This blog… it can be intense, no?
I challenge myself to tell “it” like it “is” and not varnish or sugarcoat my experiences, perhaps a bit to my peril. I live a not-completely-private life, functioning as a figurehead some days, as a talking head others. A voice. A representative. An advice-giver. An answer girl. An easy-to-idealize font of facts and suggestions. Type my name into Google and woah—lots and lots and lots and lots of photos come up. Often of me with overstyled hair standing next to celebrities. (Thank god I was fit and trim and allowed to style my own hair the day I was photographed with Cindy Crawford!)
I suppose that collection of public imagery means I have a something at stake when I’m unfurling such raw sheets of emotion. And I get it. I know why this isn’t typical, isn’t a “normal” thing to do, if you’re a person who has public currency. I could be judged! I could be deemed as being flawed, unstable, depressed, out of my mind, downbeat, dark! These are not at all the traits that support the viability of my public persona—which, I assure you, is as real as this one you see here. But as we all know, soundbites are not the place to search for complexity. (Though I do my best.)
But I go ahead and keep this blog for a reason. I do it to heal. Both myself, and others. I do it to be an example. For myself, and others. I do it be a dare, a challenge, a line in the sand. I do it because I think the truth is a powerful force that we don’t rely on enough in our culture—which is pretty ironic when you consider that I tell stories, find stories and shape stories for a living. Ha! But every story has to have that underpinning that rings and resonates like a clarion bell, sending its reverberations into the minds and hearts of those who read it, so it doesn’t turn into another random distraction, read and discarded, another 11 minutes passed in a life full of minutes easily dispensed, tossed away on a tide of distraction.
Truth is freedom. Yes, that old saw “the truth shall set you free” is one of my guiding principles in my life. I’ve often joked (and maybe I shouldn’t be joking) that I want to write a book called “The Truth Will Set You Free (But That Doesn’t Mean That It Won’t Feel Bad First)”. And I guess I live that axiom out loud here for myself every day.
So when I find an article called “There’s More To Life Than Being Happy” (from The Atlantic, one of my few daily must-reads), I have to admit, I get pretty excited. And yes, perhaps a touch smug. Because when decades of research—including a brand-new not-yet-released study—show yet again that happiness, both as a pursuit and as a reward, is fleeting. But then conversely finds that creating meaning in one’s life supports resilience, self-worth and compassion (which in turn, support meaning), and it’s all created by having a sense of connection to something larger than oneself. Yes, yes it does.
I know my life has meaning. And I know my experiences, even the dark ones, have meaning. And not just because I type them up and share them here with you. But certainly, sharing those experiences is another beautiful way of being human, of being connected, of commiserating about experience and pain and life and loss and love and the achingly poignant and ultimately incomprehensible burden of consciousness.
I can be only who I am. A blonde who shows up on TV from time to time, coiffed and well-packaged. A mom who worries and wonders and weeps with the magic of motherhood. A friend who tells off-color jokes, no matter who’s listening. A black-belt internet shopper. And yes, a woman who aches and hurts and bleeds, just like everyone else. And who isn’t afraid to admit that that suffering—and we all get our due—is worth looking at as closely as the triumphs.
And if you don’t believe me (though I know YOU do, you who read this blog), believe the research:
Having negative events happen to you, the study [from a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology] found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. “If there is meaning in life at all,” Frankl wrote, “then there must be meaning in suffering.”
I’m always meaning to be happy. But I’m happier to have meaning. A meaning that I have dug up out of the earth of my own life, with my bare hands. The dirt under my nails—and the pain on this blog—is proof that I’ve lived, and that I expressly desire for life to leave its marks on me.
The shiny marbles of truth and meaning I’ve pulled from depths of my own experiences are the lights in the heavens, my guiding stars. And yes, indeed, often the very words on these pages.