My Dear Ivy,
In these last few letters I’ve talked about creating and enjoying what you create, and about feeling and exploring what you feel.
There’s a common theme there, that I want to take a moment to talk about in this next letter.
I want you to learn how to share.
Now, this is something lots of people say about their toddlers: “I want them to learn how to share.” And when they say it, they mean something totally different than I do! I’m not talking about “things” or possessions. I am totally fine with you learning that there are some things that are “yours” that nobody else has any business expecting you to share with them.
When I say I want you to learn how to “share,” I mean that I want you to learn how to see past the temptation to bottle everything up and keep it to yourself.
This is another one I’m pretty bad at, myself. I like to create things, but I also like to hoard them, tinker with them until they’re exquisitely perfect, and then keep them hidden somewhere without ever sharing them. I want you to learn how to share your joys and your accomplishments with the world.
I also want you to learn how to share those things that are not quite so joyful. This ties into what I wrote in an earlier letter about asking for help when you need it. There are times when it becomes really, really important to ask for help, not just with the things you’re trying to accomplish, but with the things you are feeling as well. It’s really, really easy to get into a place where you think you’re the only one who could possibly feel the way you do right now. And I promise you, it’s almost never true. Just as there is always someone out there who may have insights into how you can more effectively or easily do what you’re trying to do, there is always someone out there who may have insights into processing what you’re feeling as well.
Sometimes that person might be me, or your mom. Sometimes it may be somebody else. But I want you to cultivate the practice of sharing. Share what you have done, and seen. But share too in the times when you feel you cannot do, or see.
Remember what I wrote earlier about finding, and holding, your self? I wrote that it’s impossible to share your self until you’ve found it. But that implies that it is, in fact, a desirable thing to get to a point of sharing your self.
We talked in an earlier letter about “intimacy,” and how in order to share your self, you must first know yourself. But it’s really easy to skip that step and jump to sharing some sort of half-realized caricature of your self. Don’t fall into that trap. Let the self you share with another be a fully-realized version of you, not a pretend version you dress up to look like what you think the other person wants to see.
This one is really, really hard in today’s culture. We have so many avenues for sharing with each other – especially on social media. But these tools for sharing make it far too easy to curate what we share so that it’s filtered down only into what we want others to see. This gives us the illusion that we know the person on the other end of the “friendship,” when what we really know is simply the aspects of their lives that they have chosen to share.
I want you to learn how to share – really share, your self: your insights, accomplishments, and feelings. But I want you to share your whole self, rather than the pretend version.
Because I can tell you from personal experience that once you wear a mask long enough, it becomes easier and easier to forget that it’s a mask at all. If you get into the habit of sharing only what you think others want to see, you’ll eventually reach the point I did, where you come to think that version is all that you are.
I promise you, it’s not. And I promise you that I, at least, always want to see the real, unvarnished, uncurated you.
And know this, as well: When I say that I love you, I don’t mean that I love some online version of you, or some version that consists only of the things that make me smile, or some version of you that only ever says or does what I want you to do, all the time.
I love you. All of you. All the time.