This may turn out to be one of the most random things I ever write…..
There is a ‘photo’ circulating on Facebook lately. It says ‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.’ I do believe in the meaning I assign to this ‘saying’….that you can never tell what is going on with someone, that they might smile for you, but feel like they are dying inside, so treat others with respect and kindness.
I know that I fight my own battles every day. We all do. We all have ‘demons’ that we cage up until they rattle the cage loud enough and long enough to get out, at least a little. You can’t see them. You can’t touch them. And you most certainly can’t lock them up for me again, but they are there. The smile I may wear to help me pass through each day, while I dislike being disingenuous with others, may be the only thing holding me together at that point in time, and yet on the inside, the part I hide…the part most of us hide from others because it’s just too difficult and personal and raw to reveal it, is kicking and screaming and wants nothing but to get out from under the weight we are carrying.
My mother always used to say, to me and about others as well, ‘you’ve got the whole world going for you, I can’t see what you’d be unhappy about?’ I’ve tried to explain it to her….about myself and about others. You can be good looking, educated, intelligent, talented, famous, wealthy, etc. – and none of that matters if you are battling a demon inside you every day of your life that always seems to have the upper hand like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a whole list of other reasons….you can be sitting on top of the world and the only thing you can think about is the fear that you’re going to fall off.
Every one of us has a ‘trigger’ for hurt, anger, frustration, confusion, disappointment. Sometimes there are multiple triggers for it. Words, actions, etc., that bring all our baggage out and fling it open and let the contents spill out onto the floor and everyone can see it…all your dirty laundry, no matter how quickly you try to scoop it up, close the lid, and lock the catch on it again. I have mine, definitely. There are wounds so old and so deep in my personality that just one word can send me back over 35 years to a place I don’t know I’ll ever fully escape from in my mind and in my heart. I like to think its possible to get away from there….that the only thing keeping me there is me…..but getting out of my own way proves to be an ongoing challenge.
All too often I hear people downplaying and devaluing their feelings…and their struggles…and comparing them to others and their difficulties and challenges. People say things like ‘I shouldn’t complain, others have it so much harder’ or, even worse, I’ve heard people say ‘What are you complaining about, try my life for a change.’. I’m not referring to self-created drama, or imagined problems. But it seems like we have become a society of people that think that someone else’s troubles are more important than our own, for whatever reason…..and that someone’s perception of a more immediate or pressing issue completely negates the struggle that someone else is having…and they shouldn’t even mention it. It’s not either/or….it’s both/and…..’your’ problem is just that….yours….it’s not ‘greater than or less than’ anyone else’s……you don’t have to deal with their issue…you have your own….and it’s an issue to you……..maybe it’s not the ‘same’….maybe it’s not a terminal illness vs a self-esteem issue, but that doesn’t make it any less important……you could wipe out all the terminal illnesses in the world and it wouldn’t take away your self-esteem issue…..so why tell yourself (or anyone else) that it doesn’t matter? It does matter. I have come to realize that caring about my own issues, no matter how ‘large’ or ‘small’ they may seem to others does not take away at all from the concern and caring I give to others, no matter how ‘large’ or ‘small’ their issues may seem to me….it’s not a competition….it’s not a game of ‘Are You More Fucked Up Than Your Friends?’…..it’s life…it’s their life, and it’s your life, and life is a struggle each and every day we live it…..in so many ways.
I’m learning, more and more in life, that in order to understand people better I need to put on their shoes and walk the proverbial mile in them each and every day. Whether to walk in those shoes causes me blisters or not (my half-hearted metaphor for if I find their life difficult or not) isn’t the point….the point is it may be causing blisters for them. Just as mine do for me. You may never see them. They may not tell you about them. They might smile and laugh instead of wincing in pain and crying. It may be just a cloud that passed over their heads that looked like a heart and reminded them of a lost loved one…..and yet it can impact their whole day…..it might not seem like much in comparison to the suffering others go through, but there is no comparison…suffering is suffering….how can you devalue someone else’s just to elevate your own in order of importance?
I make judgments just like everyone does…..it’s hard not to. But I also try to take inventory of myself at the same time, and ‘tend to my own garden’…..it has a lot of weeds that need pulling. I have little to no right to make comment on the gardens of others. I’ve been accused recently (by someone on here) that I don’t think I know personally of being a ‘nasty’ person who ridicules my friends, family, neighbors…everyone….and that I think I’m so far above everyone else, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not above anyone…nor am I below. We’re playing on the same field…..the same team….we all just wear different colors.
I laugh about a lot of things….and smile at people every day and say ‘I’m well, how are you?’ when they ask. Some days it’s true, others its definitely not, but the answer is usually the same regardless. I don’t do it to deceive people. I do it because I’m protecting myself. I’m not the only one in the world who does it…in fact I think most of us do. Most of us look at the darker corners of our minds and try to throw something over it so others don’t see it. Some of us are blessed with friends, family, therapists, and others we can confess all to without fear of judgment or reprisal….some don’t even have that. Some just can’t even put words to their anxieties.
I make a lot of jokes about life, people, stuff in general…because it’s how I get through. I don’t do it because ‘everything is a joke’ to me…I do it because very little is a joke to me…..but it’s a lot easier for me sometimes to get through the day by ‘making’ a joke of it. I have my problems, just like everyone. And just like everyone, they matter…..they matter to me. My angst on any given day may seem a negligible amount when put up against someone else’s troubles. But you know what? It isn’t…..I have to live with my troubles just like everyone does…and try to go on.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.