“If we all shat on our own front lawns, the world would be a more honest place” (Tilly @1990)
This little gem often spat out of the mouth of a tiny but fiery nursing sister in the Emergency department.
Measuring no more than 5 ft, the old style aged Irish sister could relied upon for releasing a torrent of well constructed swear words in response to gratuitous requests bestowed by uninitiated doctors, managers or relatives upon the nursing team.
Over the years its one I thrown around to demonstrate how very similar most of us are, despite the pretence. The idea that all of us, like it or not have to deliver and expose our smelly, undesirable waste in the same way, whether you head is adorned by a crown or knotted handkerchief.
The honesty of our ablutions in western societies at least, is questionable. Hiding behind doors and walls it’s rare to be candid about the smells, noises and consistency of our delivery. We have adopted the rose fragrances, toilet roll and brush to help us to make the reality a little less unpleasant for those around us. Many people wont have an idea what a “healthy poo” looks like. (Curious? Have a look at the Bristol Stool Chart)
We sanitise and pretend that our shit stinks like roses. We leave behind a mask of fragrance with less attractive undertones. We continue to show this behaviour in our daily lives. How often do we automatically reply “good thanks” when being greeted by friends without ever considering if that’s the case? Why are we afraid to say, “Crap actually.” What is it that we worry about in exposing our less than perfect selves? Today’s way of life encourages us to be packaged neatly, representing ourselves as lifestyles, social media profiles, professions and instagram-able pictures from ideal home magazine. Sound bites and snapshots. Only we’re not. We are living breathing, burping, farting, feeling, messy beings. With bumps, stories, scars and histories that have shaped us into individuals. No two the same.
The pretence, the feeling of failing to measure up is literally killing people. According to 2016 statics, 1 person every 3 hours kills himself or herself in Australia. The majority are men. Suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-44 year olds. More people are killing themselves than die on our roads. Yet, road safety initiatives attract twice as much funding than suicide prevention. Devastatingly the trend is growing in our children; In 2015, 87 Australian children took their own lives. How are we teaching the kids to be comfortable recognising, asking for and accepting help? Where is the green cross code for wellbeing?
We are asking “R U OK,” but we have to prepare people how to say “No, I’m not.” Are we able to act when someone is vulnerable in that moment? We need to be strong enough to put up our own hands and say “me too.” Breaking down the stigma around being human, because after all that’s what it is; Being human includes feeling the full extent of emotions, deliriously happy times and the really shit down in the gravel times. It stops being normal when we get lost there and unable to find our own way out.
Being authentic, to ourselves, our community and especially our kids’ means letting people see a little vulnerability. Letting people know that not every day is full of rainbow poo-ing unicorns or social media worthy. Telling them that “normal” is different for everyone, that our differences are a gift and there is strength in our collective vulnerability.