Telling it like it is – On-and Offline – in Sickness and Health
I was scared out of my wits, when I first started writing updates about Walter’s journey to get a liver transplant. His body was failing a little more all the time. He was becoming physically, emotionally, and mentally unrecognizable, and both his and my emotions were all over the place. Everything was so uncertain.
The only thing we knew for sure, was that Walter was less and less himself each day.
He was indeed wasting away.
That was not a mindset from which I felt I should share. It was time to just batten down the hatches and stay hidden. As I understood it, joys were public and suffering was private. At the time I felt that it was common courtesy to edit my online reality. So I shared happy updates about the kids, family and friends.
Sharing online, was like sharing a glass of ice tea on the porch with my virtual neighbors, while small-talking, gossiping, reminiscing, and occasionally giving well-meant advice.
And this is all fine and good. I continue to do so.
But facing the enormity of Walter’s health crisis, and being the sole caregiver to a deathly ill husband, I had to reach out. I was up against the wall: cornered. I needed help in order to give Walter’s survival the best chances. And this mission took priority over my fear.
I wanted to keep people posted about his condition, but since all I had to share was my uncertainty and feelings of being powerless, my fingers were trembling each time I pushed the share button.
What would others do, when I served up my vulnerability on a platter for all to see? I fully expected that others would find it super-duper uncomfortable, and hold up the “too much information” voting paddle, while they turned their heads away.
Imagine my surprise, when the on-and offline community didn’t react with polite avoidance or tattle-tale murmurs in the virtual halls. Instead our community saved us: literally and figuratively. Financial support, prayers, kindness, and love streamed towards us.
And there was more, and this really surprised me: People started sending me messages and comments that they were waiting for my posts to see how Walter was doing. I will never forget sitting in the empty Memorial Day waiting room during Walter’s surgery. Had it not been for sharing that experience through posts on facebook, I would have been excruciatingly lonely and afraid.
But I shared, and so our community shared the experience too.
I received messages from people telling me that they related to what I wrote. Others wrote that reading about our journey gave them inspiration to seek treatment for Hepatitis C, to become organ donors, to appreciate what they took for granted, to live in gratitude, and to persevere through what they were going through.
This bowled me over. It felt like alchemy. My desperation and Walter’s pain and suffering became transformed through my writing into broadcasts that others received and appreciated. It lifted my mood more than I can express. This was beyond a silver lining.
This was true gold in the midst of a coal mine. It was true, glittering, human connection in the midst of my feeling lost and alone.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was connecting to the blues tradition of “telling it like it is”: I simply expressed what I was going through plainly and from my heart.
And one of the miracles of the blues is that when we share it, others resonate. They recognize some of the emotions from their own lives. Both sender and receiver bond in a feeling of basic, but sincere, human connection. The blues is a vessel of emotional transparency, in which we can traverse the perceptions that tend to divide us.
Now I am home. Walter is touring. I am back to the treasured and almost sacred every-day-routine.
But I am also forever changed.
Yesterday, I complained to Walter that I missed sending out my writing about what was happening in my life. I missed the connection that it brought with it. Even if we were not desperate anymore, I still felt that there were lots of things I wanted to share. He said to me:
– Well, then why did you stop your updates?
I dismissed him. My role had been to update fans, friends, and family about him. But then I thought about it: Quite honestly, I am fed up and bored with much of our glossy, celebrity-focused, and polarized culture. Why did I stop sending out these blurbs that were simple messages from my heart?
Life is freaking hard.
Even in the best of times, there are lots of things that are not easy, breezy, cover girl material.
But I do find the journey a bit easier when it is shared. Every one of us, in some way or another, is walking through our blues most of the time. That is just life. Stuff happens … and we tend to think that kind of stuff only happens to us, and others are off on their easy-breezy catwalks.
Well, so here is where it’s at for me right now:
Telling it like it is allows me to step out from behind funny photos or pretentious talking points. It allows me to recognize that we are all more alike than we are different. When my braids were caught in the meat-grinder, you taught me that.
Now, just because Walter and I are no longer paddle-less up Creek de Shitte, our life is not all milk and honey. It is not all horrible either. It just is. But life is best when it is shared authentically with others. So today I share my gratitude for the ability to continue the journey – boldly and with determination – with you here – heart to heart.