Social media: It’s a lot like a family picture. The final product I shared with all my friends was of a happy, smiling family. No struggles, just this perfect little snapshot of life. But that was one picture. And it took us a while to get there. We have a lot more of these types of candid shots.
In this particular image my youngest had had enough of taking photographs. He just wanted to pick up leaves and rebelled against the situation by becoming “jelly legs” and refusing to stand up (my husband and I are holding his arms begging him to stand on his now floppy legs for just one more picture.) Then there’s my oldest on the left, having the time of his life which made me laugh after, but at the time, I just wanted him to smile nicely.
I’m pretty good at sharing situations I’ve overcome. I love to give people a happy ending. But the thing is, happy endings take time. Sometimes a long time. And before the happy ending there is the struggle.
I have often let my struggle define me. I take things personally, I take things to heart and I have allowed the struggle to depress me more than once.
About 2 weeks ago I had a miscarriage. This was after 8 months of trying to conceive. I finally got that positive test (4 of them!) and not even a week later I began to bleed. I was devastated. I’ll be honest, these last 8 months have been a struggle. Not only because of the situation itself; not understanding why, despite doing everything “right” this process has seemed so challenging for me, but also because it brings back so many unpleasant memories from trying to get pregnant with my first, which took 4 years. It’s brought back so many bad feelings from an experience I never hoped to repeat. But I’m thankful for it, because this last year has also taught me that you don’t have to let your struggle define you, and that happiness is not circumstance, it’s a state of mind.
Everybody struggles. Everybody. We usually don’t see it though. And very rarely on social media.
Happiness doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. You can find happiness in imperfection. You can smile through the storm.
You might have noticed I stopped posting for a while there. I got to a point where I kept looking at everyone’s “perfect” lives and became angry that mine was so imperfect. I knew everyone’s lives can’t be perfect but social media can make it feel like other people’s lives are many perfect moments filled with the odd imperfect moment rather than mine that was many imperfect moments filled with the odd perfect one. Then I realized I was doing it too. I shared all the good. I shared the before and after, the wins, the victories. I began to feel maybe others thought my life was simply defined by victories too. I felt like I was lying. And in my sadness, I couldn’t handle their joy, so I removed myself from social media.
It did wonders. It made me focus back on me. Instead of comparing my imperfect life to the perfection on Facebook or Instagram, I began to look at my life as it stood on its own. I started seeing the many perfect moments within the imperfect and I started becoming more thankful for those moments. I started realizing that even in the storm good things were happening. The storm brings water that nourishes life. Drought, a season of no rain, brings death. We need storms. Lightening causes nitrates to be released which enriches the soil. I know in my life I’ve made more growth in my times of struggle than in my times of peace.
This is a long winded post to really remind you that social media represents a moment in people’s lives. But it doesn’t represent every moment. The perfect moments can be fleeting so you have to find joy in the struggle. And you have to count your blessings. I may have struggled with every pregnancy, but I have two healthy boys. I may not be there yet with that third baby, but I’ve constantly overcome in my life and I’ve finally learnt the value of that.
A friend once told me that she felt so broken. I responded that I’d rather be broken than fragile. As a young girl I didn’t think I could handle anything. I never tried because I never thought I could. I always felt weak because I never knew my own strength.
At this point in my life I’ve got to say I feel pretty invincible. And that’s because of the struggle. I’ve been broken so I’m not afraid to try anymore. I’ve been broken and I know broken things can be fixed.
Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with gold. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. Because it was broken the piece becomes more beautiful and more interesting. It no longer looks like the other pieces, it becomes one of a kind. It is better for having been broken.
Fragile things often get left on a shelf because no-one wants to touch them. Don’t be afraid of being broken, because you can fill the cracks with gold, and become all the stronger for it.