There is a very nice mom at our bus stop. One morning, out of the blue, she looked very, deeply, deeeeeeply sad. I wondered if something really terrible happened. I honestly have never seen anyone quite so affected. It was alarming, awkward, and uncomfortable (I’m being honest).
After that I didn’t see her around much, and her husband was taking the kids to school. So, today when I picked up Brooke, she was there, and I realized it felt like it had been a really long time since I’d seen her.
I walked up to her and she smiled and greeted me, along with the other moms. Someone said to her, “I’m glad you’re feeling better”. She nodded, then announced very calmly and shamelessly, with a big smile to the rest of the group, that she had been in the hospital for a week, for depression.
We were all so clearly taken off guard by her blunt, unapologetic, unembarrassed confession. Some of us just clammed up. Others tried to fill the awkward silence with words of encouragement and offers to help. It was alarming, awkward, and uncomfortable, again.
Thinking about that now, I’m just really wishing we could all just speak openly, without fear of embarrassment of such personal things. Without shame and worry that it could be received with shock, embarrassment, awkwardness.
My opinion of her hasn’t changed at all from what it was before. I pretty much could tell she was a bit of a wild card from the get go. No harm was done to our relationship.
In fact, now I know something about her that will make me feel less awkward, and more caring when I’m around her.
I don’t need to worry about whether she’s judging me now, because she shared something deeply personal.
If we all have dirt on each other, because we all share our dirt without shame, and consequently continue to treat each other with ever-deepening respect, the world just becomes a more peaceful, graceful, comfortable place.
Maybe if it became more common to blab about our personal business freely, a natural side affect would be that people naturally become better at accepting one another. Who knows?
PS: I really thought hard about writing this, because she is my neighbor, and I don’t believe in humiliating anyone for blog content, so I wasn’t sure if I should “out” her. BUT, after I read the words I wrote, I realized that if someone wrote something like this about me, I would feel proud. So, that’s why I’m writing this, at the risk of her someday reading it about herself, because I really admire her honesty.
I do also want to mention that she’s from Western Africa, and I’m really curious to see if it’s more common for people to speak openly about their problems in the culture she comes from. It’s no secret that some cultures are more sensitive than others. New England is definitely a play-your-cards-close-to-your-chest kind of place. She’s a brave one.