2020 has been rough on everyone. Rougher on some than others, of course. But what I've recently realized is that 2020 has really just brought to the forefront the fact that we all face struggles everyday, every year. 2020 isn't unique in that aspect.
We're All in the Same Boat
We've all seen the signs in people's yards: "We're in this together", "Separate but not alone", "Faith over fear". I find them encouraging, and a nice reminder that the WHOLE WORLD is struggling with this pandemic. We're all in the same boat. But hasn't that always been true? Haven't we all, as humans, been in the same boat all along? It just took a global pandemic to inspire us to talk about it. To openly discuss our feelings of loneliness, depression, being overwhelmed, lacking inspiration, being afraid. Why didn't we mention those feelings before quarantine and pandemic and virtual school!? Why are most of us more comfortable admitting that it's not all going great now, than we were a year ago? Because we know others are going through the same thing. Because a year ago (and I'm making a huge generalization here) no one wanted to admit that things weren't picture-perfect. No one wanted to let outsiders see the messy house behind the beautifully planted window-boxes or the argument at the table where the kids weren't really eating the rainbow-colored all-organic dinner so beautifully laid out before them. But now, it's okay and 100% relatable to admit that you stayed in your pajamas all day or haven't showered in a week or ate a can of frosting for dinner. Why? Because these things are being voiced universally and we feel supported by the group. Accepted and not ridiculed. So does that mean we're moving toward a healthier balance between reality and what's presented? Maybe.
On the Surface We're Calm Ducks
But in order for that to happen, something (specifically social media) has to change. It is the true pandemic here. It's like a disease spreading from person to person, literally infecting every aspect of our lives. We have become a society obsessed with peeking into others' lives and with showing others exactly what we want them to see about our own. The combination of the two means we're flooding our friends with often misleading images while hungrily devouring the same images from others. Then I think your life is perfect and you think my life is perfect and we both just end up sad. Of course, no one wants to see an image of me sitting in bed eating cereal for dinner because I'm too overwhelmed/exhausted/stressed to come up with something better. But, more often than I'd like to admit, I'm doing exactly that. No, people want to see me at the Farmer's Market with my kids selecting a ripe eggplant for the fabulous Eggplant Parmesan my kids will so happily devour for dinner (none of which has, or probably ever will, happen). But what we need to see is something in between...the visual equivalent of what COVID-19 has possibly made more acceptable; saying "sometimes I'm on top of it, and sometimes I'm buried underneath". Yes, we can glide around the lake appearing to be calm, cool, and collected ducks, (yes, we've gone from boats to ducks) but we also need to transparently show that underneath it all, every one of us is frantically paddling, just trying to stay afloat. Case in point, this post by author Mia Carella.
So go ahead and show the picture of your fit body or your obedient children, and enjoy looking at others' blissful pictures, but don't let those images blind you to the fact that we're all just doing the best we can every single day. There are fat rolls behind a fair amount of spandex and disordered eating behind a lot of 6-packs, which doesn't mean we're any less happy, but it does mean we're a lot less perfect than we choose to show. COVID or no COVID, the struggle is real and all we can do is accept it, admit it to others, and keep on paddling together.