Every summer, my youngest gets so excited to find handfuls of sand along the water with “bivalffves”. She means bivalves, of course. She lets the wet sand drip from her palms as the tiny mollusks try to dig below the surface in a hurry. Occasionally, the bivalve’s tongue will appear and she’ll laugh about it “licking it’s lips” before abandoning that handful of sand for a new one in the surf; always in search of new sea life. I’ve always been fascinated by the bivalves- the tiny little clamshells stay closed so tightly, yet once the animal within is a seagull’s dinner, the shells open flat. The inside is bright white, revealing everything–which is nothing. The shells no longer have this mysterious personality; it’s just a shell.
It’s so easy to get caught up with comparison through social media. Plenty of days, I’ve assumed everyone else is having all the fun while I’m cleaning up dog puke and dust bunnies that overstayed their welcome. Friends photos of perfectly assembled bruschetta and chilled white wine by candlelight at some quirky hipster joint have made me feel inferior as I scrolled with fingers sticky from my peanut butter and jelly dinner. My mismatched socks making me feel even more worthless; as if finished, matched and put-away laundry was the bellwether of success (Is it? I’ll never know). My kids watching TV and arguing, the dogs tugging at a hand towel that somehow made it to the floor. Everyone else looks shiny and clean and is going cool places, eating even cooler food, with other well-adjusted and excited people. Without me, while I sit here sulking in my stupid socks with my dinner fit for a 4 year old.
It’s nothing more than reveal vs. conceal. We only see what they’ll reveal– and by nature, animals tend to hide weakness. What they’ll conceal is far more telling and important sometimes. We keep our mollusk shells tightly closed and safe, not opening up because doing so may leave us vulnerable to attack. I’m not sure if it’s age, maturity, clarity or perhaps just not caring anymore, but I’ve realized I’ve shifted toward not caring if predators wait in the shadows. I’m okay with opening up- I can and do reveal what feels weak sometimes because I’ve learned that that soft interior is what can connect people. It’s scary as hell to be real, to be open and just be okay with that. My mollusk metaphor might end here because well, opening up for a mollusk usually means death, but if I want to stretch it, I could say that it then becomes part of something larger. Being real and open about my struggles has gained me far more friends than enemies… and more than that, it’s given me reassurance that my own little messes are no different from anyone else’s. I should never assume I’m the only one with these quirky doubts or hangups. Sometimes I’m the only one talking about them– but maybe that’s because it’s my day to be open and someone else’s day to try to open up.
Reveal who you are, don’t conceal yourself. If someone wants to use it against you, it’s only because they’re trying to pad their own fall. Let them decorate their shell with all the junk they want, no matter what, it’s on them. See what this connection can do for you. It’s often silent work beneath the sand, but when people can sense that you’re genuine, and imperfect like them, it makes it easier on everyone.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go dig up my old Ween CD’s and listen to ‘Mollusk’.