I wrote this piece a couple of years ago to be included in an anthology but instead, offer it here to you. It needed to sit for a bit and bake in my head, so to speak. As I hit almost 13,000 followers and 124 countries, I am thankful for your readership, your kind comments and the blogs you share with me. Sometimes it truly does take a village, even if it is a virtual one.
Some of us are given extra credit in this lifetime.
While our friends stay happily married, birth two amazingly compliant children in his and hers onesies and do not dally with carb addictions of any sort, we—um, well we struggle.
My theory is that we struggle because we signed up for the PhD program in life, while our seemingly lucky friends decided upon the correspondence course.
This theory may be total horse crap but it makes me feel better.
Up to a certain point in life, we track with said friends. We attend the same schools, the same parties, mark the same milestones.
And then, we graduate to the advanced courses.
Our husband goes off the rails, perhaps, and we find ourselves divorcing him. Dealing with the requisite financial and emotional woes of our situation.
We might have a child with issues.
Maybe, somewhere in the middle of all of this, we deal with the fact that we were not mothered properly.
And, we decide to drown our sorrows in mashed potatoes, cheddar chips and cheesecake.
Our friends listen sympathetically for a time. They offer what support and advice they can.
But, eventually, it becomes a situation where they feel their calm, together lives denote a badge of honor. Versus our rather messy, chaotic lives.
And so it begins.
They may call to check in but instead of support, the unwanted advice keeps coming. And if it was good, sound advice from fellow battle-tested souls, we’d be thrilled. Truly. Bring it on, sisters.
But it is not. It is pull-yourself-up-by –your-bootstraps, folksy wisdom that does not really help us much at all. From a person who has never been in our situation. And is drinking a kale smoothie while we eat our cheesecake.
Someone who does not know the terror of waking up and going into full-blown panic mode because my God, how will we make both tuition and the mortgage this month. Someone who has never wondered if her middle-aged body can be seen naked and loved by a man whose children it did not bear.
And, as we try hard to be gracious and grateful for support—any support—these friends wonder why we have not solved our problems in spit-spot fashion and moved on already. They probably wonder why we call less often and are often a bit cranky when they do.
This is usually where those of you who have been through the wringer nod your head in agreement or guffaw sarcastically.
Go ahead. I’ll give you a minute.
It’s therapeutic, that guffaw, isn’t it? I know.
If we’re very lucky, and our crazy situation has caused us to blog, then the very wise among us put a toe in the water. We share a bit more of our struggle, hoping to God the people from work are not reading this particular blog.
I’m not talking about reality TV show type sharing. Some of us do that, yes. But others of us reach out online in much shyer fashion. We work our way up to sharing a few details and keep others to ourselves, so as not to hurt those we love—namely, our kids.
And, while we feared haters—the black hats who come gnashing their teeth, we amazingly do not encounter them.
Instead, we find peeps.
They are battle-tested in the most delightful ways.
They say things like this to you when you admit to sobbing in the most inopportune places: “The very first Christmas after my husband walked out, I attended the gorgeous annual service in NYC at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. One of the elements of Paul Winter’s concert there was a bagpiper and I sobbed my heart out; I’d last heard one at my own wedding, barely 3 years earlier.”
And you realize you are not crazy. Not the only one. That you will not sob forever, because this blogger is now happily remarried and has given up her public crying habit. Check out Broadside Blog. She’s a tough chick but has a heart of gold, really.
When you admit, yet again, to crying—this time because online dating makes you miss an ex that was no picnic—a person like A Sassy Redhead tells you about how she met the love of her life online after a lot of frogs: “That first date lasted 5 hours. The conversation never stopped. No awkward silences. I knew when he stood from the table, he was the one. I blushed. I giggled like a grade school girl. I could hear my heart beating with every word that left my mouth. We married 8 months later. At the end of March, we’re having our second anniversary. And I promise you, I love him more today than I did the day I married him. I look forward to our hours of conversation about nothing and I sometimes get sappy with tears when someone says, ‘So, how’s married life?’ Please don’t stop searching. Please don’t give up. Pray a lot. Don’t settle. He’s out there. I promise you he is. And he’s going to find you. Let him find you. Let him search you out and let him court you and let him give you butterflies. He’s searching for you right now. And when love comes, it comes out of left field. When you least expect it. And you won’t recognize it, but it’ll recognize you. Then it’ll be as clear as a beautiful sunrise. I promise.”
