The other day, I wet my pants a little during a class at the gym.
I was doing jumping jacks, nothing fancy, and I wished my friend Steph was there because I always like to tell her when I wet my pants a little at the gym.
But Steph was probably off selling a house or listing a house or maybe eating cheese dip from a jar and cracking herself up with cheese & chip jokes. (“I’m nacho friend anymore!” “Please? Can’t we taco ‘bout it?”)
When I glanced around at others in the class, yet found no one in whom I could confide, I kept jumping-jacking, still wetting just a tiny bit with each landing. And laughing. While it’s not great to be at the point in life where I wet my pants a little, it is wonderful to be at the point where I can laugh at my gym-related incontinence.
Hold on. Did I just share too much?
Because I’ve been thinking about why we share what we share. Why my generation shares far more than my parents’ generation and far less than Generation Tee-Ball Trophy.
While there is, absolutely, the reality of TMI (I was recently privy to the sharing of someone’s stool sample story), I believe sharing one’s stories and foibles does good things. Sharing leads to understanding and understanding leads to acceptance and acceptance leads to cookies. I mean, connection. And isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing whilst residing on this big blue marble? Connecting, tethering, weaving?
But my sharing about pants-wetting might not be any more acceptable than someone else sharing about stool samples. In fact, in Steph’s absence, I once tossed out a casual, “Wow. These jumping jacks sure make me pee!”
I shared because I thought it was funny, but in return I received only an uncomfortable, slightly-scared expression from the lady within earshot. That’s a lonely-making interaction, and that is the risk of sharing: I end up feeling less connected, tethered, woven than I felt before.
For some reason, though, I press on, I think because there’s always the hope I might hear these words: Yeah? Me too.
As in, Really? You feel that way? Me too!
Each time one of you stops me in the halls at my kids’ schools or writes me a little note on Facebook, about how you, too, went an entire day wearing inside-out underpants, I laugh with you. When we laugh together, we feel less alone and freakish, and when we feel less alone and freakish, we suddenly feel free to eat cookies. I mean, we feel free to connect with another someone.
Me too. Look at those two little words on a page, and they seem as breezy and inconsequential as a gnat’s sneeze. But those words are not gnat sneezes. Hear them after you share yourself with someone? Those little sneezey words have the volume and velocity to wipe out acres and oceans of loneliness and disconnection.
You, too? Oh! Gesundheit. Salúd! Bless you.
I have been thinking about the line between being honest and being gross, when–wonder of wonders–the pastor at my church gave a sermon about being authentic, about how we humans spend a whole lot of time and energy wondering of one another, Are you one of us?
Not “Are you Christian?” or “Are you cool?” or “Are you liberal/straight/Irish/a Seahawks fan/someone who practices her dance moves when she’s home alone?”
But this: Do you also feel scared of failing? Do you ever feel stupid for trying to be an author? Do you ever wish you could go back and redo moments or days or years during which you didn’t behave well? Is your marriage also difficult at times? Do you sometimes wet your pants during jumping jacks? Do you feel sad and scared and hopeless sometimes, just like I do?
In other words, Are you easily-breakable, longing for connection, hopeful at the core? Are you human, just like I am?
Yeah. Me too.
Here’s the rub. While we’re a society starving for connection, it’s scary to be authentic. It can also be uncomfortable to experience someone else’s authenticity. When I share personal details about mental health or parenting or God or marriage, it makes some people uncomfortable. When I hear about someone’s stool samples, it makes me uncomfortable.
But maybe we shouldn’t be so dang uncomfortable with discomfort. Maybe discomfort wakes us up, shakes us from our numbness, helps us understand that we do have something in common with someone who shares his stool sample stories. Because you know what? He’s not really sharing a story about his poop. He is sharing the story of waiting for test results that could have turned up something scary.
Oh. You’ve been worried about medical test results? Me too.
I was doing a little research about being authentic, partly, I admit, because I do worry about how my sharing turns people off. I suppose I was looking for some kind of modern day Emily Post thing regarding what I should and should not share. Something like this:
Pants-wetting admission is acceptable in a blog post or private conversation, as is the fleeting mention of one’s stool sample. However, take care not to go into unnecessary detail about stool. Furthermore, take caution! Do not, in any venue or under any circumstances, discuss mental illness or Jesus, lest your audience assume you are crazy and/or intolerant.
I didn’t find an Authenticity Handbook, but my research reminded me of this fact: statistically, 10% of all people on this planet will not like me. No matter what I do or don’t do, no matter how much I reveal or don’t reveal about my incontinence, no matter how many cookies I hand out, 10% of the seven billion people on this planet will not ever like me.
That, my friends, is a number that starts with “7” and has a lot of zeros.
But there is freedom in those zeros. If all of those zeros aren’t going to want to connect with me, I can spend time and energy focusing on the people with whom connection is more likely. That’s a pretty big number too.
I was also reminded of Brene Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability. While she doesn’t have a tidy list of Share This But Don’t Share That guidelines, Dr. Brown’s research proves that if I want good stuff in my life, I must share my heart. I must share the important parts of my story. The stuff that illustrates my humanness. Even if the person’s reaction is an uncomfortable, slightly-scared expression.
Yes, that’s right. Sharing my heart requires the willingness to be vulnerable, and the willingness to be vulnerable means there’s a chance I’ll be mocked or uninvited to social events, and sharing something in the face of potential mockery and social alienation requires cookies. I mean courage. Heaps of it.
But when we are willing to be vulnerable? In Brene Brown’s words, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love.”
Yes. I’ll have a triple helping of all of that.
Consider the power of seven billion Me too’s. Seven billion gnat sneezes. Imagine what all that Me Too-ing would do in the world’s messiest places: Syria. South Sudan. The Senate. Seattle. The church. My closet. My heart.
So many sneezes. So many reasons to say Bless you. Bless you. Bless you.