“How are you?” she asked with sweet sincerity.
Should I say? Should I be truthful? I pause ever so slightly.
I pause again.
“Really good,” I say, trying not to sound too enthusiastic.
This year caring inquiries have come from cousins across the country and Facebook friends not seen for years. An extrovert, I’ve lived long enough to amass an abundant army of people who want to know how I’m doing because they care. Sometimes I don’t want to share.
I hesitate to tell them that this has been one of the best years of my life.
Who wants to hear that?
Who wants to hear my happiness when they are anxious and depressed? Do I tell the person I’ve never found my work more meaningful as they face burnout or layoff? While they gain weight from the cortisol of skyrocketing stress, do I share I’ve taken up intermittent fasting now that there are no parties to attend?
So I pause.
I sit somewhere in between embarrassment and shame. I share that the kitchen remodel at the house is coming along slowly. That I’m baking cookies to send to my children. That it’s busy at the law office.
But I don’t tell the whole truth.
I don’t report my profound peacefulness from a strengthened meditation practice. Or the thrill of seeing my body as more beautiful approaching 65 than at 25. On how the daily sight of my beloved walking through the door carries me through all matter of fear from the atrocities unfolding in my own home town.
Really. I don’t think people want to hear.
While my privileged state (white, educated, employed) is undeniable, I’ve not been exempt from the impact of Covid. I’ve missed two family weddings, funerals, and thousands of dollars of coaching business. I have a son who lost his job, a sweetheart who is a schoolteacher, and an ill sister whose doctor declared if she gets the virus, she “will” die. My children will not be home for the holidays.
It’s not that I am unaware of the state of the world around me. I spend hours each week absorbing news both local and global, often reading in-depth horror stories. I’m a life coach which means the human fears and failures from cancer and death to divorce and dementia travel from my ears to my heart.
Still. I am happy.
I reflect on the advice of a longtime friend who counseled me when I awkwardly attempted to contain my joy of falling in love again. “Don’t apologize for your happiness,” she said.
There is no need for me to make a case for my happiness. No detailed analysis or overt explanation required. Better to skip the shame, simply be the happiness, and hopefully share it.
What worries you about people knowing the truth of your feelings?
How do you decide what to share with others?
Are you able to hold both compassion and joy simultaneously?