide their pain. That we can respond to it with love and empathy rather than discomfort and concern. That we can share our broken pieces rather than sweeping them under the rug. And that our tears don’t embarrass us because we know others will offer real healing comfort rather than pass out verbal bandaids and judgment.

I believe the courage to show up with vulnerable authenticity, the ability to cultivate empathic responses, and the willingness to challenge our assumptions about what we see on the surface bring us that much closer to a world where we can all exist as we are and not as the world tells us to be.

So when you catch us in the moments when we look all smiley and perfect, know that our appearance doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, our happiness is real, but so are the challenges you don’t see written on our faces.

There’s so much more to people than what meets the eye.

As we leave one rocky season and march on to the next, I find comfort in our love for each other, and our ability to embrace every part of our messy life. I find relief in the small moments of daily joy and laughter. I remember that we have our faith and the promise that we never walk through these seasons alone.

And I have hope because even though I see some clouds, I still feel the warmth of the sun breaking through, and I still smile because I see the rainbow glowing behind it all.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *