Two weekends ago, I had to call my girlfriend from Six Flags to pray for and with me. Because we’ve had our own disjointed, shorthand, can-talk-over-each-other language since seventh grade, she is the only friend I can still call without feeling like I am disrupting someone’s busy weekend, even though I *was* disrupting her as she set up for her daughter’s birthday party.
As soon as I heard her voice, I started crying, still holding Olive, first trying to find half a bench to sit on, then pacing so that I can have some privacy away from the benched Funnel Cakers. I was holding her awkwardly, trying to keep her out of the sun while the sun kept following us.
After wasting our time yelling at each other and NOT hearing each other, Kevin had taken the boys to a different section of the park. I felt abandoned but looking back, it allowed me to catch my breath and stop raging in front of the kids.
I was grateful that Olive was too young to later say, “Remember that time Mommy was crying at Six Flags?”
I continued to my friend:
“…on top of all that, I am now spiraling, feeling like WTF is wrong with me, looking around this dang park with today’s perfect SoCal-like weather and everyone taking selfies, Funnel Caking and heeheehee, able to enjoy themselves.
I feel like a f*cking failure ‘cuz I couldn’t put our fight on pause like a mature ass adult and parent but girl, I just felt so unheard and still do. No matter how many times I tried, I could NOT just ‘snap out it,’ take a deep breath and re-emerge as Mom who is able to Funnel Cake and Batman ride right now!”
My friend and I talked over each other, which is what we do. I told her that rehashing it won’t get us anywhere so let’s just pray. But before she prayed, she shared with me, “STOP! Stop it. LOOK, I been there! And it is OK that you couldn’t collect yourself to take your kids to the rides as a family. It’s not fair to put such a time pressure on yourself for being OK. It’s OK to show your kids that Mommy had to go collect herself and yes, even at Six Flags. And if you think you the only one melting down, trust me. Some of these families you comparing yourself to? They already had their meltdowns on the way in or will have them later as they leave.”
She also shared just how “been there” she been, which helped spare me from beating myself up even more. All while speed-talking before her girl’s birthday party.
Of course, as a friend, she couldn’t just co-sign on all my bad habits. She did acknowledge that I can work on some thangs, but she let me know that I was not the only mom who had failed. In this age where phone calls are obsolete, I’m so glad I was able to reach her.
Also, this past week, I’ve been chatting online with some dear mom friends and the power and beauty of that chat was all in the “Me, too.”
Sometimes, a “Me, too” is more life-giving than any, “I’ll pray for you” or “Have you ever considered…?” or “At least you…” (Actually, no one enjoys an “At least you…” ever).
And I don’t know why my self-talk can be so damn mean. “Snap out of it” is the worst message, something I would never tell anyone else after being told that when I suffered from clinical depression decades ago.
I don’t know about others but I am my own harshest critic and I would like to work on that. If I don’t check myself and remind myself aloud, like Stuart Smalley on SNL, my negative self-talk can be downright fatal.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“How come other moms don’t experience such a range of emotions? Why are you so extra?!”
“How come I’m not more like Kevin? He can handle so much more.”
“How is that other mom so damn calm? Does she ever yell?!”
And in the darkest moments, “What if my kids are better off without me?”
I’ve constantly asked myself, even on this blog, why I am prone to confessions while some are never prone to any self-deprecation.
I think I’ve always been drawn to the power of “Me, too,” to help others (and myself) know that we are ALL broken.
Sometimes, I hear church folk talkin’ about how we are all broken but for the life of me, I can’t imagine this person in front of me ever breaking down. So when someone shares their weakness, it is downright life-giving.
This is why I can relate to addicts and recovery programs, though I have not been an addict myself – the opportunity and ability to share low moments with each other, to remind each other regularly that we all struggle.
And to be clear, “Me, too” is not to be mistaken for having a pity party where we bring each other down and stay there, or excuse bad habits together but to remind each other that we can be imperfect, that there is always more grace.
We can fail in big and small ways, but as long as breathe air in and out of our different-shaped nose holes, we can seek redemption for moments and narratives we want to shed. And one thing is for sure: we will mess up again, and His mercies abound.
Lamentations 3:21-23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”