I’ve enjoyed greatly hearing from a couple of brave men who shared personal stories of work / life balance and decision-making about the important things in life — whether that is loving what they do and continuing to do it, or whether that is realizing they’ve moved into the realm of pushing too hard and moving into disequalibrium.
I identified very much with Marcus Nelson’s post, “Facing Hard Truths” that rode significant social media lift Tuesday (my own humble efforts included), and am so truly grateful that he jumped on a life change that, if he hadn’t, may have cost him much more than the money he’d already spent. I identify also with his wife as he describes, and the quiet sacrifices she made that involved more than deference to career and cash flow. It is precisely because she loves her husband that she supports him through realizing his dream, and so the discomfort and delayed personal gratification is worth the wait. She’s a keeper.
Another friend known for his expertise in social-media posted his well-thought-out and heart-felt apology on Facebook for being essentially absent to friends since beginning his first book. Friends are so very understanding, patient, and busy with their own lives; so I wondered if this was to “us” or to self or to family; although the difference doesn’t much matter as the motivation seems the same.
Both stories came roughly at the same time and were lauded by readers including myself. Both were by men about work-life balance. And there was a full moon. :)
These personal and public displays of honesty and vulnerability have made me wonder about the posts I’ve written here that are, and are not, public. Typically what I share is pretty personal, and I’ve consistently heard appreciation over time for being so open. People regularly come up to me to tell me that my sporadic posts are helpful to their own experience. However, they are not usually about work, but rather about moral choices, integrity, depth and honesty.
Is it the unexpected vulnerability of a man on a topic that is socially expected of men (career) that propels the collective warm-hug reception they received?
Increasingly people point out, write about, create clever videos about, the disparity between real life and what is personal brand (or just personal) marketing on social media designed to look and feel awesome! Still, most posts that feature emotional hardship and injury (physical hardship and injury gets plenty of virtual hugs) are met with discomfort and crickets despite our rational knowledge that isolation is exactly what people going through a rough time do not need and despite the outpouring of sympathy for depression victims at times like that of Robin Williams suicide.
Often times vulnerability and honesty around interpersonal relationships and the challenges that are faced within them are impossible to tell without seeming to disparage the other person in the relationship. Over the past year, I’ve written loads that is presently private, and the decision to keep that writing private is specifically because so many friends and family will know the subject. I think there is a ton of potential learning and sharing of experiences there, and understanding my own handling of an emotional-wear-down pattern has been immensely helpful to me.
However, there’s a good chance that some would read my exploration as bitter as much as I try to make it antiseptic; and others that will judge me for sticking it out in an emotionally damaging situation regardless of behavior and no matter what he did (his words, by the way; and happily, the final straw was stacked on the camels back). So, none of it is worth it and it matters only that it helped me to do the research on what I was dealing with, the methods for healing from that sort of long-term, slow injury, and the way to handle the predictable (once you know what it is) post-relationship aftermath. The only hesitation I have in keeping it mostly private is the sense that I wish I had known earlier, and maybe sharing means someone else in a similar situation will know earlier. The chances for that are low unless I go on a full career change, write a book, and start a campaign.
Perhaps over time, we will see more public displays of honesty and vulnerability from unexpected places, and more of the variety of life in all its joy and suffering. I think that’s true especially as I watch my digital-native teenagers mature, and the level of comfort they have with what they share amongst eachother, for better or worse.
And I suspect that as life’s stories reach a much broader audience, the writer will see the same level of response that they would have seen naturally among the fewer people who would have been told in person of what they were experiencing.
The same people who dive into a messy situation will step forward and roll around in it — there will just be more of them. And those for whom the muck is too mucky will sit it out or perhaps offer a washcloth so we can feel clean again even if temporarily. As I’ve observed friendships over the last year, I can tell you we need all kinds. Virtual hugs to vulnerability and all of the closeness it brings.