I have a lot to be grateful for.
A nice guy husband.
Four sweet (and a teensy bit sour) kids.
The ability to be home with said sweet and sour kids.
A supportive extended family.
I could go on and on.
Even with all that, I’m feeling unsettled.
Today is the eve of my tenth class reunion. From college. From college.
I won’t be able to make it because That’s The Way Life Works. But I’m still very curious about how the people I saw daily for three years (I graduated a semester early, and my final semester was student teaching, so it was only three campus years) are doing. So I did a little facebook research. (That’s just a euphemism for facebook stalking. Let’s be honest.)
-That kid with the crazy hair and Che Guevara t-shirt? Married with two kids. Wearing a tie in his family photo. A tie!!!
-The super-smart girl from my elementary education classes? She’s still in school. Not sure for what. It’s been ten years, and she isn’t a doctor.
-The most gorgeous-est popular person I knew? Still single. And traveling. Namaste.
None of this matters, really.
That’s where the unsettledness comes in. Everyone else is so beautiful. And happy. All the sudden I’m hit with a wave of sadness.
I’m not a dentist like so-and-so from my freshman floor. I’ve never been to London like what’s-her-name from choir.
My dear, dear friend had the perfect response when I shared these run-of-the-mill insecurities that bubbled up during my research.
I think a lot of people just spend more money on makeup and photographers than we do. If Facebook is to be believed, everyone travels a lot. Or lives in exotic places. Like San Francisco or Canada.
But she was right. Everyone is on their A-game on social media. #blessed #lovethislife
I still feel unsettled, though. Maybe it isn’t just average facebook envy. I haven’t ever spent much time lamenting my lack of coolness– I’ve had a lifetime to cope with the absence of the “it” factor, after all. It’s nothing new. I’ve accepted my gray hairs and call to homeschool (with a total gross income of exactly cero dolares). I don’t really want to go to London or be a dentist. Why did seeing all those smiling faces make me sad, if it wasn’t really about insecurities?
Then I figured it out.
Most my college classmates are just starting families. One or two littles– most still in diapers. The more I thought about it, those are the pictures that prickled the most. All the frolicking beach pictures, the outdoor family pics with perfect lighting, the babies with their color coordinated “one year” buntings and frosting covered faces.
I am jealous of the innocence of those new parents. I’m not jealous of their adventures and expensive clothes. I’m jealous of their innocence. The freedom from fear of what tomorrow holds.
I am happy for these virtual strangers. I am glad that they are doing well. I can giggle at the unexpected turns their lives have taken, in the same ways I am amazed at my own unexpected life turns. But I wish for the days when potty training and starting solid foods were my biggest concerns.
The last few years have been grueling. There’s something about having your heart, your hope, trampled on that seasons life in a way that can’t be undone. It’s like adding salt to the soup– once it goes in, there’s no going back. There’s only a vague memory at how the soup used to taste.
Everyone has a cross to bear; everyone’s soup has salt of some sort. Alcoholism, financial trouble, depression, family conflict– no one is immune. Most people don’t include images of those struggles in their profile pictures. Who knows what trials my college acquaintances have faced. Who knows what tears their smiles hide.
We aren’t sure about the next step for Cee’s care (Mayo doesn’t have much to offer anymore, but Cincinnati is 13 hours away). We are nervous about moving and the financial burden of a new house. More than anything, though, we hold our breath, waiting for the next flare up. Wondering if Cee’s lungs are next. Wondering if we’ll be able to stop the disease from gobbling up more of her childhood…
We can’t take the salt out of the soup. But we can choose what to add so that the salt isn’t the first thing we taste.
“Mom, you don’t laugh very much.” Ouch. Elle’s words hit me like a duplo to the forehead. Between gearing up for Cincinnati and getting our house ready for selling, I haven’t done a good job of mothering lately. Reading a few books to the kids isn’t enough. They didn’t choose these circumstances any more than I did. I need to figure out how to sage and garlic up my life. How to choose joy. How to laugh more.
We don’t need professional photography to know that this life is beautiful. Even with the salty soup. Even with the immense pressure of caring for a child with an incurable diagnosis. We do need reminders to keep trying, though. We need reminders that keeping the kids alive isn’t the same as teaching them how to live. It’s not hard to do, just hard to remember to do, this adding sage and garlic to the pot.
Maybe my facebook
stalking research wasn’t all for nothing. Seeing my former classmates’ seemingly perfect lives and Elle’s words were the jolt I needed to ignore the laundry and do some Mad Libs. Who needs London when you’ve got a story filled with toilets and butterflies?
This is exhausting. This is beautiful. This is my real life. Even if it’s not social media “research” ready.
*This post contains affiliate links.