Only Pretty Pictures


I have found a new writer whose pieces I enjoy. This what he had to say about studies that find using Facebook can make us unhappy.

"It makes sense. What do you post to Facebook? Pictures of yourself yelling at your kids, or having a hard time at work? No, you post smiling photos of a hiking trip with friends. You build a fake life — or at least an incomplete one — and share it. Furthermore, you consume almost exclusively the fake lives of your social media “friends.” Unless you are extraordinarily self-aware, how could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?"
Arthur C. Brooks, "Love People, Not Pleasure," New York Times

Raise your hand if you can relate.

I don't think it's necessarily bad to put your best face forward. It reminds me of Mom getting us all dolled up to get our pictures taken at the JC Penney photography studio. Those pictures were going to be hanging on the wall, or in Facebook's case, potentially viewed on devices across the street and across the world. We want them to speak well of us.

But if I have learned anything from sharing my depression story, it's that people find solace in the fact that their friends who post pretty pictures can have really ugly days too. Disclosing to each other that we are human, frailties and all, breaks down walls.  It lets us know that if we're having a hard day or a hard series of days, that there is not something wrong with us, but that we are actually normal.

I have friends that are fantastic at being real on social media with hilarious pictures and posts of their children, messy homes, or embarrassing moments at school and work. And then sometimes they are not so hilarious. They share their honest feelings about the hard things going on in their lives. And I love them for it.

And others prefer their privacy. And I love them too.

I think most of us could probably agree that there's a balance between putting our best face forward and being real. And our experience on social media becomes more pleasant the closer we get to reaching it.    

*****

My husband and I argue. We disagree with each other more often and more passionately than I have ever done with any other person in my life. And while I think being married and living together is a big part of it, you need to understand that fighting really isn't in my nature. Sure I fought with my sisters as little girls, but the older we got, the better we started getting along. Any disagreements with my parents growing up were really minor as well.

What I am trying to say is he brings it out of me like no one in my life ever has before.

The only times in my life I have truly sworn were as a teacher in my fifth grade classroom and in my marriage. I'm talking about times where the words just fell out of my mouth having totally slipped past my inner filter. Moments of true exasperation.

I don't like it at all. It typically starts out as something small (a bag of chips one of us allowed the kids to consume) and balloons into much bigger issues ("I don't feel like you're backing me up in my role as a parent."...

..."Don't say that, you know me better than that."...

"Well how do you think I feel when you...."

"Well how do you think I feel when you.....").

I always think heading in that I'm going to be able to handle the energized exchange of words, but more often than not, I am deflated and sad by the end, and so is he. In fact, it can take us a couple of days sometimes to smooth these things out. I have always said that I would gladly take the 24-hour stomach flu over an argument with my husband.

It's never an exact formula, but it usually takes a couple of conversations, text messages, and finally, when we're ready, the kind of embrace where all the anger and hurt feelings can melt away for all to be right with our world again. We rarely resolve what we set out separately to resolve, but together decide whatever it was is not worth the distance created between us by the conflict. We are getting really good at agreeing to disagree.

When it comes to our fighting, there are a few things I am grateful for. 

We both seem to sense boundaries within our words and actions. We are not physical. We do not call each other names, or toss around dangerous words we would later regret.

We often disagree in front of our kids and I know they are watching. We both seem to sense the need to reach an island of agreement when we are in front of them even if there is more we still need to work out in private. They are often standing by when everything is truly set right again and see us embrace. I feel good about that. Sometimes when little girl tries to get our attention in the more animated moments, I assure her by saying, "Just a minute sweetie. Daddy and I are just building our marriage."

After eight years of this, we are communicating better. We are teaching each other what we need out of each other in our relationship. "When I am hurt, I need you to acknowledge my hurt feelings."

"Okay, when I am frustrated, I need you to acknowledge the reason for my frustrations as well."

And there is one piece of advice I heard once, I'm not even sure where, that I cling to at times. Focus on what is going right with your marriage instead of what is going wrong. What is wrong can be so glaringly in-your-face sometimes. It will zap you of energy very quickly. But we've got one really big thing going for our marriage: the promise we made with God and with each other to become one. He will at times be the only place you can turn to help you keep your promise. He will help you see the good in your marriage and in the one you married. He will bless you with the grace to move forward together. I don't have the routine down yet, but I'm working on it.


*****

One day I was scrolling along through Facebook. The night before Danilo and I had had an argument and reached an island in front of our kids. We'd kissed goodbye as he left for work as always, but we still had some smoothing out to do.  I saw my profile picture in the top left corner of the page, the one at the top of this post, and felt a little ashamed. "You are not being real," said a little voice inside of me. "You are giving people the illusion that you and Danilo are always relaxing in comfy chairs watching the fountains at the outdoor mall, smiling. Heh. They don't know about last night."   

No. This is different. 

When it comes to my marriage, I will only post happy pictures. And happy posts. On purpose. Not because I am trying to trick you into believing that my marriage is glamorous.

Harmful, destructive, deceptive, dangerous.... None of these words, thankfully, describe my marriage. If they did, I understand I would need to find help.

Hard? At times, both of us would say very. 

But God doesn't want our relationship to just fit the description of a country love song. He intends us to be one. I truly believe He is in the process of fusing our lives and our dreams. I'm going to trust that that will be even more satisfying to both of our souls

You can't tell me that with two different people coming together from a lifetime of different backgrounds that that's not going to hurt sometimes. We have smoothed out a whole lot of rough edges, and there are many to come I am sure. We are still learning how to bend without the world caving in. We've still got a lot to learn and He knows we're worth it (thank you for saying it better than I could, Mr. Mraz).
 
We love each other. And we've got our sights set on more than today. "If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary...It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by."  

And so for him, for me, and for us, I will only post pretty pictures.

*****

This week, my husband, who gets a little unnerved by heights, climbed 16 feet up a ladder to hang my Christmas wreath. He does it every year because he knows I love it. I steady the ladder for him at the bottom, and we both breathe a little easier once he's back on the ground. 

He is good. I love him.

God knows we're worth it.



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