If this is “happy talk,” I’m a fan

by Kristin on May 9, 2011

in Love, family & community

Photo by edenpictures

I must have been feeling extra sensitive last week, because someone accused me of “happy talk” and it just about sidelined me. I was so indignant I could hardly do more than sputter when I tried to tell Jason.

“A commenter over at Huffington Post accused me of happy talk!” I told him. “Happy talk! I am writing about how complex divorce is, and how much hard work it requires to make things right, and she says I’m coating the problems of divorce with ‘pink candy!’ Can you believe it?”

As I later realized, after some deep breaths, it’s a pretty funny thing to get worked up about. (Would I rather be accused of writing “sad talk?”) To be fair to me, I’m pretty sure the commenter didn’t intend “happy talk” as a compliment—not the first time she wrote it or the other half dozen times she came back to stick it to me again, in various ways.

Are silver linings just a sham?

The post was about ways to smooth the often bumpy summer logistics of blended families. In addition to “happy talk,” it got me accused of “denial,” a “1970s philosophy” (huh?), and not knowing “what the real world is like.” As someone who has been divorced, struggled with depression, survived single parenting, and had my fair share of “ugly issues” with my ex-husband, I guess I have a right to claim I know something about the real world.

But to be fair to the commenter, I did suggest in the article that there is a silver lining to all this mess—in this case, a great learning opportunity for everyone to practice and model communication, compromise and compassion. And that silver lining seems to be what she took the greatest issue with. (In fact, she wrote “there simply are no silver linings.”) For someone who has been through a divorce and never recognized (or maybe even hoped for) a silver lining, that could be a very tough thing to hear and accept.

A messy situation, redeemed (not candy-coated)

I admit—in many ways my life today seems too good to be true. But there’s no candy-coating the darkest moments of my life. For starters, the good isn’t a coating at all, it’s pure to the core. The good doesn’t erase or even cover the hard things—the two sit side-by-side: I know the pain, but I also know the healing. I know the hurt and the forgiveness. I know the loss of love, but also the discovery of a love better than I ever could have hoped for. I know what it is to be angry at God, but I also know the power of opening myself up to a redeemed, more whole life. There is the good and the bad—the good is just bigger, and has an irresistible sheen.

That’s why I try to write about both, but in the end, my goal is to leave hurting, weary, worried people with more hope than fear for their futures. More healing than hurt. More “happy talk” than “sad talk.” I will always do my best to give you “real talk,” but if you’re looking for something more down-and-out, you’re not going to find it here.

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  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    I for one am thankful for your “happy talk.” Stories of redemption are things that we need to hear. Hurt that doesn’t produce hope feels so meaningless.

    I love that you are honest not only about the negative things that have happened to you, but that you’re honest about the good things about it as well. That’s healthy. I’m sorry that some want you to feel guilty always, but I’m glad that you simply refuse to do that.

    I’m thankful that there’s no limit on who is allowed to be happy.

  • Elaine Tolsma-Harlow

    Keep giving me your happy talk! I have been one who is grateful for the gift of hope, without it I couldn’t have put one foot in front of the other.

    Two lines in Mumford & Sons song, “After the Storm”, come to mind. Night always pushes up day & we can’t know life without decay.

    Thanks for your story that has darkness & then light.

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    It sounds like the commenter is projecting her own current emotions onto you — she’s only seeing your post through the lenses of her pain.

  • Kirstin

    How dare you write about divorce without mirroring the agendas of every angry divorced person (or happily married person) who reads your HuffPost columns! The nerve!

    Sheesh. Happy talk? Really? The kinds of negotiations you describe sound to me potentially painful, contentious, uncomfortable, and totally necessary, and it doesn’t sound like your commenter has any particularly useful advice about how to go forward WITHOUT having those conversations, where they are possible.

    That said, in the online world, some conversations only serve to feed the narcissism of people who are uninterested in any other viewpoint than their own. There’s sometimes something to be said for passive disengagement. FWIW.

  • http://www.ordinarymer.com Meredith

    I agree with The Modern Gal – it seems as if this particular commenter had a very narrow view of things and maybe even had an agenda for posting such harsh comments.

