Disclaimer: I shared this with my husband well before posting. No husbands were blindsided in the posting of this…post. I really need a better word than post.
I worry sometimes that you think I am not happy because when I share the most vulnerable parts of myself they are the dark things: the scary, the strange, the broken. It’s rare that I spill out all the light, sweet things that happened during the day, and there are many, so I can see how you would make that mistake. I would too. But this I can promise you, I am happy. Gloriously, deliciously, enviably happy. And someday I swear you’ll see the whole picture.
Right now, you only see half my vulnerability. As far as I can see there are two sides to vulnerability; the light and the dark (I swear this isn’t a Star Wars allegory). Right now in these baby stages of learning to be vulnerable I only (poorly) speak the language of dark vulnerability. This isn’t because it’s all I know or because I’m a naturally dark person. I speak the language of dark vulnerability out of necessity… before it consumes me. There are days when the darkness is so overwhelming the only way out is words. I can’t hold all the darkness all the time and so I let it out in a slow trickle to you, the person I love most, to you who can handle it, see it, touch it and still love my anyway.
I speak the language of dark vulnerability because it is, by far, the easier language of the two. How counter intuitive that it is easier to speak of the all consuming fear and shame than to speak of the blinding joy and blissful contentment. My reasoning is solid. Fear, once shared, is a lightened load. Joy, once shared, is multiplied but it is still so very fragile. To acknowledge joy is to put it into the dangerous space where it mingles with the darkness. And that darkness? That darkness insists that to speak my lightness is to put it in jeopardy. When you admit to happiness and relax into the peace that is when it is snatched from beneath you. To speak of the lightness is to put it at risk.
The day we sat in the ultrasound room, staring at the blank space where a flickering heartbeat should have been…the first times had been so brief no one but us had known. But this time, hopeful, we’d shared our joy and now we had to take it back but it was too late. Now we had to face the sympathy and the condolences and even worse, the pitying looks. Our lightness had been put out there, vulnerable, in the open and now it mocked us for hoping, for dreaming, for sharing. Lightness shared had multiplied not only our joy but our sorrow and that was too much to bear, for ourselves and for others. It’s only one example but for me it was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back; the event, after myriad other life events, that left me so fiercely protective of my own, authentic joy, that I stopped speaking of it, even in a whisper, even to myself.
How many of us, I wonder, have stifled our joy to protect it and in the process broken ourselves to pieces…how many of us have been accused of never being happy, never being content, never having enough, simply because we were afraid that our words of hope would light the match of destruction. Literature is filled with the trope of the complaining wife whose discontent marks her a pessimistic nag. Maybe she wasn’t complaining. Maybe she was just too frightened to speak her lightness.
But for this particular wife the lightness is there. I promise. It’s there in the funny things our kids say, when their tenuous fingers learn a new skill, when they wrap their tiny arms around me and bury their fists in my hair. It’s there in the snuggle parties, the fancy tea parties, the kitchen dance parties (we party a lot). It’s in the way I can sink into you while we watch a show, exhausted when the kids have gone to bed. It’s in the way that a long hug from you after an even longer day feels like coming home. It’s here in my office at 5am while I work and reword and edit and dream. The lightness is everywhere, in all the small moments, the seemingly mundane, everyday things.
The lightness is there, burning brightly but hidden and someday I’ll learn its language. Until then please just trust. I am truly and incomparably happy.