Lately I’ve had trouble shaking a guilty feeling. It started a few weeks ago when I posted this photo on Facebook.
I had been Facetiming with Charley, and we were cracking up at a funny story he was telling. I loved that moment so much. I loved that we were laughing together wholeheartedly, and that our facial expressions are nearly identical. I felt so connected, unabashedly enjoying a humorous moment with this person who – at least genetically speaking — is 50% me. (I was also pretty impressed with myself that I had the wherewithal to capture the moment in a screenshot.)
But soon after I hit “post,” I started to have second thoughts about sharing that photo online. My intent was to share our joyous moment, to give people something to smile about at a time when anxiety and bad news seem to prevail. But then I started to wonder if my post might have the opposite effect. It occurred to me that some of you might look at it and wonder if something’s wrong with you because you’re not smiling, laughing, and having a grand ‘ol time.
So I want to say this clearly and emphatically: Charley is not this happy 24/7. He’s not even this happy most of the time. He’s this happy some of the time, and lately it happens a lot less frequently than it used to. The past eight months have been rough. Our family is very lucky that none of us have been sickened by COVID and our livelihood is intact, but we’re still feeling down a lot of the time. Charley in particular has had to adjust to a new reality – just when he was forming close friendships and getting into a groove with his classes and clubs at college, everything shut down. He’s now living by himself in a studio apartment and attending school virtually, a far cry from going to parties and events with friends and meeting new people every day. It’s hard, and he often feels lonely.
I thought about taking down the post. I don’t want to feed into that awful sensation that can creep over you when you scroll through your feed and it looks like everyone else is happier, healthier, and having more fun than you are. We all know that one smiling photo doesn’t tell the whole story. But especially now, it can be hard to internalize that. Almost everyone I know is feeling some form of “worse” these days, whether it’s more lonely, more sad, more anxious, or all of the above. And at a time when we’re vulnerable, it’s perfectly human to think that we’re not measuring up.
Ultimately, I decided to keep it up because it makes me happy to look at it, and I hope it will make other people happy too. To me this picture proves that you can have a lot of things ripped away from you – very important things like your social interactions, your freedom to travel, even your physical ability to do basic things like walk or prepare a meal – yet you can still feel the joy of getting lost in a hilarious moment. I just want people to remember that this is a snapshot of a singular moment in time.
So please remember this: We just happened to have a great moment, and I happened to think fast enough to capture it. I’m grateful for that, because looking at the photo helps me honor and embrace the happy moments that fill us with joy, even if that joy is fleeting.