Unicorns Are Pretty, But I’ve Never Actually Seen One

Social media. It’s a mystical place where unicorns frolic, where fairy dust is kind of a thing.

Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat. The list goes on.

All places where, while sitting behind a screen, we can curate the best images, tell the most HI-larious stories. We can layer seven coats of mascara and filter filter filter it for 43 attempts at a good selfie. We can download an app to smooth our skin (!) and then, finally, angle the camera to capture our best side.

We display the laughter.

The celebrating.

We zoom in on the loving.

It’s where we are our best selves.

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And yet.

I can’t totally subscribe. It’s the folks who show off only the good parts, the shiniest slivers, that are potentially strangers to me. This is why when a friend said to me recently, “Your life looks like something to be envied,” I almost choked on my beverage.

“You cannot be serious,” I said.

And then I thought about it: how I hadn’t posted anything of late that wasn’t a pretty sky or a choice shot of nature. Something darling about my kids. Because they’re always so darling.

—-> Cue InstaDarling in 3…2…1.

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But perhaps a part of me has noted that when someone asks — hey, how are you doing? — they likely don’t want to hear how you’re really doing. Because, honestly. Who’s interested in the story about your bathroom flood or the tree that came down in a storm, landing across your driveway? (Thanks SR + CH for your biceps in action.) Nobody is at the edge of their seat, waiting on the exciting details of how your adorable puppy was almost hit by a car — twice — when he barreled into traffic. Or how a couple of weeks ago, when you had to run one child to school and the other to the orthodontist. And your car battery was dead — again —  because although, intellectually, you know you need a new one, your brain at times acts like a gushing sieve and why the hell did you let that AAA membership run out because, oh I remember, you’re an idiot. Or how you went in for that ultrasound — “it’s probably just a slow moving kidney stone” — and the intake nurse asked you for an emergency contact to which you replied with a small voice and a weak shake of the head“Ummmm, maybe my mom?”

Because, you know, you’re 11.

And besides. It was only a little E. Coli.

I mean, really. Somebody cue the violins.

Being divorced in a small town that is, well, pretty married, requires some gumption. Because you feel like maybe you colored outside the lines. With an unsharpened crayon. Being a single parent, however, when it’s 10 degrees and the snow is up to your thigh and you are the notsoproud owner of the iciest driveway known to mankind (because they simply don’t.make.enough.salt) — and wait, did I mention the new puppy? — this takes something a little closer to badassery, a superpower I’m pretty sure I don’t possess. We aren’t wired — as humans — to be alone. We aren’t. It takes a village to raise a child, they say. To love + nurture. To buoy.

But what about the grownup, the one raising that child?

Holy mother of PEARL, it’s not easy. It requires shoring yourself up enough to ask for help. To be that person. And, wow, do I hate being that person, to appear weak or needy.

Because no one likes a whiner.

I mean, wouldn’t you rather rest your eyes on this handsome ball of fluff?

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But this snippet of conversation with my friend, it reminded me. It reminded me that I’m a terrible pretender. Like, awful terrible. When I feel something, I experience it on a cellular level. I wear that experience on my face, it’s coursing through my veins.

Of course, last I checked, it’s tough to make out cells on Instagram. Up close, anyway.

But we’ve been over this. No one loves being or even hanging out with the victim.

Nope. 

Because honey, nobody’s inviting you to the party when you bitch about your snowblower, how it wouldn’t start in two feet of snow, even though you did all the things, all the things you were taught, because goddamnit, you paid attention. And you’re a grown-up.

And you can do hard things.

Like snow blowing the hell out of an outdoor extension cord. Yeah. This takes finesse. The extension cord that helps to start this same snowblower when it’s Arctic outside – you know, like, ZERO. When your fingers simply cannot artfully operate that pull starter thingy.*

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*this was not a particularly great day

Because no one wants to hear about your shit. They have their shit. They do. Everyone has a pile. If you don’t, you’re a unicorn and I would like to keep you in a stable in my house, but no. Unicorns aren’t real, so therefore the perfect life, it doesn’t exist. Everyone has an albatross. Their burden may come packaged differently in the form of illness or a job loss or the death of a loved one. Maybe their kid has a learning disability, or maybe they’re caretaker to an aging parent. Maybe they can’t make ends meet or maybe they are simply hurting. For whatever reason, they are hurting.

Maybe they have real, more pressing problems.

All I know is I’m not alone in this world of hurt + love + yearning + gratitude.

There are so many of us. 

And if you know someone, who plays that role — the victim — I assure you. They don’t like it either. They’re in pain. And hopefully learning. Give them a little latitude and if they keep it up, well, perhaps you defriend them in real life.

Or hell, maybe even befriend them. Maybe they’re in need of a little extra love.

Like when my girls get louder, more needy, more imPOSSIBLE, the whining comes at me with unstoppable force. I’ve learned to stop, to sit down and look into their eyes, to take their little hands in mine and listen to their words. Deposits of attention into their emotional bank accounts, those moments of feeling heard, this is what their behavior requires. They’re simply too young to ask.

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None of us have the perfect life. We don’t. We are all a work in progress. And there’s something to be said for that process.

For me, I know going forward I need to be more authentic, this message comes to me from the deepest parts of my soul. I don’t want to be Facebook worthy. I want to be real life worthy. Full of heart + spirit. I also know I need to do more for others because there’s far deeper suffering than a puppy who likes to pee on the new rug. Far more than most of us can begin to believe. And it’s often in giving of ourselves, in opening our hearts to others, that our own problems begin to diminish.

Online, my photos may appear as if all is swell. Because in the grand scheme of this overarching thing called life — even paired with a scathing + acidic political landscape —  it is.  But my kids busting out the eye roll, not posing for the camera or when one scratches the other, very very deeply? (Meow.)  Now that’s more connecting because, as parents, we can let out a collective sigh. Phew. Her kids are also pretty awesome at assembling a shit sandwich. 

And I don’t have special filtering apps, so a selfie of me is sure to include the freckles that come with age, the wrinkles of time that line my eyes. My bag of tricks consists of a strong cup of coffee and deep-in-my-belly laughter. And I’m pretty much an expert at crying, because too many things hit me right in the feels. Joy, despair, remembrance. I also cry with gratitude for the perpetual reminder from my daughters to simply.keep.going. {Loving + kind + big-hearted, those two.}

Because when you unpack your family of origin — the groundwater of your life — and the ensuing dynamics, your childhood and the role that you played in it, not to mention the trails you’ve been blazing as an adult, we learn as a people that it is so, so painful to be human. At times, the world around us can feel cinematic + caustic, but I am learning, through the deepest wounds, through those times of afflictive emotional injury, that our well-being comes from being. And that we need to be a brave + mighty presence during the mess — because this is living out loud, and there is compellingly deep connection in the truth.

It’s only in this being, this truth telling — this mash-up of who we were in our past and who we think, who we hope we’ll be — that we are able to capture the rawness, the beauty of this real + heartfelt life.

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And we can do this, we can make that honest connection by simply being ourselves.

 

10 thoughts on “Unicorns Are Pretty, But I’ve Never Actually Seen One

  1. Bethany Woodsome

    Thank you for being honest, and REAL. Your writing is a joy to read and a breath of fresh air. Simply put, you. are. talented. When are you going to write a book?! 🙂 xoxo’s to you!

    Like

  2. Elizabeth Cooke

    Oh where, oh where did you find all this wisdom? And find such power in your words? I marvel at these pieces you labor over and share! My friend Pat O’Donnell, “I don’t feel so alone, after reading this.” Me, too.

    Like

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