We have all done it. Assumed that someone has the perfect marriage, family, home, career, life. Time has taught me to leave presumptions and assumptions at the door. I knew a successful couple through a charity I was involved in. The lady was the life of the party, hosting many events, always surrounded by people, a glass of champagne in hand. I heard that she needed to go to hospital, for surgery on what they believed was cancer. “You have to go be with her, Raphie,” a little voice insisted. I told that voice that it was silly, that she would have scores of people at the hospital as she checked in. The voice wouldn’t let me be, so I put together a little pack of toiletries and magazines, and made my way to the private hospital. I had to look twice to make sure the little hunched-over lady in the backless gown was her, sitting all alone. When she saw me, she burst into tears. She was there by herself, alright. It was then and there that I threw my presumptions regarding someone’s life into the garbage, where they belonged. The amount of times I have visited people in hospital, to have them burst into tears that somebody actually came, is astounding. We tell ourselves that we don’t want to intrude. That there will be scores of friends and family surrounding the individual. Believe me, it is often not the case.
Through the charities I have been involved in, I have learnt that many of those folks living in freshly made homes in brand new suburbs are under housing stress. They can’t afford electricity payments to their abode’s, let alone curtains. The necessities are bought on credit, and teeth are neglected, dentists considered a luxury. No life is perfect, and much is hidden from public view. It is not out of deceit. Rather, pride and bravery and temerity. Not wanting to burden others with our darkness. Sometimes, it is hard to find the words to explain what we are going through. I have been through one of the darkest times of my life in the past eighteen months. I have retreated and gone to ground, been severely depressed and had months without rest. Yet I still have commitments. I have to front up to daily activities, my makeup on, dressed in fresh clothes. You bet I smile. I contain the sadness within. I don’t want it spilling out in front of unsafe people, and within the pleasantries of a social event. There have been times I have been down to my last dollar, and wondered how on earth I was going to provide the basics that week. There have been times I have been on the floor, unable to move. There have been days when I have rocked myself on the sofa, curtains drawn. There have been times I have worked on projects for twelve hours straight, for weeks on end. When we ask if somebody is okay, we need to listen for the answer. Often its told through body language, changes in behaviour and routine. Leave your presumptions behind, and gently rap on their door. Go visit the hospital. Befriend the one who appears to have the glittering life.
When you see me about, enjoying a festival or other event, it is because I have managed to squirrel away a little money, and have found a small pocket of time to get out and relax. My child and I need the theatre and art for our oxygen, giving us the focus to stay on track regarding our goals and dreams. It is not a perfect life. It can be immensely painful, soul-destroying and sad, like any other life. So when you see the pictures on Facebook, and read the update about a friend’s holiday, perhaps spend a moment thinking of how long they have saved, what they are needing to escape from, and what is beneath the surface. We have our own Atlantis lurking beneath the image. Be kind and be alert.