    I like the “happy talk.” I think it’s far too easy to get caught up in what’s wrong, what’s bad, what’s sad, etc. Reminding ourselves that there is still good can be more difficult, but much more rewarding.

  • http://www.messiahmom.wordpress.com kristinherdy

    I’ve written posts on my own blog that some have accused of making divorce sound too rosy. Am I supposed to stay miserable forever? If I do move on, am I supposed to think back nostalgically to when I wallowed in depressed thinking or back even farther to when I was in a marriage the left me desolate and miserable?

    How long am I supposed to beat myself up over the “sin” of divorce?

  • http://www.hopefulleigh.blogspot.com HopefulLeigh

    We can choose to learn from each situation or not. We can also choose our attitude and response. While it’s perfectly right to be angry, hurt, and upset at times, I don’t think we’re meant dwell on those emotions, primarily because they will likely only drag us further down. By acknowledging that good can come from bad, we are free to move forward and continue learning. You responded so graciously to that commenter and you have graciously explored this further here. You have more than met your goal, friend.

  • http://www.theupsidedownpastorswife.blogspot.com Shanda Sargent

    Kristin, I am standing up and cheering for you right now!!! Can you hear it?? People who have never walked through difficulty~ honestly and transparently~ simply have no clue at all what you are talking about!! They have NO IDEA that arriving on the other side of brokenness actually makes you stronger, deeper, more compassionate, and dare I say it…. a better person for it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! My brokenness is not divorce, but believe me, I have been to the depths of hell and back, and dragged my beloved right along with me. When you have experienced TRUE redemption from such a place, you realize
    you couldn’t have gotten to the *AMAZING* other side ANY other way!!!!!! That, my friend, is the BEST silver lining of them all. We shouldn’t be surprised when we continue to experience difficulty, either. I think it’s those with pliable hearts that GOD allows to experience such things… Perhaps we are more moldable?? Everyone has brokenness. EVERYONE! It just depends what you do with it that makes the difference. You can either ignore it, and spin a web of lies to cover your brokenness, but hiding behind that facade just creates even more brokenness…. Or you can get gut wrenching honest about it, and let yourself be transformed by it! God grant mercy for all….. <3 LOVED YOUR POST!!!!!!! p.s. Sorry that I'm a little exclamation point happy~ this is definitely something that makes me "pound the table."

  • http://www.theupsidedownpastorswife.blogspot.com Shanda Sargent

    @Kirstin I am stunned that you would leave a post on someone’s blog, and expect to be “heard” by starting off with the words, “How dare you…”

    Bear with one another in love…. Even on a blog, kindness matters. Bloggers are “real” people, living “real” life, who have graciously allowed us to peek into their own personal journeys….. whether we agree, or understand their lives or not, we can share our points and concerns graciously.

  • Kirstin

    @Shanda: Did you read the whole comment? I was being ironic. Of course Kristin “dares”–that’s what makes her blog and her HuffPost essays so awesome.

  • http://www.theupsidedownpastorswife.blogspot.com Shanda Sargent

    @kirstin OHHHH whew!!! My apologies! Yes, I did read your comment, but when I saw “How dare you”… I read it in “light” of that. MY apologies, truly! I’m sorry…. :( I guess I should just stick to my own comments. I almost didn’t comment, but I knew how bothered Kristin was about last week… Well, my heart just got in the way.

    BTW, she is “daring”….it’s awesome! And we NEED her voice! :)

    Blessings, Kirstin! I truly am sorry….. <3

  • Kirstin

    @Shanda no harm done! It was a strange choice of words, I admit. In fact, if I had been commenting on someone else’s blog, I probably would have phrased the comment difficulty! I’m a little more inclined to let my snarky ‘tude fly when responding to someone like Kristin, whom I’ve met. But your well-intended point is worth bearing in mind–the need to err, always, on the side of kindness and comprehensibility. :-)

  • Kirstin

    *differently*, not difficulty

  • http://www.theupsidedownpastorswife.blogspot.com Shanda Sargent

    @Kirstin, blessings to you, and have a great afternoon/evening! I now have a new “bloggy” friend through all of this! Your heart shines through, beautifully and graciously! <3 :)

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Alise, I’d like to have this on a bumper sticker or something: “Hurt that doesn’t produce hope seems so meaningless.” Thanks for being a fan of all aspects of redemption stories.

