The lady clutching the cat food behind me in line was trying to decide if she was disgusted or intrigued. I glanced at her a few times, but had to admit I really did not care. She was just going to have to wait a moment.
The woman running the register leaned a little closer towards me and her shoulders told the story of a heavy burden and years of feeling defeated. Her voice was a little shaky as she recounted exactly why her boyfriend of 9 years had left her. She repeated back every hurtful thing he had said and that was a lot of talking.
Almost a decade of her emotional and verbal abuse came spilling out in that brief meeting. All because when I stepped up with my purchases and asked how she was; she said she was “Fine” and I called her a liar. I left with my dog bones, a receipt and her name scrawled on a piece of paper to follow up with her and help her with a support group.
This happens to me a lot. Painful conversations that need to be had at the oddest times and places. At first I would joke that I must have a neon sign around me that says “Therapist,” but now I know it’s because I let my skeletons out to dance.
Years ago, I had my whole closet of skeletons emptied and put on display. It hurt. It was shameful. It was the best thing that ever happened. I had felt like I had fought them for so long to keep them a secret and then one day, all the secrets were out and I had to decide what to do with them.
I can recognize pain in someone’s eyes. I can hear the lie behind “I am fine.” It’s not because I have a superpower, (because I really wouldn’t have picked that one at of the superpower grab box) it’s because I have been there and sometimes I still struggle. I’ve come to realize that the line “Everybody is fighting a battle” is true; for each one of us with no exclusions. I’ve also learned that the only way for us to fight a battle and win is to be together. The first step towards putting our shame behind us usually starts with hearing “me too” and knowing you are not alone.
Our stories, our messes, our struggles and our wins are not for ourselves. You begin to understand life when you realize it has very little to do with you. It’s not about serving yourself, but in how you spend your time serving others.
Pretending you have your perfect life and keeping your skeletons locked away is not how you win at life. Sure, we all have our high moments when it all seems put together, but just as equally you will have your bad times. The times when you are learning a lesson or just plain hurting. But you and everyone around you have something in common; skeletons.
The first time I let my skeleton out to dance, I was shopping at a department store for a new dress. A lady came up to ask if I was finding everything and asked how I was that day. Oh, I was struggling that day. Struggling with my abusive relationship. Struggling with my non-verbal daughter getting the help she needed. Struggling with family relationships. Struggling to even like myself. Instead of saying “I’m fine,” I told the truth. An hour later, I had a friend who was dealing with a lot of the same things. We still keep in contact today and we’ve both seen how the truth about life can set you free.
I’m not recommending that you just indiscriminately throw everything out there for the world, but if you open yourself up to not being “fine” and not being “perfect;” you will learn you aren’t alone.
By letting your skeletons out to dance, you will come to meet people who so desperately need to open up. For me, it lets me see those who are struggling with life and allows me to share my life story. Each time I am able to share my story, I am serving the purpose of my life. I am allowing my messes to be used as God’s message and my tests as God’s testimony of how you can be forgiven, full of grace and renewed.
The waitress who took my order.
The drive-thru kid who handed me my coffee.
The lady at the register ringing up my dog bones.
The woman at the jewelry store who sized my ring.
The guy who happened to be putting up his buggy at the same time I did.
So many people we make face contact with daily. Usually we head-nod, smile or try to look distracted. What if we were to make heart contact instead? What if we truly looked around us with the knowledge that everyone is fighting a battle? What if you decided that this life isn’t about you, but what you can give to them?