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Wonderful, Marvelous, and Simply Terrific!

by | Emotions

A long time friend of mine once posted the following sentiment on Facebook:

“If you can find a reason to use words like outstanding, spectacular, terrific, and superb throughout your day, you will find yourself happier than you might have thought you were.” 

At the time it was posted, life wasn’t great for us. In fact, I had just hospitalized one kid and the other was on a rampage of destruction that wouldn’t end.  I wasn’t offended by the statement.  I didn’t read anything into it. I even chuckled a bit when I read it. Yet, without even thinking about it or associating anything in particular with it, I also felt my own defenses immediately go up. Without really realizing I was actually triggered at the time, I shot off the first thing that came to mind in response. “Does that mean I have to use them without sarcasm?” I didn’t intend for my remark to go anywhere beyond that and nor did I intend to bait anyone with it.  It really was just a flippant, off-the-cuff comment to an old friend. I’ve known this person nearly all of my life. We met when we were in Kindergarten and went all through school together, including college. Somehow we’ve managed to remain friends all these years, even though we still chide each other from time to time. Regardless of intent on either side, my friend took the bait, picked it up, and assured me in his fun, friendly, and chiding way that I could use those words in any context I choose as long as I use them.

BAM!

And with that, it was truth time. It couldn’t not be. Without initially recognizing what was going on, the flood of tears started. Reality was I had been triggered over the moon by this simple exchange. I felt like I’d just been sucker punched in the gut. It was yet another painful reminder that even when people love me, they don’t always get it. Even when no harm is intended, words and attitudes can still hurt. Even when I’m surrounded by people, I can still be utterly alone and invisible.. A huge part of my own healing process has been learning to not dismiss, swallow, or stuff my own big feelings. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. It still isn’t! I’ve learned to recognize and honor the warning, though. For me, it’s that feeling of being inside a soda can that was just shaken up. Things could be perfectly fine one minute, and then all of the sudden…usually without warning…everything is thrown off-kilter. Anxiety builds quickly, everything feels rattled, and my thoughts become jumbled and stuck. By allowing those feelings to come to the surface and have a voice, the strangling grip of PTSD weakens. Freedom and peace are found when I give myself permission to speak my own personal truth. It might not be comfortable. It might go places I never intended. Other people might disagree, and some might even be offended. That’s OK. Truth is still truth and it still needs to be spoken.

Keeping it real

Once I realized what was really going on with this seemingly innocent exchange with my friend, I couldn’t just let it go. I knew I had to speak my truth. I also hoped what I had to say on the subject might cause someone to pause and look at things from a different perspective, if even just for a few minutes. So, I dug deep, found some courage, and wrote this in return:

“Well, then, its truth time… I’ve been using these words for a long time. I’ve been talking about how spectacular things are in my home and how fabulous it is when my kids show their true colors. This isn’t just “ordinary” life. They do stuff that is WELL BEYOND normal kid stuff, stuff that is so not fit for Facebook sharing, but stuff that has been known to make grown men and women cry out in anguish on a daily basis (literally…and usually to their Maker…and from the depths of their souls.) Outstanding, terrific, superb, peachy, fabulous, marvelous…they’ve all been a defense mechanism I’ve used for years to hide what’s really going on. They’re the only words people want to hear. They’re the only ones people don’t judge. They’re the only ones people don’t lecture about. They’re the only ones people don’t question. As long as they hear we’re “fabulous”, even when it’s clearly sarcastic and overwhelmingly understated, they leave it alone and have no idea the kind of horror and hell we’ve really just lived through that day or what we’ve been living through for the last many years. When they hear these words, they still speak to me with civility and they assume I’m still at least kind of normal and kind of nice. Sadly, when those walls are dropped and people find out what “marvelous” REALLY is and just how hyperbolized it really is, they can’t handle it. They turn their backs and walk away because under that perky, marvelous, terrific, and peachy surface, our life is too intense for them to handle. Or they take it upon themselves to lecture us on how we need to think more positively…or parent our children differently…or lighten up or whatever it is they think we need to do to make themselves feel better about being around us. I wish I could say using words like this are all it takes to make one happy. How I wish throwing positive thoughts into the universe would heal my kids and erase the devastating effects of early childhood abuse and neglect. How I wish I didn’t know what I know. Oh, how part of me longs to go back to the days when things could be solved by singing a happy little song!  And yet, how grateful the other part of me is that I can’t. Even though the struggle is intense, it’s in the hard stuff that I’ve learned the most, gained the most compassion, and felt the touch of the Master’s hand most deeply. And that, my friend, is a TRULY marvelous experience…but in a very sacred way that is likewise not fit for Facebook sharing. Next time someone uses these words, don’t take them at face value. Stop and ask them how things really are. Then take the time to listen to what they have to say. What they tell you will either lift you, instill a profound sense of gratitude in you, or teach you something you didn’t previously know. No matter what, the experience will forever change who you are and how you see the world.” 

Truth is truth

This exchange happened quite a long time ago. It left a mark on my soul and I still remember it like it was yesterday. It’s interesting to look back at the exchange now, though. I don’t feel the same way I did back then, but the truths are still there…on both sides…and they are just as relevant today as they were day when they were originally spoken. Truth is like that. It simply is what it is. It endures forever. It doesn’t need sugar coating. It doesn’t need an agenda. It doesn’t need politicizing (and won’t respond to or be swayed by it, either.) It is also very possible for both sides to be right at the same time.We don’t live in a black-and-white world. Things are rarely, if ever, as they seem on the surface. There really is always something to be grateful for, even when the storms are raging. Gratitude really does change everything, and it does so at a core level. There is likewise tremendous value in speaking our own truth and allowing our real selves to shine…even when we don’t have it all together, even when things are hard or scary…and even when the world doesn’t understand or might disagree. There is great value in not skating through life while hiding behind the easy crutches of humor, sarcasm, or addiction. Our stories have the power to change hearts and lives (including our own) when we share them. Finally, there is extraordinary value in listening, really listening, to what others have to say…especially when those who are speaking are different from you. Find out what makes them tick. Find out what makes them feel what they feel, do what they do, and believe what they believe. It will forever enrich both of your lives.

Now it’s your turn

What words or actions are you using as a defense mechanism?  What are those things protecting? What truths are you hiding? What big feelings aren’t you expressing? How is keeping everything bottled up affecting your life, relationships, and how you see the world?

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