Honesty Holds the Power for Change

Quinlan’s Version of Empathy
January 2017
We live in a world where the human experience is on display more than ever before. The access to each other’s lives is through ways that never used to exist, thus the way we speak to each other’s lives is also much more prevalent. All sorts of issues that used to be left to “better behind closed doors” now have names, faces, and stories associated with it. As someone who really enjoys social media and finds it an important tool to speak to the human experience, I embrace this life. But there are still many others due to access, faith, origin, or just plain old personality who don’t connect to this world and would much prefer we all keep a little closer to ourselves. Specifically the male species comes to mind – but their lack of connecting isn’t the result of a missing need to share – its just the default that if you aren’t interested in sharing than you probably aren’t going to seek out those who do share.  As in all parts of life, there is both good and bad for speaking out and staying locked up. But there is no debating that when someone who isn’t expected to necessarily speak up does, we all stop and listen and an opportunity for true conversation is born.

Tony Reali, ESPN newscaster, opened up about the loss of one twin son and the premature birth of the other. Over here we are a bit of ESPN connoisseurs (Danny officially and myself by forced indoctrination) and I can’t say this is the first emotional topic I have heard them address. In fact, I can think of some truly beautiful moments that have taken place on this channel relating to childhood illness, newscasters taken too early by illness, or in response to school shootings. These mostly gentleman are professionals, who have the skill of speaking to an audience and have built a career off their ability to connect. Many of the tributes are earnest and beautiful – but very expected. Tony’s was different. It was not practiced, measured, or without struggle. For someone I have seen never be at a loss of words, an impressively fast talker, and the ability to make a point in under the allotted segment time – this message was raw, was real, and it was perfect.

Of course anything Tony could have said would be appreciated because he choose to exit his grief, express his appreciation for the kindness he has received, and share a bit of his experience with the public. But it was especially beautiful thanks to the message he choose to really send – grief is a part of the human experience. Being OK not being OK is a way of life. In a world where lives are so very exposed – but often hidden behind a filter of perfection – we have lost the ability to accept the uncomfortable. Which is pretty insane when you think about it because if your alive its gonna be uncomfortable at some point. We can’t wrap that up in a pretty bow… we can’t practice a speech enough to hide the truth…. we can’t choose to ignore that life is hard. But somehow we try. Tony didn’t try and as a man who lives in a world of tough guys sports I thought it was pretty awesome that he was just emotionally honest.

As my day went on and I thought about his short but powerful message that was gaining traction with social media and news outlets, I wondered if he felt strong. Sure, he mostly feels what he expresses in the message – a sad dance between grief and joy. But in the moments where he is scrolling through the responses or seeing the world’s reaction – is he glad he used this moment to speak up? Likely, with his job he knows that with each opportunity you take to share an opinion there will be folks that love what you say and those that pick it a part. Maybe he knows to stay off Twitter, but what about the well intended neighbor or the long time friend who chooses to reach out and then in the discomfort of the situation says the wrong thing? You know the “well at least you have one baby” or  “don’t miss out on the happy moments being sad” or “why did you even go back to work or say anything at all – whose business is it anyway”? These comments aren’t necessarily coming from a mean place, but I would venture to say the are coming from an uncomfortable place.  Folks don’t know what to say in the lack of picture perfect, so they try and say the thing that will press you away from the messy.  Again, we live in a world where our lives are an open book, and people don’t like the idea that its not all gonna be ok.

We have walked our own version of messy and one of my greatest regrets is the time spent cleaning it up for others. “Danny will be ok….. he always is”….. “Our time to be parents will come – we get it”….. “I know, I married for love and sometimes that gets you in trouble”…. people don’t like different, they don’t like things they don’t understand and the certainly don’t like having to be the one sitting in the dark with you. In fact they don’t like it so much they assume their proper role is the silver lining finder! As I reflected on Tony’s words I wondered what crazy things folks are saying to him to offer that silver lining, even when he has told the whole world he is choosing to not be Ok.

So that begs the question, as someone who loves the world of social media, opts to blog and open her life up, and seeks to continue to share our tough stuff to help others….. how can I be so down on how people react? Do I actually think this world of open that we all have found ourselves in is a good thing? The answer is yes, I do because for all the silver lining finders – I have also come to learn about the power in siting in someone’s grief with them. Recently a sweet friend burst into tears as she told me they were expecting, because she knows how this can make myself and others feel. Here is a sports macho man who is being celebrated for basically saying life is a mess and he embraces the tragedy and the beauty. Today I listened to a podcast that was all about the importance of the words we use when accepting a compliment that encourages connections instead of combating it. For all the exchanges of words that can be insensitive (purposely or not) we are also creating opportunities where the bearing of each other’s insides helps us be compassionate.  We are inviting people in to understand our pain and embrace it with us. We are bonding and it is creating a more real, more honest, and more empathetic world. What power exists from just being honest.

Thank you to Tony for sharing his experience in what is such a precious moment of his family’s life. And if you can, continue to share your story….. the honesty can help change the world.

Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!

3 thoughts on “Honesty Holds the Power for Change

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