Some days, you just have to let yourself melt. To curl up on the kitchen floor (why is it always the kitchen floor?) and cry, for no reason at all and for every reason there ever was. To take deep breaths, talk yourself down, talk yourself back up and then put the toddler to sleep and text your best girlfriend immediately.
Are you free for an hour? I’m struggling.
She’ll come over because – as it turns out – she’s struggling, too. Because struggles are universal. They’re precisely the same. They might stem from fear or pressure or captivation or stress, from real challenges that you’re convinced were imaginary or imaginary challenges you’re convinced were real.
And so, you open a bottle of wine and spill it. She’ll go first, and you’ll nod and cry and nod again, mostly out of empathy but also out of gratitude for moments like this. The ones where you don’t have to pretend anymore. Where there is love and wine and warmth, and everything just avalanches – the feelings you didn’t realize you’d harbored. The masks you didn’t realize you wore. The walls you didn’t realize you’d built.
Part of you will want to hold back a few things, but the avalanche has already begun, so you release and let the momentum take over. This is good. This is worthy.
Because if you hold back the avalanche – even just a bit – you’re back to pretending. You’ve taken two steps backwards into the well-paved road of, “I’m OK, really.” (And you are OK. Know that. You are OK. You will be OK. It will all be OK.) Instead, step forward – if only for a moment – and strip your face of the layers of paint you’ve worked to build.
It’s hard, of course. We like to think we’ve created masterpieces with our facades. We’ve layered brushstroke after brushstroke of titled paintings like, “The Laissez-Faire Mother” or the “100% Supportive Wife” or the “Master Multi-Tasking Executive.” These paintings take time – years – to perfect, so naturally, we’re not into tearing down our Sistine Chapel in an afternoon. We don’t want our mascara streams to taint the watercolors, making our vibrant perfection look brown and muddied.
And yet. Here we were, my best girlfriend and I, two glasses deep. Sharing and spilling and supporting and empathizing, all while wondering to ourselves why it is that we don’t do this more often.
We don’t want to be perceived as dramatic. Or negative. Or high-maintenance. We live in a culture of convenience, and it’s ever-so-inconvenient to say what’s truly on your mind. We’d lose friendships and dinner dates and jobs, and isn’t the goal for everyone just to play along? Isn’t that we teach our children? Play nice. Sit down. Be good. And for the love, smile.
I was emailing a friend a few weeks ago about truth. About how something lovely happens when you tell the truth, when you say it out loud. When you throw in the dishtowel and admit, “This sounds crazy and it’s trivial and really incredibly dramatic but it’s in me and I feel it and it’s real and I want it out. I want it out.” And I wrote to my friend that it’s like that scene in Through the Looking Glass when Alice shouts at The Jabberwock that he’s a fake and she doesn’t believe in him and she’s not scared anymore and he cannot overcome her. And how suddenly, it was OK because she said it. He’s gone. It’s over.
Saturday afternoon breakdowns, I think, are a lot like The Jabberwock. They’re messy and dark, but in the light of Sunday morning, they vanish. Because the relentless anxiety or the colicy newborn or the 80-hour workweeks or the family drama or the broken heart or the suffocating hopelessness – all of these can never overcome the truth.
So you begin again. You’ve said your peace. You’ve spoken your truth. And you step forward into the light and acknowledge the monsters. You pray. You ask. You share. You crawl. And you notice a tiny hint of sunshine that was hidden from view yesterday. And you smile, because it seems – in this moment, on this day – The Jabberwock has finally vanished.