I have a confession to make, one that might make you pee a little.
I was a minute late to my Other Job the other day.
It seems I’m always later than I want to be-wherever it is I’m going-and unless I work really, really hard at being on time, I am five minutes late.
I’ve often joked that I’m going to be five minutes late to my funeral; the hearse will break down or, as someone recently remarked, will have a flat tire.
This morning’s tardiness had nothing to do with the underside of a car, rather it had to do with undergarments.
Do you remember your mother’s or grandmother’s wisdom to “Always put on clean underwear before you leave the house, in case you’re in an accident?”
My dear sweet hubby, Warren, has always questioned the validity of that advice with this quip, “How will anyone know those underwear were clean when you left the house?; ’cause when you get into that accident you’re likely to shit yourself.”
Well, if you can imagine, I left the house with both of those things this morning: One pair of clean underwear covering my bum, and in my hand were the ones I removed before I hopped into the shower this morning.
Nothing like airing your dirty laundry, right?
Sadly, this happens more frequently than I care to admit.
I’ll spare you the droll details, but suffice it to say I don’t have a hamper in my bathroom, which means every morning I cart my dirty panties to the laundry room, which is right on my way out the door.
The only trouble is that I’m often in a hurry and get sidetracked by dashing into the kitchen, which is just off the laundry room, to grab my drink and breakfast, before snatching up my purse to head out the door.
A few times I’ve made it to work and discovered the dirty garment tossed on the seat with my wanted belongings and one time I was walking across the parking lot when I noticed the pair hanging from my pants pocket (cue Gasp and Giggles) where I’d tucked the pantie hemline into because my hands were full.
But I’ve been working really, really hard at remembering to make that pit-stop at the plastic basket as soon as I come downstairs or at least before leaving the house.
I’m happy to report that on that day I noticed the discarded clothing BEFORE I pulled out of the driveway, and ran back into the house to get rid of them.
And now, I must confess, that I am a bit curious about, if not fearful of, your reaction to this little truth disclosure and I am tempted to retract all of these words and this embarrassing gossip-to-be.
But I cannot.
Telling our stories and sharing our dirty laundry, those moments we too often feel we should keep secret, the ones that make us blush, squirm, or feel shame or guilt is one of the ways to find resolution in our conflict and grief.
How many times have you shared something with someone, only to have her open up and share a similar situation?
I can’t count how often I’ve shared my losses and failures of miscarriage, child loss, infidelity, and the severe depression that landed me a six-week stay in a mental institution only to have the person receiving the information open up and tell her story.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone exclaim, “My mother/grandmother/aunt/sister/cousin/friend had a miscarriage and still can’t talk about it to this day,” or “…never got over it.”
It seems that men and women will either shout their spouse’s adulterous behavior from the rooftops and flog their reputations in every public forum or they only tell their closest of friends.
Sometimes they never tell a soul, keeping those toxic thoughts and feelings bottled up inside for decades.
And in an era where mental health discussions are more widely accepted, I still find that many of our neighbors seek out therapy in total secrecy.
Why, when exposing these noxious situations, thoughts, and feelings with safe people and in safe settings can be so beneficial to us, do we hide from ourselves and others?
One simple reason is that our perception of what might happen is drastically dramatized and inevitably far worse than what actually happens when we open up.
Another reason is that we are programmed to keep secret our imperfections; we are taught that our failures will prevent us from getting that promotion or partner or whatever we desire.
Many of us grew up with the saying “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public!” In other words: You shouldn’t talk about your personal struggles or problems in front of others.”
In our school and office hallways and in the grocery checkout out lines, we learn that sharing our trials and tribulations opens us up to becoming the next BIG Branjolie banter.
We witness firsthand how Water-Cooler gossip and Rumor Mill Fodder degrade the very trials and tribulations that should be viewed as nothing but personal growth opportunity, but instead are portrayed as events that should cause us emotions like guilt, shame, and embarrassment.
We need to change that, Journeyer.
Like our dirty underwear, we need to change our tune and the tales we tell ourselves and one another.
We need to keep sharing our stories in safe places and with safe people; we need to remove this perception that we should keep our conflict and grief and vulnerability and failures locked up inside our dark and damp bodies.
We need to pay homage to the fact that by releasing those things to our outside world, we actually let light filter into our soul.
Journeyer, I recognize that for some of us it’s really, really hard to open up to others. One of the most capable and seemingly confident women I know only journals about “the good things.”
Sometimes we fear that acknowledging “the bad things” will give them more power over us, when in truth, letting them out makes us feel freer, which makes us more able to live our lives with more passion, purpose, and productivity.
Sometimes we fear what will happen if others know or read our most intimate and troubling thoughts.
If you are someone who has been cloaked in secrecy since you were a child, here is my offer to you: Write down those negative feelings. Let every negative emotion and thought spew from your pen like that uncontrollable vomit following too much liquid spirit.
Every person you are mad at (including whatever God you honor). Every situation you despise. Every fear. Every guilt. Every shame. Every embarrassment. Every “bad” thought about another person.
One of the most pivotal messages Counselor Hank taught me all those years ago is this: We cannot control our thoughts, only our actions.
And for all you who argue that last statement by holding up your mistakes in front of your face and whatever screen is in front of you?
This was another of my Mama Mantras, something I tried to instill in my own children:
So, back to that writing. If the thought of anyone finding your dirty underwear-type stuff makes you want to also purge your breakfast, then burn it afterwards. Watch all that negative energy go up in flames. Consider it as giving it over to your God or sending it up in smoke; or whatever works for YOU.
If you’re not a writer, go into the woods and shout your stuff to the heavens or whisper it to a tree. Just GET IT OUT OF YOUR BODY AND INTO THE OPEN.
Please remember, it’s like that story I shared in the beginning: often times what is so mortifying at the onset later becomes a funny story for the ages. And sometimes you just gotta go with the flow and laugh a little, ’cause you never know whose life you might change by letting her hear that she’s not the only one with dirty laundry that needs a little fresh air.