A few hours ago, I received an email from a good friend letting me know that my Instagram photo was triggering her and that she needed to unfollow me so it would not pop up on her screen.
I had taken that pic on my way to the corner store last week while wearing a soft green face mask, and I liked the way it looked. Something about being "veiled" reminded me of dear friends I met across the world, and well, my hair looked darn good, too.
But the photo had triggered her, and while she was in no way asking me to remove it, she wanted me to know why she had unfollowed me. Seeing my face wearing a mask made her feel uneasy.
Two thoughts showed up for me, pretty much at the same time.
1) well, go ahead then.
2) no way do I want to make you feel uncomfortable. It's not worth it to me.
Either way, I was really happy that she had taken the time to tell me. True friendships give us permission to share our tender spots, and I love that.
I swapped it for a photo of me eating ice cream and my hair in a frizz.
Then I forgot about it.
An hour later, I miss a call from another friend about some business. I listen to his voicemail, and before getting down to his reason for calling, he lets me know that he had seen a photo of me online and that he thought I really looked amazing, and that he loved how I was "celebrating my wild hair." He then went on to say that he almost left a comment on what a hottie I was but figured that it would be a bit creepy. Good call.
I call him back, we take care of the business part, and then I ask him if he was talking about my photo with the mask. "Hmmm... " he says. I don't remember a mask. "I just know you looked great."
Still, on a hunch that it might have been the infamous pic, I text it to him, and he responds with a "Yes! That's the one! I had not even noticed that you were wear wearing a mask."
Oh, I love this.
So, putting aside the whole social media batch of weirdness (it started sounding odd while I was writing this. What a strange world... ) I am gleaning a few gems from this morning's interactions.
Gem #1 - I love having relationships where we can share how we feel, not necessarily asking for a change, but just saying, "Hey, this feels uncomfortable to me." Even if we don't always know why. It's also pretty great to take the time to do this instead of just disappearing.
Gem #2 - I love being able to choose to make a small change that will make someone feel more at ease, without feeling as though I am submitting. I think that for right now, this is a pretty great tool.
Gem #3 - We all make sense. Once I asked my friend what had triggered her, one of the things she was able to explain to me was that she was feeling isolated already and so that seeing only half of my face on her screen felt sad to her. If I had not asked her, I would not have known, and I could have made assumptions. Yes, we all make sense all the time. The trick is to feel safe enough to share that sense and to have friends curious enough to ask for it.
Gem #4 - We all see things differently. My woman friend, when looking at that photo, saw mostly the mask and how it was taking away our connection. My guy friend did not even remember that there was a mask. He saw my eyes, and he saw my hair. And bless his heart, he found the whole thing pleasing (yes, he did say hot. I am going to bless his heart twice just for that).
Right now, a lot of us are fragile and tender. Things are inflamed, and we are more likely to be triggered. What a great time to be each other's soft place to land.
What a great time to be safely vulnerable to each other.
What a great time to pay attention to what matters and what does not.