By Malkie Hirsch
Oftentimes, when I’m approached by someone about my writing or my social media platform, they’ll use the words “real,” “raw,” or “honest” to describe my writing, content, or my overall self.
It’s always flattering to hear praise, but I also wonder about this particular compliment: honesty. Is general dishonesty so widespread? How many people are walking around lying to others about who they really are? Or even to themselves?
Are people ashamed when their life doesn’t seem as perfect as they hoped? Is that what their desire is? To curate the type of life or life image that others envy? Will that make their problems go away?
I wonder if putting those words—raw, real, honest—into their description of how I seem to them implies that my life is deeply flawed and yet I still seem happy and content with it all.
Maybe they’re surprised that someone who lives through loss has the ability to work on things, introspect, and conclude that, despite all, things are still good. And that despite it all, there are still many reasons to be happy and grateful.
Once upon a time, I, too, hid my problems. The things people didn’t see once the door to my house closed. Most people who don’t experience a very public tragedy have the luxury to hide the things they don’t want others to see and therefore can make believe don’t exist.
But who are you protecting by lying to yourself to save face for others’ sake? Why do they matter more than you?
People can paint the picture of perfection on the outside and seem believable until the day something major happens, that leave friends and acquaintances shaking their head, whispering to one another that they had no idea that was happening.
I think that’s what drove me to be open and honest once things over here got majorly shook up. Instead of hiding from how I felt, I decided that it felt way better to clarify and explain the different stages we were going through.
As a result I started hearing from a lot of people in a variety of ways—in private, in passing, on my page, in letters, and in person.
When I’d ask my therapist friend why so many people felt the need to reach out, she replied that people tend to associate shame with the feelings of loneliness, dread, or general sadness. But when someone opens up about those feelings and makes it OK to talk about them, it creates a dialogue among us that’s imperative to communicate.
Those who pretend these feelings don’t exist in their lives in some capacity are not only lying to others, but also to themselves.
As an aside, I do understand that some people prefer processing these feelings in a private setting and I totally respect that. The feelings need to be identified, acknowledged, and dealt with; there is a host of ways to address those feelings.
And while there are many ways to go about resolving, communicating, and identifying our issues, my way has become a public affair of sorts, and not because it’s what I needed to be heard or understood, either.
It’s because when I saw and heard from the majority of people who felt validated and comforted knowing that they weren’t alone in their individual problems once they saw an example of someone who might have it harder than them and is still able to live life, I felt that there was a real need for this type of openness.
There should never be any shame in showing others who you are and the struggles you went through to become that person. On the contrary, that can make you stronger and more resilient. Your story and your path can give others the strength they need to embark on their own journey. Why not provide someone with that type of encouragement?
Purim is a holiday when we celebrate a saga that was happening totally behind the scenes until it exploded into a near genocide and a strategic salvation. Esther seemed to have won a coveted royal role, when all she really wanted to was to get away. She never asked for this hero’s journey, but ultimately responded to the call: “Who knows if this moment is the whole reason you became royalty?” She had masked her identity, tried to stay hidden, like her name. But then it became necessary to tell her story; she had an opportunity to take a chance, to risk everything in order to help her nation, to save others. And her story is literally canonized for us to keep learning infinitely. The rabbis teach that even after all other holidays become obsolete, Purim and Megillas Esther will continue on. That’s how powerful this message is.
A few weeks ago, my friend sent me a poem on Instagram that perfectly describes the type of person I tend to be. The type of person I seek out in friendships and the ones who live through the messiness of life unapologetically and honestly. Those who can remove the masks of public image and speak out even about the pain and the messy, in order to share and make meaning for themselves and for others.
They live their lives for themselves, and that ultimately benefits others. And because of that, they attract people who seek that same truth in themselves.
“I like the messy people. The ones so open and pure, they don’t know all the etiquette and codes of life that are out there, daring to feel the full terror and wonder of existence, and often get a bit broken along the way. I like the teacup with a chip in it. That’s the one with a story.”—Matt Haig
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of just 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.