By Kate Rope, editorial director of the Seleni Institute, a nonprofit mental health and wellness center for women and mothers in New York City.
It's the time of year when I start getting holiday cards from my really organized friends. You know, the ones who scheduled a professional photographer or snagged a few minutes with a talented friend, wrestled their kids into festive duds and clicked enough shots to get the one that makes their family look pretty darn perfect. We put them up on our front door to begin our holiday decorating season.
Later, the letters start coming in -- two-page typed missives that fill me in on all the things my friends and family were doing over the past year while we were too busy to talk. These highlight reels are wonderful -- and terrible -- because in their polished, thoughtful reflection, they turn the life of a frenzied, imperfect woman and family into the portfolio of SuperMom and her SuperBrood.
Like a browse through a peppy Facebook feed or a college alumni magazine, accomplishments at the speed of bullet points can be downright intimidating. They are also only one way to view the year you have had.
Given our evolutionary bias to remember negative experiences, walking back through the last 12 months to find all the things you can feel proud about is a good psychic exercise for any family to go through. As a member of the easy to self-criticize species Modernus motherus, I know how beneficial that can be.
But it's also not the whole picture. Equally important is acknowledging the mess and muck of life and normalizing the lows we all go through as an inevitable (and sometimes even beautiful) part of being (or raising) a human being.
As I look back on the year I've had, I'd like to think that embracing the hard times along with the good will bring me closer to accepting my entire experience and to making the struggle as natural a part of life as the accomplishments.
One of the primary goals of all mental health organizations such as Seleni is to lower the stigma of needing help. And one of the first steps is to normalize difficulty. If we could all openly admit to -- and share -- the times when we are having trouble, then it's much easier for everyone to ask for help when it's needed.
To that end, here's a few lowlights from the year that will probably not make it into my holiday card:
- Urgent care trip #1: Split my chin open and wrenched my thumb on a dry Texas riverbed during a girls' weekend away. (See pic!)
We invite you to take a moment to think of one or find a pic and join me and the Seleni Institute in putting together an altogether different kind of holiday memory: #holidaycardcut. See how here.
This article was originally published on the Seleni Institute website. Seleni is a nonprofit mental health and wellness center providing clinical services, research funding, and online information and support for women and mothers. You can follow Seleni on Twitter @selenidotorg and the author @katerope.