This December, I returned to Japan, the land of perfection. People scurried through immaculate streets, their porcelain faces masking a crock pot of emotions swirling and bubbling underneath the lid. In Japan, everything is seemingly pristine from even skin tone to sushi rice formation to fully functioning families.
“Revealing too much will make you lose face,” I was told.
In that case, I am not just faceless. I am headless.
Headless except for a babbling mouth suspended from midair, unable to restrain itself from revealing the day’s events. My very being is affectionately referred to as TMI Heidi. (aka Too Much Information, will you please restrain yourself, dear God).
In Japan, TMI is frowned upon. After all, it wasn’t like the revered Samurai warriors over shared their emotional plights or career hurdles.
“Hey Kato-san, when you said I should commit hara kari, you really hurt my feelings. As you know, I’ve been battling a sense of abandonment from childhood trauma….”
In present time Japan, no one speaks much at all, especially in the elevators. People patiently line up facing the door like vertically suited sardines, silent with their hidden lives. Standing unmoving and mute, I waited for my floor to hit. I was forced to be quiet for 82 seconds- sheer torment.
For some reason I like non stop discourse with strangers and the oversharing that can come with it. I relish knowing what moves them, what bothers them, and the challenges they seek to overcome. This, to me, is humanity.
The stoics with full faces, yet unmoving lips, intimidate me. They are ephemeral floating creatures, silent and unreachable. Somehow they make me feel worse about myself, as if I am “less”, my life one long road of mistakes that I can’t help but babble endlessly about. However, I view my blunders and heartaches as public badges of the ongoing game of “trial and error.”
- Quitting a respectable firm to start my own firm that my family dubbed as the “money laundering front.”
- Not marrying the respectable man with a nice watch to engage in questionable romances with surfers who didn’t have watches…or even shoes.
- Drinking too much wine at a work event trying to speak Swahili…
- Oh and that whole egg freezing debacle…
These badges, make me, well, me.
But what’s even better is that when I give a little TMI, I am gifted with TMI in return. “Oh you feel that? Well let me tell you about the time I…..”
People tell me when marriages aren’t working, fertility isn’t happening, parents are impossible, careers are limiting, and EVERYONE tells me their nagging fear that they did the wrong thing so many years ago.
These feelings are a large burden to bear solo, especially among the perfect facebook photos where everyone is seemingly living the most profound life filled with exotic travel, Adonis sculpted lovers, and children that smile all of the time.
Why is hearing TMI a gift? Because it breaks through the social media slideshow and shows the world that we are fallible, just like everyone else. The deeper we go, the more face we lose, the more connected we become. TMI combats loneliness.
In fact, we covet TMI, even in entertainment. The backstory of the “anti hero” is what makes them so appealing. From Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield to the recent movie Malificent, we find solace in learning about our protagonist’s imperfection, sometimes even reverence.
So this season, share it! Go a bit deeper than Instagrammed photos of matching holiday sweaters and perfectly frothed eggnog. Over spiced wine confess the truths of your heart and imperfect tales. Misplaced mistletoe to lure a lover, nagging in-laws that you want to assassinate, a secret wish that you could just quit your chaotic job and open up a gingerbread man shop in Lake Tahoe (actually…)
“Deck the Halls with boughs of TMI….Fa la la la la, la la la la…”
No porcelain. No robots. No heroes. Just people, babbling about what makes us human.