    Elaine, you called it a “gift of hope,” and I think that’s exactly right–the hope I have is a gift given to me, so it’s one I feel responsible to pass on, in gratitude. I’m glad you (and many others) understand the darkness and the light.

    The Modern Gal, yes, after I pushed past my own indignation I realized that she is really hurting, and hasn’t experienced the healing I have.

    Kirstin, ha! This experience is a good reminder that each divorced person’s circumstances are so unique–from the cause of divorce to how recent it was to how well we get along with our ex (if at all). I guess that’s why each person is responsible for telling their own story, to the people who most need to hear it. (And yes to the need for passive disengagement from time to time! It goes against my instincts, but when I can achieve it I’m always glad I did.)

    Meredith, there’s something about what you’re saying that makes me think about the power of gratitude journals and practices–how thinking about and acknowledging what you’re thankful for can change your mental makeup. I often try to get my daughter to change her perspective on a day–to recognize what went wrong but then focus on what went right.


  • http://www.askmeaboutmydivorce.com Candace Walsh

    I just read your post, and my mouth is hanging open. How could ANYONE take issue with it? It’s like, the most grown-up, rational thing I’ve ever read on HuffPo. As friends of mine get published on NYT and HP, I watch them get affected by the ridonkulous moronic element who spend the day throwing petty, vicious stink bombs at people who have the temerity to write a nice, useful post on a major online publication’s website. Seriously take it with a grain of…not even salt. Take it with a grain of lint.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    kristinherdy, I think you’re on to something, with the whole “beating yourself up” question. It’s possible that some want divorced people to suffer the consequences. (These are perhaps the same people who think God sent the earthquake to Haiti to punish them for their “evil past.”) There was another commenter on my HuffPost piece that actually used the “you made your bed so now you get to lie in it–no whining allowed” point. At any rate, I’m glad you’ve found your way to a better place, and I hope the people who matter most are supportive.

    HopefulLeigh, you’re right–it’s fine to sit and reflect and learn from what happened, but at some point we have to move forward. When you think of the many good things that have come out of bad situations, throughout history, it seems pretty clear that’s something we should strive for and have hope in (even if we would never wish a messy situation on ourselves or anyone else).

    Shanda, thank you so much for the encouragement. You are absolutely right about not being able to “get” this sort of trial until you’ve experienced something similar–I certainly didn’t get it 10 years ago. And although I wouldn’t want to go through that time again, I also wouldn’t want to go back and be the person I was before. I am grateful for the things I learned about myself and about God, and I’m not sure I could have learned them any other way. (Btw, thanks to you and Kirstin for your grace and kindness in working out your little misunderstanding here on my blog. I have the best readers around!)

    Candace, well, that makes me feel better–your opinion matters a lot! I try to not be overly sensitive, but when a criticism seems so unfounded I do get a bit riled and defensive. (Btw, who are these people who have all day to pick on people? I’d love to see a documentary on them and how their minds work…or maybe not.)

  • Ron Simkins

    Kristin, you are absolutely right. It is possible to honestly hold the hurts and sorrows and pains of life along side the good, the joys, the beautiful, and the wonderful without being dishonest about either. I wish there was a lot more of that going on. Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://www.lifewellblended.wordpress.com Diana

    Kristen, the world is full of stories of dark, bitter and divorces fraught with contested custody battles and property divisions. We need to see the other side of this darkness and the hope and promise of a different life, without glossing over how painful it can be to get there. I think you do a good job of that. I am in a blended family with his, mine and ours. Many days even that feels challenging and leaves me wondering “what if?” But then there are those times when it feels loving, warm and right so I know that I am on the right track. Stories like yours inspire me to move ahead. Keep up with the happy talk.

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