Facebook will show you my half-joking “I’m not ready!” first day of school pics, an adorable first grader laughing at the lunch table, carrying his backpack to his new class, marking the milestones and displaying with pride the little person my days and nights revolve around. But it won’t likely show you the behind the scenes missteps and honest to goodness disasters of the day. It’s super easy to share the self-congratulating triumphs and skip over the massive errors in judgement. Who wants to tell the world they done f’ed up? Not me. But- here I am, to do just that.
We live online in the form of everybody’s highlight reel, virtually keeping up with the Joneses, hustling and Instagramming and filtering our way to the perfect #TBT. I guess I’m just here to expose myself as exactly what I am. A real live, ultra-human, hot mess, trying to jump from one lilypad to the next without drowning in the mud.
My summer was pretty amazing. I started school, I got great grades, J was healthy and we both got to travel and adventure around. I participated in my first art show and even sold my work! I fell easily into the feeling that for all my mistakes and missteps, I’D MADE IT. I had conquered fear and hardship and finally triumphed by becoming the person I really hoped to be. Mom, student, artist, and all-around badass mofo. All that trouble was finally behind me. I was, in fact, untouchable.
Y’all know what hubris is, right?
When I studied the Greek tragedies in high school, that definition stuck with me disctinctly. Overweening pride. There’s no such thing as invincible.
Maybe I underestimated the caliber of change headed my way even after all the changes I’ve been through as of late. Maybe I just thought things were going so swimmingly there’s no way anything could knock me off balance. Maybe I was so happy with the respite from feeling that disaster and anxiety and depression lurked around every corner that I just gleefully cast caution aside and went full-throttle, in-the-moment.
The breakdown- Jackson got sick. Pretty suddenly and moderately seriously. We were told that he had a week to show marked improvement or he would be checking in to the hospital instead of his new classroom. I knew he wasn’t well, but it still knocked me off my axis. We’re stretching towards three years since his last stay for medical issues. I felt an imaginary cushion of health and denial between us and the reality that Cystic Fibrosis can raise its ugly head without warning. To say I didn’t take it well was an understatement. I’ve been struggling the past few weeks anyway. The dissolution of my romantic relationship had me low, questioning my role in a breakup, my view of myself, etc, etc. I just wasn’t feeling like the badass I had been a week before. And with the announcement that there was consistent crackling inside my boys’ lungs, and he had lost both significant weight and lung function in just a few days, I began to feel the ominous building of uncontrolled anxiety. I confided in J’s dad how I was feeling and that I knew it wasn’t a rational reaction, and he confirmed, “you do this from time to time.”
It's true. I come to the point where I think I’ve safely bludgeoned and buried my neuroses and I’ll ever have to deal with those icky feelings again. And then life laughs and throws a tripwire in my path. Regardless, I found myself brutally unprepared to behave like an adult at this particular juncture.
A drive-by rundown of my errors leading up to the biggest blunder of all. Minor miscommunications caused us to miss the deadline to register J for school. So we had to do it the morning of the first day. Which made him an hour late for class. And in the process, we discovered when turning in his shot records that somehow the kid who sees at least one doctor a month hadn’t had vaccines or a regular pediatric checkup since he was 4. (He’s SIX now) I met with the principal to discuss setting up a meeting to go over a 504 plan (written and binding agreement with the school that provides for his medical needs on campus) while his dad waded through the mess of medical paperwork and missed vaccinations. A stressful morning adventure for ex-spouses to undertake together. We finally got him to class and he was ready. I truly was not. Suddenly all my ability to protect and shield and explain for him was sucked out of the atmosphere. It just seemed so big and he seemed so little and I did the thing I never do- I publicly cried at leaving him. I tried to hide my sniffles and snot as I walked back to my car, pretending to look busily at my phone as neighborhood joggers passed me on their morning run. I got to my car and full-on sobbed for fifteen minutes before heading home. I got home and cried some more. More than was reasonable. The dam broke. I cried hard and non-stop for over two hours. I probably needed it. All that feeling invincible adds up, you know. And as I had spent the weekend staying up all night running tube feeds to put desperately needed weight on J, I was exhausted in general and exhausted from the torrent of tears, and exhausted by life in general. I laid down and passed clean out.
I woke up at 3:24. Pick-up time is 3:00. Until we move (More change! Good change! But still change!), I am 15-20 minutes, door-to-door, from J’s school. I physically shouted some very choice words as I stumbled back into my shoes and ran out the door, eyes still blurry, phone to my ear, fibbing to the school that I had been stuck in traffic and was on my way. I admitted my blunder to J’s dad, who, living across the street, hopped in his truck to pick him up, none too pleased with me. Jackson was fine. I screwed up big time, but luckily it had no serious ramifications. None aside from my becoming hostile and defensive and starting a fight and then crying even more. And some more. I’ll tell you honestly, I’ve been a joy to deal with lately. An absolute treat.That’s my confession. I slept through picking my kid up on his first day of school. The invincible collegiate artist badass mom that I have become isn’t invincible after all. At all. Not even a little bit. I am a mess of a human being, trying really hard to keep up and convince myself and everyone else that I am in any way qualified to be in charge of the life of another human being, let alone myself. I start fights defensively- not only that, but if you do it, I will totally call you out on it, historically speaking. I don’t know how to ask for help, and I never, EVER know whether I’m standing up for myself or actually acting like a bitch. And somehow when I’m feeling like the sum of all my worst qualities, I’m supposed to still carry out the self-love and nurturing I’m always preaching. Love yourself even when you don’t feel lovable. Forgive yourself the same way you would forgive a child. But when you feel genuinely shitty and you actually DID something worth berating…Is forgiving yourself without beating yourself up denying your responsibility? Are you supposed to hate yourself an appropriate amount before picking up and moving on? Right now I’m satisfied with simply not feeling as horrible as I did yesterday. There is a colorful bouquet of fresh challenges laid out before me in the coming year. Some I’m trying to prepare for. Some I haven’t even seen yet. I’m not at all sure I’m up to the challenge. But I know that if I try to approach them with this weight in my heart and this body damage to my self-worth, I don’t stand a chance. So for now, I forgive my many, many flaws and transgressions because I HAVE to. I have to level up and I can’t get out of bed in the morning if all I’m thinking of is what a piece of shit I am. I have to show my kid that You can screw up and still be a good person. I have to show myself. And let’s be honest. We could probably all use a little more practice forgiving ourselves. So that's what I'm doing, I guess. Publicly admitting that I am an idiot and sometimes an asshole, but I really am trying, and as long as I can look at myself and know that I AM trying, I'll keep working on that forgiveness thing.