Grief / Mental Health

Lies I told today: real, immature self-love

Spring is budding, and that means daily walks with Sloan in the sunshine.

When Sloan was first born, my mom posted a “how you can help” post to Facebook: asking our friends to get out and nature church to honor Sloan and our journey in the NICU. The specific thing mom asked were for our friends to turn their faces to the sky and feel the sun on their face while Sloan couldn’t experience that energy quite yet as she was intubated and sedated.

Well now Sloan LOVES the sun on her face. She giggles, juts our her chin tipping her forehead toward the sun, and it shifts both of our energies for the day. It’s one of our basic, critical daily routines to keep us functioning at a basic level throughout spring and summer.

Today, February 13 (day before Valentine’s Day – blerg), we took a walk to a local park. Sloan felt the sunshine and decided it was going to be a nap-walk, so she laid down in her wagon to sleep. That decision was a boring one for me, so I sat on a park bench for a moment of quiet. Watching the birds, feeling the sun, and sipping my Diet Coke. Reflecting. It was peaceful and all was okay for a moment.

Not long after I sat down a pleasant, kind couple came over and started chatting with me. Asking questions about Sloan, me, life, etc. Naturally things were said – they always are and it doesn’t take long. Things like “Where is your husband now – back at home?” or “Oh she’s so darling, I bet her grandma just loves her!”

And usually I spill it all, because I do believe sharing our stories connects us with others. So it’s usually a mix of stuff like “my husband died.” “my mom died.” “yes, we are terrified of Covid – Sloan was actually in the ICU.” 

I’m used to these responses and sharing, but it does throw me off-kilter from a peaceful, quiet walk really fast.

…Now don’t get me wrong. I love to write, have a deep passion for advocacy work, and connecting with others on their own new and/or hard life journeys. But today I just couldn’t do it during our intentionally peaceful, quiet, alone time. I didn’t even have the energy to kindly say “I don’t want to talk” – because I didn’t want to deal with the follow up from that.

So what did I do? Easy! I LIED. And here I am telling you about it in a very unhinged way! lol yikes.

I said …Yep! You’re right – my husband’s back home.

…Yep! You’re right – grandma does love on her every day.

Okay, I mean, not total lies. Because the husband is home – just in a (weirdly small, ashes are weird) fancy wood box. And grandma does love on her every day, just not in an in-person and alive way.

So why am I sharing this hellaciously embarrassing story that made me cringe the minute the couple walked away and still makes me side-eye myself?

Because we should all get the chance to just be a normal (whatever that means) human.

Show yourself some love: create space.

It’s as if our world – fueled by facades (especially through social media) – glamorizes things like perfectionism, vulnerability, and authenticity to a point that it becomes high-pressure and faulty. There are flaws in glamorizing things: even if we’re glamorizing things under the guise of imperfection.

But..Bear with me for a moment…What if we do need a private moment, and vulnerability can screw off? Maybe we do need to be quiet and still for a second, without sharing our feelings? And we’re not doing this to silence ourselves or please others: it’s the opposite.

We’re taking a moment to honor our energy. Protecting ourselves.

On top of balancing privacy with vulnerability – topics like boundaries, relationship conflict, abuse, trauma, coping mechanisms, grief, etc are all boiled down to bite-size memes that sum up complex emotions and experiences on social media. But many times survivors of these experiences have experienced something so deep it takes decades to share those experiences or even touch the tip of the iceberg: and even then most still don’t believe their stories.

And many times that same disbelief comes from those sharing consumable mental health memes we see on IG.

Ultimately, I just haven’t seen a meme yet that’s like – “it’s okay to lie when you don’t feeling like sharing and need some peace” or “it’s okay to not speak up if you don’t want to, just get a diet coke and take a break. CTFO”

…And that’s probably because that wouldn’t make a good meme. I get it. I don’t think I’d share that one either!

Being human just can’t be meme-ified. Don’t we all wish it were as simple as a meme? Sometimes being human is writing, and podcasting, and advocating, and sharing hard topics in hopes of connecting with others in their darkest, loneliest moments too. Sometimes it’s vulnerability, transparency, and sharing.

And sometimes being human is privacy and quiet. Sometimes existing as a human is simply wanting a peaceful day at the park listening to a light-hearted podcast in the sun, without the reminder that your family died and your life isn’t going remotely as planned.

Even if just for five minutes.

You also don’t owe everyone your entire life story when you’re not feeling it. Including when the kindest couple ever approaches you. (And they were SO kind!)

So coming from a liar (me @ that couple today lol) – I think it’s okay to just stop for a moment, log off, and stare at a bird with a diet coke in hand. If you have to tell a few white lies to get there, then so be it.

You’re the only one that truly faces your reality, loss, and life 24/7.

Because when it boils down to it: others can say they miss someone, can say they understand something, or that they relate in a certain way: but you’re the only one that has fully experienced your reality.

Questions like “How about your husband?” “Sloan’s dad?” Or “Where is your mom?” “Sloan’s grandma?” come up almost daily in conversation for me. When people remember memories, or have flooding moments of grief, they reach out and share those with me – which is kind. But for me these losses are ever-present, ever-there: in both beautiful moments and the mundane, functional stuff. I can’t shake it in every conversation and thought that I have, no matter how seemingly normal I am. No matter how hard I try.

So, today, I just lied to get my five minutes of peace where I could find it.

I lied to show myself some love: choosing myself over anything else in that moment. Even if it was immature, childish, silly, ridiculous, etc.

And I lied to the kindest couple in the world. (I’m so sorry, kindest couple in the world!)

So today, if you have to lie to get your moment of peace – I say go for it. Do what you need to do to buy yourself some time, some peace, and show yourself love.

Even if it’s just five minutes.

And one last note…

I also share this story because I think, again, social media has a way of creating facades where we view people as invincible, unbreakable, 1000% authentically dynamically hilariously perfectly imperfect beings. It’s just not reality. So this is my reminder to all that we are all human: “Sloan Strength” just happened to be a really great alliteration after Sloan was born, and I had no idea it would be what it is three years later – ha! I do work hard to be an ally to my daughter, share my grief journey, speak up on my own experience with grief, loss, and love, and hustle to be a realist online and in my community – mostly in hopes of connecting with others on their walks of life, too.

But there are also aspects of mine and my family’s story I will never share publicly. And there are days where I don’t share or speak about anything personal at all: because I, too, am tired: needing a diet coke, a run, and birdwatching. This is how I show myself love. By showing myself love, it recharges me: giving me energy to love on Sloan, my family, friends, and continue forward in this life and my personal life’s work.

Thank you for being here. And I hope you show yourself some love today, too.

<3 – Kari

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