Remember-we see the snapshots and highlight reels of the lives of others. Including our own. Be kind.
Especially to yourself.
What they see is me making it to the commitments in the kids’ schedule. I make it to Brownies… and I remember to bring the snack, or the craft supplies… We make it to riding, and to church, and to Wednesday night activities…
What they don’t see is that I come close to panic attacks about leaving the house on time. That I yell at the kids on the way to the car and have to apologize before we’ve traveled a block almost every time we get in the car. That I am late more often that I want to be, and often the place where there is the most grace in that is with my friends so that is where I fail the most.
The people that I most want to convey a message of respect through being on time to are the ones that are left waiting on me most often. They are gracious and forgiving, but I feel horrible each time.
What they see is that I home school… That I talk about that in terms of making sure we get math, reading, and writing in each day, fill in other subjects on the edges… and trusting that the rest will come.
What they don’t see is that homeschooling has been one big balancing act for me—and one I rarely feel I am doing well. I am working from home and solo parenting with my husband on deployment at the same time as schooling my kids. Some days ALL we get done is reading….
Some days that doesn’t even happen.
What they don’t see is that my daughter is dealing with learning disabilities and a grab bag of other issues and I am terrified by her lack of progress. I am afraid if people looked too closely at her work they would deem me a delinquent teacher. I am afraid that the strategies I’m using aren’t working and that she is falling behind. And I am afraid as I devote more and more energy to her and her needs that my other kids are falling behind.
I love homeschooling, and I believe it is the best thing for our family right now, but I am plagued by self-doubt almost always.
What they see is that I hit my work deadlines….
What they don’t see is that hitting work deadlines is a way for be to bring some level of control to a world that feels uncontrollable. What they don’t see is that turning things in by X date is so much easier to me than facing the uncertainties of how this deployment is effecting us…. Than soothing away the tears of missing Daddy again… What they don’t see is that writing these blogs helps me to find my way and is as much therapy to me as it is an obligation, and that hitting the deadlines keeps anyone from asking too many questions about how things really are—not because I don’t want people to care about me, but because those questions often make me watery and un-composed.
What they see is that I don’t talk too much about the deployment on Facebook… Often they are surprised that he is even gone.
What they don’t see is, that I don’t talk about it because of OPSEC and PERSEC. And I don’t talk about it because I don’t know what to say anymore. This is our fifth deployment… No one wants to hear me griping about missing him anymore. I still feel like I am ‘supposed to’ do it better than I do.
I slog on without talking about it because that feels like the safest, most reasonable option, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t rock me to my core each and every time. This is still so hard. I am still so tired.
What they see is that I talk about the highlight reel of my relationship with my husband and with my family.
What they don’t see is how worried about him I have been. They don’t see the places we feel disconnected. They don’t see that reintegration nearly did us in last time or how guilty we both feel about the way our kids are struggling. They see the pictures of us holding hands, but we don’t take pictures of the days when we feel cold towards one another. The highlight reel is REAL and TRUE, but it also isn’t the whole story.
I really AM a plain old mess most of the time…. But I am also finding my way through. I think that sometimes I give the impression that I am doing this without a ripple in my calm. And that scares me, because I have always felt so inadequate in the face of people who walk through the deployments and the ups and downs of being a military family without it seeming to leave a mark on their calm or demeanor. I always felt so inadequate in my feelings of craziness and mess. I want to be the one to validate others in the hardness… so it shook me up a bit to hear that others saw me as ‘having things together.’
I still believe deeply that none of us are doing it ‘wrong’ and that there aren’t any ‘right’ ways to walk through these things. I also believe that we don’t know anyone’s full story and we have to walk gently and with great kindness to all that we meet. We don’t know what glory might be hiding behind that hot mess…. and we don’t know what struggle might be just under the surface of the brave face.