Want to get reeeeaaallll uncomfortable? Perfect. Because I have some things to say about subjects that too many of us have hidden away, tucked behind doors, and pushed into closets for too long.
This is not a desperate cry for help any more than it is a side eye from a judgy Karen in HR, flipping her severely angled haircut from her cubicle.
This is real. Really real. And it happened to me today.
We were getting ready for my son’s rec league basketball game when I got a text from my dad.
This is totally normal. We text almost daily.
This time, however, it wasn’t a good morning message or a funny meme, but the image was of him in a hospital bed with tubes going in and out of everywhere. His lips were purple. Within minutes my husband overheard my frantic phone call and was checking to see if I was okay.
I couldn’t process what I’d heard.
I still haven’t.
Moments went by—it could have been minutes or days and I wouldn’t have known. I was suddenly no longer at home but slumped over against the cold cinderblock walls of our local YMCA, sobbing into my knees while my son and his friends ran up and down the court laughing, shooting baskets, and mostly sweating and forgetting to dribble the ball because they are eight and that is how sports are played.
I had lost myself.
It might be important to tell you that this week has been one of those weeks where somehow life throws so many things at you—big, heavy things—that you can no longer physically juggle them all. You are forced to choose what to catch and what to let fall.
And here is where it gets really icky and uncomfortable.
The following things have happened to our little family this week, in no specific order
- Quit a Job
- Other Spouse Laid Off
- Bankruptcy Meeting
- Had Our Names Slandered (HARD) by Former Employers
- New Specialist Referral for our Extreme Child
- THREE Med Changes for our Extreme Child
- Genetic Testing for our Extreme Child
- More than Three Multiple-Hour Meltdowns by said Extreme Child
- Two Sinus Infections
- Find out Scary Medical News from Dad
- Find Out More Scary Medical News from Mom
- Unsure how we will even Cope
I can’t breathe.
As I sat in a puddle on the gym floor with kids and basketballs and feelings flying by me I realized how I must look to those around me.
Full transparency, I don’t give a flying flip if I am judged. Actually, I welcome it because, honestly Karen, get your sh*t together and then try to talk to me.
But this was different.
I realized in that moment that I’d been on my cell phone—calling, texting, looking up flight info to get to my dad three states away—nearly the entire time my kid was playing his game. I had weakly cheered him on in between tears and frustration.
It didn’t matter what other people thought of me but what struck me is how I might have judged another mom had I seen her doing the same thing but having no idea of what she may be juggling.
Things no one wants to talk about
…but are actually happening to the real, live people you call your friends or acquaintances or the nice cashier in the grocery line that you are always rude to when she takes too long or has to look up the number for bananas:
- Divorce or Separation
- Financial Strain
- Aging/Dying Parents
- Diagnosis of Self or Spouse
- Mental Health Needs or Medically Complex Children
- Custody Battles
- Moving/Relocating from Family and Friends
- Their Own Mental Health
- Loss of House/Car/Job/Friend/Loved Ones
- Childcare Struggles
- Lack of Support
- Loss of Faith
- Addiction to Gambling/Drugs/Prescriptions/Alcohol/Sex/Porn, etc
And there are probably eleventy million more things that I can’t think of right now because my brain is a lump of mushy thoughts and alllll the feelings right now.
But Here’s What Else Happened
Like most people, I’d felt so overwhelmed/beat down/frustrated/angry/hurt/fearful by all of these waves crashing over me that I had begun to panic and hide them away. I shoved everything into that hidden closet Chandler finds where Monica keeps all of the things she doesn’t have a place for in her tidy and organized NYC apartment.
So I quit.
Yep. I quit hiding.
In that moment I decided that there was no way I was the only one of the people I love who had faced these heavy things before. So I reached out and sent a text to a very small handful of people who I know love me no matter what.
Total transparency though, I was unsure of how some of those people would react to the news.
Of course they’d still love me, but I knew my heavy stuff would be uncomfortable and awkward and full of uncertainties they couldn’t just fix for me; and that is hard for us as humans—to not be able to offer a solution to someone when they are in crisis.
Some of those texts were met with no response.
Some of my tear-stained mom puddle moments in that stale and sweaty gym today were probably met with judgmental glances.
But, to be fair, those people don’t know all of the heavy things I have had thrown at me this week. They don’t know I am too tired and weary—no longer strong enough to keep all of the balls in the air.
While I was still sitting in my feelings and fear, a friend called and said very simply, “We are paying for you to go see your dad. Do not give us any attention for it. Gifts do not need to be repaid. We are just glad we can help.”
And it was that simple. And now I am sitting in an airport waiting for my connection to get to my dad.
So, sister, we need to get over a few things. It is easy. We just have to check that crap at the door.
- Judging other moms who look like they are a raging dumpster fire who forgot to put on their bra before school drop off this morning
- Assuming Suzy is on her phone because she’s an absent parent
- Associating happiness with money/job/status because what we see on Instagram isn’t always the whole truth
- Staying silent because what a friend is going through makes us uncomfortable
- Gossiping about the woman going through something that we don’t understand, haven’t been through, or don’t know all of the details about
- Watching another mom struggle to balance babies and backpacks, kids and groceries, and losing her cool in the process without offering to help her
Instead, Get Over Yourself and Start Doing These Things
- Call or Text your strong friend when you think about them. They may look okay, but sometimes they just aren’t.
- Take dinner to someone’s house. They wouldn’t ever ask for this but it may offer a huge relief to them.
- If someone has a basic need that you can comfortably meet, do it. Right now, don’t overthink it.
- If you know a couple who have little support raising their kids, call them and tell them to choose a day this week because you are keeping their kids for a few hour date night. Friend, this is a game-changer.
- If you have a single/widowed/divorced friend, include them in things. Bring them along for a movie night or have them over for dinner. They will feel included and they have so much joy to bring to your life, too!
Friend, we are all struggling through something on any given day. Maybe it isn’t as monumental as what we’ve been battling to balance this week, but there are days that feel like a week of Mondays. So let’s stop acting like we have it all together because no one does, and start extending basic kindness and empathy. It will model generosity to our kids and make our hearts feel so much better. I promise.