Another tough broad, that Sassy Redhead, but so very kind to me in my time of need. She made me cry as I waited to order my egg sandwich in the Panera line.
I guess I cry a lot sometimes. Hmph.
When wondering if I would ever feel like the world was not too loud, too fast, too much for me, My Path With Stars Bestrewn threw this my way: “I’m right beside you in every word of this post, dear K. I, too, have survived some shattering losses, and like you, those experiences altered me. At first, grief and loss made me feel like a hermit crab without a shell. I couldn’t return to my former shell, yet I couldn’t find a new shell to move into. I felt exposed and raw and sensitive, and in this state, I changed. I was no longer willing to waste a single second of life’s preciousness with people who were rude, unkind, judgmental, small-minded, petty. I withdrew from negativity and created a positive space for myself . . . I pick my perspective now. I savor life. Had I not waded through loneliness and grief, I might not have arrived at this calmer place. My healing process has been very much like an upward climb toward a greater vista. And I like the view from here! As you navigate the unknowns and climb toward your own place of peace, I wish you love, light, and laughter. I so admire your spirit, your candor, your good, good heart, and your gorgeous writing.”
There are so many more really genuine, kind people I should recognize but it would take hours and more words than I have right now.
There is no substitute for hearing from someone who has walked in your shoes. Nothing that can replace someone who will take your messy bits, which you are so bravely placing before them, and hand you some glue.
It turns out, when I need a hug now, I go for the virtual model. Because my experiences have surpassed those of my family and closest friends. My posse, it turns out, lives all over the world. From New York City to Australia, downstate Illinois to India.
Pretense is never pretty and usually fairly obvious to me. In the real world or online. What I love about my online saviors is their complete lack of it. I may not know every detail of every bit of their life, as I do with some besties, but what they share they share completely. Courageously. Without batting an eye.
They make something out of their loss. Instead of just watching me falter in mine.
I have a posse of single mommy bloggers. Online dating, child rearing, healing emotionally from a divorce—I have learned so much from them.
I have been schooled by bloggers who admit their struggles with anxiety. Creativity and anxiety/depression seem inextricably linked sometimes. I’ve learned I’m not the only one wide-eyed with shallow breathing at 3 a.m. For some reason, that helps.
Parents of kids with ADHD and other issues share in the hopes of sparing the rest of us their struggles. With schools, administrators, teachers—you name it. Their advice beats the blank stares I get from parents whose biggest issues are Johnny getting benched during a game.
I know some people have more dramatic stories. They were saved from one particular thing when they were in the most dire straits. The bulimic who got help because of her fellow bloggers. The gay teen who realized he was not alone in the world in being bullied.
I am not these folks. I have had my share of ick. But it has been spread across multiple areas of my life. My saving graces in the form of my fellow bloggers are an everyday thing. The dramatic is always riveting. But usually, for most of us, it is the every-day saving that makes a difference. We don’t cut ourselves, starve ourselves or threaten suicide. But we need support as much as the next guy.
At its base, these folks—my online encouragers–are living out loud. Remarkably real, messy lives. And in their sharing, they bring a beauty to their mess—and mine.
They reassure me that it is ok to have the mashed potatoes. That they also carry an extra 10 pounds and we will get around to that when we are good and ready. That boys with ADHD can grow up to be the most creative, successful individuals. That women who divorce in their mid-forties can find someone to love again. That we all sob in the shower occasionally and wonder how we will get through the day. The week. The year.
Isn’t that really the beautiful bit? From ending what was supposed to be a lifelong relationship to struggling with stuffing the pain along with mashed potatoes. The truly devastating to the just plain annoying and mundane get tackled.
By people on our side and in our corner.
Some of whom we will never meet or talk to in the traditional sense.
It turns out, we do not need to do so to save each other.
My world has expanded and contracted in two short years because of that truth.
Pass the mashed potatoes, friends.
But tomorrow, you will have to tell me about that diet you mentioned in your blog.
Just add it to my tab.