The other night Jess was helping me with a school project, one that required a measurable knowledge of technology which meant I needed her to
do it help me. She’s usually great. As she should be. If I had a dollar for every science project, poster board, essay, and assignment I’ve done helped with in the last two decades, I could buy a sailboat and sail around the world. Or at least halfway.
But tonight, Jess was impatient, barking instructions and edgy; distracted. Her attitude was only making things worse, and I finally told her I would manage on my own and TO GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY! Because I have no patience for ungrateful kids who have been given everything and are too selfish to give back.
As she huffed out of the room, I shouted at her –in case she had forgotten from the last hundred times she’d heard it -that when I was a child I had walked 5 miles to school everyday.
In the snow.
“And holes in my shoes! Jess! I could see my toes!”
Now here I sat, furious and completely confused. Alone with this impossible computer. who hated me. almost as much as I hated it. And a friggin’ assignment to figure out. On my own.
I’d rather walk 5 snowy, uphill miles in my bare feet.
I should have just sucked it up and ignored her attitude. At least until it was done. And then I could have taken a strip out of her! and told her my walking to school barefoot in the snow story. Not even 10 minutes later as I sat mostly just staring at the computer screen, Jess walked back into the room and stood looking at me. I looked back, defiantly. Ready to defend and start my I’ve given you kids everything and this is what I get story. I have a lot of stories.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I just feel down, and I’m taking it on you. I feel like crap. And then I look at Facebook, and everyone is living perfect lives. And moving on with their perfect lives. And then there’s me.” She was trying not to cry. Which made me want to rip this person’s throat out and feed his larynx to my neighbour’s dog who barked all the time. Even though I loved this person. But he had made her cry. My baby girl.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I got the chocolate chips from the cupboard. The big bag. that’s so much cheaper at Costco.
And this is what I told her.
“Have you ever seen a trailer for a movie that looked amazing and then when you saw it, turns out it’s the dumbest movie ever?! Boring. You fell asleep. Or texted. And you were bitter that you’d gotten hooked by the trailer that had included, in its one-minute spot, the ONLY amazing parts of the movie?!
It’s the highlight reel, Baby.
No wrinkles. And stretch marks. or fat thighs. You can’t hear the arguments. or crying. You don’t see the lonely nights. the empty ice cream container. The sinkful of dirty dishes. stinky underwear. No bad breath. hang nails. varicose veins. unshaven legs.
We want our lives to look effing fantastic. Even when we know they aren’t.
So, Baby girl, you need to meditate, and watch those people who are breaking your heart float away in a cloud, wishing them love and good things. Cause you should always wish for others what you wish for yourself.” This part may seem weird to some, but it’s really what I do. And what I’ve taught the babies to do. And it makes us all feel better.
By now, I was ready to throw up from the handfuls of chocolate chips I’d stuffed down my throat. But Jess was smiling.
“Mom, you always know what to say.” I love this kind of talk! “I love you. Sorry you had to walk to school in your bare feet.” Sarcastic little biatch.
And then I laid on my bed. staring at the ceiling. chocolate-stained fingers. stinky end-of-the-day underwear. And felt incredibly sad. Enough to cry. I cannot bear when my children suffer. The heart kind of suffering. Not the she doesn’t even own one Coach purse and all her friends have three kind of suffering. Or the all his friends have their own phone and he doesn’t kind of suffering. I happen to like my kids to suffer in those ways.
But heart suffering. That makes me want to rip out someone’s larynx!
I grabbed my phone and quickly flipped through my Facebook photos. Shit. I wasn’t kidding. My facebook life was a highlight reel. This photo stood out. I really was happy that day, and there’s nothing fake about this particular moment.
But there’s a bigger picture. Always.
This girl is sometimes scared. She worries about her kids. paying the bills. being 50. Alone. The cancer coming back. She’s especially uncertain about her decision to go back to school and start over at this age. Friggin’ crazy. Her D-I-V-O-R-C-E has become final. She’s missing most of her right boob. Her left nipple points in a westerly direction instead of proudly forward. She’s chosen west over another surgery. Her thighs jiggle. If she holds up that perfect looking arm, her triceps hang like flags waving in the wind. This sweet thing feels down sometimes. And eats Vachon Flakies to feel better. Then brushes off the crumbs. And feels worse. Even in this apparently perfect moment, she’s something of a mess. The shoes were borrowed from her sister, a size too big. So she scrunched her toes into balls to keep things steady. She wore spanx to hold in the belly. Which restricted her breathing. which she hates. She had sneezed unprepared and peed in her spanx ever so slightly. But slightly enough. to be stinky.
This girl is sometimes scared. But all you see is this moment. This perfect moment.
But there’s more.
To the picture.