How are you feeling squeezed these days?
I asked that question right around the time of the 2016 presidential election. People were stressed. They were mean–on both sides of the party line. My friends were mean. Angry. Fearful. Attacking each other. Going far beyond stating their mind–making accusations, ridiculous statements, labeling people, hurting them. There were other unreal events happening in the United States at this time–Standing Rock comes to mind. Americans were acting in unloving ways, and that’s an understatement.
I felt emotionally squeezed. The weight of the hate crushed me. I was astounded, and I didn’t know what to do so I went silent. I just felt sad.
Someone I care about and who I respect very much asked this question in frustration: “[Why is it] when I post about a profile pic of myself…or my kids I get an average of 70 people liking my post, but when I show and share support to a meaningful issue–not only in politics…but even if I just post serious issues–I get zero reaction from my 400 plus so-called ‘friends’?”
I thought about that for a very long time. Finally, I gave an answer:
It’s too hard to connect in a post reply. There’s too much to say, and it’s too easy to be misunderstood. It’s just too risky.
In reality, I didn’t want to say something that was going to label me, endanger a relationship I cherished, or kick off any social media drama that I wasn’t committed to addressing. I didn’t want to “quip it”. I wanted to get into it heart-to-heart so the other person could see me, and see I loved them. So they could hear that what I said meant just that and nothing more. So they would know that I respected their right to think and feel, even if I didn’t agree, and that I wanted the same consideration from them.
That was so lame.
It was lame because being silent, although easy, thwarted my goals to connect and learn. It didn’t allow us a chance to explore the issues together, and it allowed me to avoid putting the effort into our authentic relationship. Most of all, it didn’t give me a chance to trust that our love could withstand our opinions. Not our friendship, but our love. I’m talking about what’s real.
Midlife freedom is about getting our space back. Sometimes that means we have to step outside our comfort zone and trust ourselves. We have to speak up, establish boundaries, take action. We shouldn’t expect someone else to do it for us. We have to want it enough, and believe that we’re worth our own effort. And we have to be willing to face the fallout.