Various news agencies ran with some incarnation of “Celebration in order for Mark Zuckerberg…” with some including a brief biography of his equally impressive wife. The couple’s previous miscarriages were mentioned in most stories but really only to emphasize the human-interest “touch you like it’s a Hallmark card” aspects of the story.
Many likely reacted with “oh isn’t that lovely” while others may have responded with “see, even the rich people have problems.” (Some of the best reactions came from China, who understandably has a fascination with both Zuckerberg and his wife. You can find some of them online.)
This was not your standard birth announcement, however, and not just because it came from two famous people. This was not to inform those in their lives of the great news nor was it to solicit heartfelt comments (though the latter must really feel good to receive in such quantity). This is a couple who lead deeply private lives, despite Mark being the CEO of the social network.
[The post, as of this date, has been liked 1.6M times, received 107K comments, and been shared nearly 50K times.]
I believe their goal was to shine light on an often undiscussed topic of “miscarriage” and that this is part of a broader hope that by sharing, we all learn to expand the ways we connect and discuss the things that matter most to us. (Many reading this who are my friends will say, “well duh…” but that’s because you’re my cohort…) Sheryl Sandberg did something similar in a beautiful post about grieving for her husband which I wrote about in this post about Father’s Day.
For those that didn’t read Mark’s post in detail, the real message was this: they had no idea how many people had gone through miscarriages, and so had suffered together feeling guilty that it was their fault or that they were somehow alone. Only when they began to reveal this to others did they realize how many shared this deeply sad experience with them.
Think about how many issues carry some sort of slogan like “___________; don’t suffer alone.” Depression, suicide, HIV, addiction, debt, loneliness, poverty, hunger, obesity, eating disorders, family troubles … even the TSA has latched on to this with “if you see something, say something.”
So why haven’t we latched on and begun saying something?
It’s the fear of the paddle.
Almost my entire life I’ve been told I “shared too much” or was “too honest” or “too open” or been responded to with “TMI.” It started in First Grade…my sister Dawn had taught me (I don’t remember why) about “prophylactics” and how they were like Saran-Wrap one placed over their penis prior to having sex to prevent pregnancy. When “show and tell” came about the next day in my class, I gladly volunteered to tell. I was sent to the Principal’s office and administered “the paddle.” Yes, I grew up in a time when your Principal quite literally could administer a paddle as punishment, right on your little perky ass (mine is still quite perky).
I never stopped sharing and I doubt I ever will. But the paddle still exists and it is administered by each of us and the fear of it prevents many people from sharing openly about who they are…still.
There is not a single person out there who hasn’t endured something far beyond their ability to cope, sat alone feeling terrible, struggled through a time they didn’t know they could endure or, on the flip side, been so amazingly happy about something — yet held back on sharing this. And though the message is “don’t _________ alone” we scrub up, put on our work clothes, and appear before the world…”normal.”
So fuck the paddle. And fuck hiding. And fuck not saying something when you should, or not showing empathy and asking when you sense something is wrong. And most of all fuck silence…fuck silence when by sharing we can tackle the same problem together.
This doesn’t mean we wade in to the depths of everyone’s lives, it means that we start to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing with us what matters to them most. This is the stuff that makes them valuable friends, partners, coworkers, or employees. It’s all this “dirty shit” that they call on as experience to make decisions, to offer you support when you need it, or simply to show compassion.
Yet we draw such a hard line…between work and professional, deeply personal versus relatable (“friends don’t talk about money”) — it is 1) not a cultural norm everyone shares 2) not something you should try to apply to others and 3) if you’re holding to some traditional notion of it hardcore, that’s probably more about your fear than the fear of knowing what others might want or need to share. Setting your boundaries on what you want you have the capacity to talk about is fine…but making others feel like they can’t share what matters to them is your failing…not theirs.
For what it’s worth, the thoughts I wrote above occurred about ten seconds after reading the post and I’ve just been waiting to write them.
My initial thought, however, was
“Holy shit dude, you’ve got your hands full! There are a bazillion images of posters and mantras that you personally have stated you believed in all OVER the internet not to mention at “Daddy’s work” where your daughter will see things like “move fast and break things” and you’ll be forced to dig deep on what you meant.”
And what an AWESOME responsibility and gift to be asked and given the opportunity to explain what you believe. I’m confident Mark will do an exceptional job.
This song is so me. I don’t think I ever had really heard the words until now.