If you haven’t read Justine Manzano’s post about regrets and Facebook memories, go read it. Now. Without it, the following probably won’t make a whole lot of sense.
Read it? Good.
Her words about how “Facebook Memories are equal parts fun and annoying” sound so, so familiar. Mostly, I really enjoy seeing my Facebook memories because I’ve always tried to be very positive online. But sometimes even the happy memories remind me of a sad time (my youngest son’s birth, for example, was equal parts joyous and terrifying).
I’ll see all that positivity when I’m feeling down and think, “Why can’t I be more like that now? I used to be so positive. What happened?”
The thing about trying to wear such a positive face on the web, though, is that all the smiles sometimes make you see things through rose-colored glasses. You forget all the negative stuff that was going on way back when and how it affected you at the time. How it made you more of a black rain cloud than a ray of sunshine. After all, if everything looks so great, it must have really been that way, right?
It’s on the internet – it must be true.
And then you get down because you’re not the same person you used to be, the person you’d still like to be. Some days aren’t so bad, but others…Other times it seems unlikely that you’ll ever get back up, ever be cheerful again.
“Suck it up, buttercup. Get over it. Quit wallowing.”
Except that maybe you aren’t wallowing. And how, exactly, do you “get over it?” No one ever seems able to answer that question. You’re just supposed to know.
Which would be fine, if you could figure out what the problem was in the first darn place. If you weren’t too scared to admit that something actually was wrong. Or if the help you’re willing to admit you might need was actually an option. But things aren’t always so easy.
And anyway, you have a good life, especially given some of the choices you made in your youth, so what do you have to complain about? Shut up and be grateful for what you’ve got. There are plenty of people who would kill for a taste of what you have, and you’d do well to remember it.
But that’s all easier said than done. Feelings snowball. Problems that once might have been manageable are suddenly insurmountable. Things you want, things you need, are suddenly out of reach. Lifelines are out of reach.
When you feel alone in a crowd of people, when you feel stuck in life’s muck and there’s no one around to help pull you out, it’s easy to think that you don’t matter. That no one will notice if you go quietly away, never to return. And when all around you are telling you to suck it up, to get over it, but suddenly go silent when the topic of how to do that arises, how do you find your way?
When you feel like you’re being judged every time you try to explain what you’re feeling, it’s easier to just say nothing at all. To go on bottling things up, to plaster a smile over it all and pretend everything’s all right, even when it’s not. Especially when it’s not.
But denial can’t last forever. And then what? How can anyone else really know what you’re going through if you can’t pluck up the courage to tell them?
I’ll admit it – I’m a people-pleaser. I care far too much about what others think of me. It holds me back in certain areas of my writing, and it definitely holds me back in my daily life. I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing, and I hate looking foolish. I’ve always harbored a fear that I look foolish just standing still, which is why I hated every minute of the kids’ church choir my mother insisted I participate in growing up, not to mention elementary music class (I liked learning about music theory and history, but performing in front of people? Not so much.). At least in band I could hide behind my music stand, no silly arm movements required.
Don’t even get me started on gym class(es).
My people-pleaser tendencies have also been known to hold my tongue for me. You know the old saying, “Don’t ask a question you’re not sure you want the answer to?” My brain has invoked it more times than I can count and the typical result is silence. On my part. If I don’t ask, I won’t know, right? Right. Better to risk not knowing than to learn something painful.
But that’s no way to live. And my Facebook memories remind me of this fact every day.
(I’ll bet you thought I’d lost the point of this little ramble, didn’t you? Don’t feel bad – so did I for a minute there.) 😀
My Facebook memories often remind me of a time when I experimented with fearlessness. I was a recently divorced single mom with bills up the wazoo and a sneaking suspicion I would die miserable and alone. And yet, it didn’t matter. Every time I felt the need to curl up in a little ball around a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, I scanned my empty kitchen and reminded myself that things wouldn’t always be this way.
In the meantime, I was on my own – completely on my own, that is – for the first time. I was thriving. I was slowly getting my finances in order; I was slowly getting out of my shell; I was slowly learning how to stand on my own two feet.
Not gonna lie – it felt pretty damn amazing.
I think back on that time now and wish I was still that girl, the one who was slowly learning how not to care what other people thought. Whatever else may have been going on in my life then, not worrying about what others thought of me was one of the greatest things I ever tried. It was freeing, and freedom made me happy, despite the paper-thin walls in my apartment and the truly terrible car I was driving and the 30-mile commute I had just to get to work every day.
Now I’m crippled by indecision and so terrified of people disliking me (or my choices) that even something as simple as choosing what to have for supper makes my jaw tighten in dread. I’m fairly certain that this is not the kind of reaction Facebook had in mind when they dreamed up their On This Day feature.
Despite all that, I’m going to continue to enjoy the memories. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll find my way back to being that ray of sunshine.
(c) 2016. All rights reserved.