I was reflecting on mental wellness struggles (those in our house and in the lives of friends) lately when I saw this article in the Huffington Post: “What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness?” It struck me how much of the article was true, but more than that, it reminded me of a related kind of problem: when people only want to see our rainbows, but we are currently walking in mud puddles.
What I mean by that is this: So many times we hunger for a reciprocal connection in our relationships where we can tell about our entire day, not just the rainbow parts. Granted, a certain portion of our relationships are not going to go that deep. We can’t possibly maintain them all on that level. But there can be an overall sense of “checking in” with folks and only listening for the positive and ignoring the negative. In this blog post, I ask the question:
Is that wrong?
I’m not saying we should dwell on the bad stuff; however, if someone is in a season of months of chemotherapy, we might not want to go on and on about how good we feel (rainbows) and then shut the conversation down when they might want to vent for a second about how discouraged they feel (mud puddles). Balance is awesome.
In a word, this is about depth, but it’s also about with whom we can be real. We often know when our conversation needs to end at “Yeah, overall, we’re good” and when we can take it further and talk about the more raw stuff, the failure that just happened, the bump in our road, the learning experience. So many times people want to know why they are the last to know a sad, difficult, frustrating, devastating moment in our lives, but when we’ve tried in the past to go there, they really only wanted to hear the fluff.
Don’t get me wrong: My fluff conversations definitely serve a purpose. We can’t be meaty/heavy all of the time. But when someone has no interest beyond our rainbows and can’t handle our mud puddles, they tend to end up in the “last to know” pile because:
If you are there when the mud splashes all over me, and I don’t look too pretty and feel a bit like a fool—
you will be there for me when I have a bigger, harder thing to tell you, and I know you are safe in the rough waters.
If you only want to talk about kittens and lollipops under the rainbow, we can certainly do that because celebrating the sweet things is definitely an important part of life—
but you may find yourself on the other side of the line when my Mud Stomping Peeps rally during a heartache, and I don’t want you to feel left out, but you might feel that way anyway.
And if Rainbow Walkers are okay with that, I’m learning to be good with that too.
I love the people in life who are really good at celebrating and pointing out positive things. It can be a bright light to keep us focusing on our blessings. It has tremendous value in our lives—as long as we can “get real” once in a while during a mud puddle moment and not be dismissed.
When people tell me, “Oh, good, I’m so glad that’s all better now,” when they didn’t convey in some tiny way that they walked the pain with me, it can sometimes feel dismissive, as if that chapter they couldn’t walk through with me didn’t matter, but
maybe, just maybe,
their role is to cheerlead only, from the rainbow side—to celebrate our walking out.
The only time this breaks down for me is people claiming they strolled through mud puddles with us when they are clearly still under the rainbow waiting for us to bebop back over in the form of our happier selves. If we’re Rainbow Walkers, let’s at least just be honest about it.
I love being in the rainbow. I love my happier self. But I can’t always take a stroll with people if they need to remain there and can’t walk over to the mud puddle once in a while to help someone else out. I am very happy to meet them back in Rainbow World, though, when I get out of the mud puddle, or when I get back from visiting someone else in his/her puddle.
Certainly, we strive for the rainbow, but mud is also present, and we all get stuck in it now and again. The rainbow reminds us there is hope and encourages us to look up when the mud is thick and seemingly holding us down.
Some thoughts to ponder when relationships feel strained:
- Where can we look at our relational hurts or disappointments and consider if we have been a Rainbow Walker or Mud Stomper with a friend/family member? Maybe we’ve been both! 🙂
- If we feel cast out or not in the know, where can we examine our communication and what we perhaps convey? Do we want to walk over to someone’s mud puddle, or keep our distance but support them when they get back to the rainbow?
- If we feel safer dancing in rainbows, because that’s how we roll, that’s completely fine, but then can we accept that we may feel excluded when the march took a detour through some cloudier paths for a while?
It’s all about expectations—what role we play in any given relationship. It always is.
And understanding this distinction always helps me to keep my expectations where they should be, whenever I consider my role in the relationship and the role the other person also plays.
I used to get mad when people only wanted to see my rainbows, but now I realize they are there holding a place, and it’s okay if their feet didn’t get muddy yet.
Because I know muddy pretty well by now, and I know exactly how to bring them back to their rainbow when they find themselves in sludge they have never navigated before.
And when we get back to the rainbow, there will be a Rainbow Walker holding a place for us.
According to the Apostle Paul, from a Christian perspective, we each have something to give. Some cheerlead on the sidelines beckoning to the rainbow, and some walk into the mud to remind the mud dweller that there will be rainbow days again,
but until there are,
the Mud Stomper comes into the mess and says:
“Here I am.”
I believe Jesus was both.
Romans 12:4-13, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Genesis 9:12-13, Moses narrating, ESV
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
More on navigating relationships with healthy boundaries and much grace can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.
This blog can also be found at Simply Inspired Wednesdays.