Could it be that it’s time for you to give up looking good so you can be real instead?
I’m not saying this lightly.
Five summers ago, I found myself rendered momentarily speechless, mid-conversation, as a dear friend and I walked together for lunch. A few minutes later, flat on my back on the pavement, heart pounding, short of breath, mind racing.
I knew for certain only after a few days – but had an inkling as it happened – that an undiagnosed blood clot that had been forming in my leg for some time had at that moment broken loose from its moorings.
Terror, love, longing, hope, confusion.
I called home while we waited for the paramedics to arrive.
“I’m fine,” I said. “There’s nothing to be worried about”.
Not, “I’m scared.”. Not, “Please help me”. Not, “I don’t know if I’m going to be ok”.
It was a hot June afternoon, blue skies, but there must have been clouds as I remember watching a seagull wheel high overhead against a background of grey-white.
Just when I most needed help and connection I played my most familiar, habitual ‘looking good’ hand – making sure others around me had nothing to be worried about. A hand I’ve played repeatedly since I was a child.
Even in the most obviously life-threatening situation I had yet experienced: “I’m fine”. Too afraid to be seen for real, to be seen as something other than my carefully nurtured image of myself.
It was there, on the pavement, that I started to understand in a new way the cost of holding myself back from those I most care about; the power and necessity of vulnerability and sincerity; that my humanity, with all its cracks, complexity and fragility, is a gift to others, not a burden.
I began to see that the realness I treasured in the people who love me the most was my responsibility too – a necessary duty of loving in return.
I’m still learning, slowly, how to fully show myself.
One step at a time.
And I’m learning, too, that sometimes we’ll carry on trying to look good, even if it has the potential to ruin our lives as we do so.