“You make it look so easy,” he said, watching me wrestle a hyperactive dog into submission with one hand, a curious baby strapped to my chest, my other hand getting the appropriate keys ready to let us into the apartment.
I gave a small smile as I thanked him.
But inwardly, I cringed. That’s the problem, I thought, that’s exactly the problem.
I make it all look so easy.
Our pictures are falling off of the walls.
Something about the change in temperature or humidity, combined with the way we hung them up (3M Command Strips, in case you were wondering… as it is next to impossible to nail into concrete walls), means that every morning I find a new hole on the wall.
They fall, but they don’t break.
And every morning, I pick them up, dust them off, and hang them back up. Hoping that this time, this time, they won’t fall.
My friends have told me that they like to talk to me because I am so level-headed. They can tell me their problems, and I can help them see solutions… Or at least provide a sympathetic ear to listen.
I am the one who tells my old roommate, a new mother, that though she is not the mother she wanted to be – though she has had problems and struggles with things she never thought she would – she is still a mother. And a fantastic one, at that. She might not be able to breastfeed, but she is doing anything and everything she can for her daughter. And that’s what counts.
I am the one who is able to listen to the frantic worries of my friend about what might be wrong with her daughter, and then calm her fears with my background medical knowledge and some insight into genetic testing. Her daughter will be fine; she will be fine; everything will be fine.
But I am also the one who does not confide my worries to these same friends, because what could they say? My worries are not about my skills as a mother (I know I am a good mother. I know I make mistakes, but that I learn from them. I know I am trying my hardest. I know I am doing fine) or the development of my daughter (I still think she is absolutely brilliant… or at least, meeting all developmental milestones). They are more general and more specific than that. They reach to the heart of my family, not just myself…
My husband has made it clear that, for now, his priority is not his family.
While I can see where he is coming from (somewhat), I cannot agree.
But I also cannot change this.
There is no way to change another person’s mind once it is set.
And so I am left to shoulder the burden that he has left behind.
I work full-time, mother my daughter full-time, and do everything else as well.
I feel myself stretching thinner and thinner to cover all the things I need to do.
I empathize with all the single parents out there, because that is what I now am, despite what it looks like to others looking in.
I have hope that it is temporary… But worry that it is not. Once the date of his test comes and goes, what happens? One thing will be over, but we’ll be moving on to another, just as big, just as stressful… What then?
And so I make plans… Plans to get out, get away, get myself the help that I need. Get my daughter other people to help with her care. Get us away from an environment that churns us into these situations.
Of course, none of that helps with the now. Even if these plans work out, nothing will change today, tomorrow, or even next week.
Just like the pictures, I can feel my life falling down all around me… Falling, but not breaking. And just like the pictures, every morning I find a new hole, then pick up the fallen pieces and carefully place them back, hoping that they will not fall again.
The problem is, no one else sees what has fallen.
I am up earlier than everyone, gathering the pieces, replacing them, filling the holes.
They see the wall, covered with smiling photos.
I see the pictures that have fallen, been replaced, and fallen again.
I see myself picking them up, every day.
I see myself making it all look so easy.
But that doesn’t mean that it is.