“When my mother died, the priest asked if he could speak openly about suicide and mental health during his homily at her funeral mass.
Yes of course, we said.
No of course not, others said.
And we backed off, because grief is funny and ugly and weird and makes people hate each other hotly and irrationally and things are hard enough without me stamping my feet and whining.
(which is what I wanted to do)
Anyway so what the priest spoke about instead was quiet suffering. Private suffering. Carefully hidden suffering, wrapped in shame and hidden away in the dark corners of our lives, painted over careful with the hard shellac of perfection and never talked about.
The kind of suffering that kills people.
He didn’t know, couldn’t have, how my mother had woken up from intoxicated unconsciousness in the ER and said first, before even asking what happened, “did the neighbors see?”
But he didn’t need to know because he has heard the story a thousand times before, I’m sure. It’s a universal story, one that has been ingrained into so many of us, one that we can see reflected back to us plainly in our politics and our celebrity and our communities and now, in our Instagram and Facebook feeds.
It’s human nature, no doubt, to want to share the best moments. I’m not knocking it. I do it too. There are things that don’t make it into my Facebook statuses, moments not captured in filtered Instagram images, events I do not chose or want to preserve and display in the technological ethos like:
Hangovers or stomach bugs or the countless evenings when I crumple unladylike under the weight of what is just an unglamorously ordinary life and shout things at whoever is or isn’t listening like
“why do I have to do everything?”
“why isn’t anyone even listening to me?”
There are the meals that I burn because I got distracted by the internet or trying to pluck an errant chin hair or the times when my pants don’t fit or I can’t get my leg properly into my jeans or when all I can muster the will for is an old tee-shirt of my husbands that I have tried to throw out a hundred times and yet it keeps making its way back into his drawer and back onto my back.
There are messes and spills and fights and things said that should not be said and things left unsaid that should be and tears shed in locked bathrooms and enough ugliness to almost balance out the beauty.
And here’s the thing, you guys. Here’s the truth I’ve gathered from a life of talking to people and listening and writing stories and too a few minutes of sitting on a hard wooden pew while a kind faced priest spoke light into dark places: this too is normal.
And sometimes I need to remind myself of that, and sometimes I need to remind you all too. That the universal story is a long and twisted one and it’s not just the things we see on social media or on the made up faces of socialite beauty queens.
Everybody is carrying something with them.
Everyone has dark places. And the kindest thing we can do for each other is to shine light into them because light is the only thing that can dissolve the dark and keeping these things shellacked up in the corner under wraps is how they kill us.
Also this: Please don’t suffer in silence, my friends.
You are never alone.”
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