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What do you see?

Let me ask you a question.

Do you see a happy woman in this picture?

She’s with her babies, smiling, seemingly enjoying life and carefree. Enjoying a family vacation.

But let’s unpack what is really happening here.

This is a few months before I left my abuser. I was already making plans, and trying to calculate how I could safely leave and take care of my kids.

There is nothing carefree and happy in this woman. There is anxiety, shame, terror. My smile only because I had the loves of my life next to me.

I was away with the kids and parents, my husband had elected not to come, and tormented me the entire vacation because I dared to leave without his blessing. I was in a personal hell, being eaten alive from inside.

So now that you know the pain behind the facade, let me ask again…

Do you see a happy woman in this picture?

The lesson is that everyone has a story, and are fighting battles you can never know about.

Smiles may be worth a thousand words, but those words may not be the ones you expect. Smiles hide pain, mask fear, cover shame.

Pictures are a moment in time, and judging someone’s wellbeing, life, happiness based on that moment, is harmful.

Check on the people you care about, often. Embrace strangers with kindness and give those that return it with anger, grace.

Are you doing ok?