When I chose the name of my blog – Be Real – it was not only a statement, but a challenge to myself to not be another ‘social media perfectionist’, only sharing the ‘perfect’ parts of my life. Instead, I want to be real about the challenges of being a wife, mother, educator, and the challenge to also just be me striving to accomplish other hopes and dreams outside of the roles I play for other people.
Today, however, the Dynamic Catholic Best Lent Ever reflection, https://dynamiccatholic.com/best-lent-ever/lenten-reflections-2019/the-great-pretenders, really socked me in the gut. The final question for the day, “When have you preferred pretending over living?”
That question is deep on so many levels. A couple I will share with you.
When my parents divorced when I was in junior high, I fulfilled the perfectionist role in the dysfunctional family. My mantra was
“Everything is fine. I get perfect grades. I am the president of clubs. I am the basketball star. I don’t know about those people. Oh, yeah, they are my parents, but I am just going to keep my distance from that crazy mess. That is not me. I am perfect. Just look at all my accomplishments.”
When you grow up pretending instead of living, it is a hard habit to break.
I think back over my 10 year marriage. How many times did I pretend nothing was wrong and instead felt the sadness/anger/hurt in silence? And if you actually live instead of pretend, people think you are crazy. You are not supposed to call each other out on something one of you is doing that is negatively impacting your marriage. That is counter-cultural. You are supposed to pretend. Everyone is more comfortable when you pretend – everyone except you.
What about as a mother? How many times did I pretend to laugh at the jokes about my boys being so close in age (11 months 1 week apart #nojudgment) and pretend like it was ‘just like having twins’?
It was not like having twins. One could not eat anything and the other constantly stuffed all kinds of crap in his mouth. For three years, I could never leave the two of them in a room alone without something happening. I struggled through, knowing that any day someone was going to call me out as a bad mother, simply because I could not keep up with work, two babies, and a husband who traveled all the time for work. I was comparing myself to many other moms, who I know now, were likely pretending. But I didn’t know that at the time. I just continued to put on the smiling face each day as I pulled on my superwoman costume, which I never actually fit.
When my third son came along just short of three years later, I wanted to stop pretending and live the life I was missing out on. One strategy I used to be present in different aspects of my life was by striving to separate my home/family life from my work life.
I would park my car when I got to work, and then sit there for several moments, trying to get over whatever crazy crap happened that morning with the boys.
At the end of the day, I would reverse my routine striving to leave behind whatever a wonderful coach had said, or the struggles of an upset teenagers, or fury of mad parents, which were all in a day’s work in my position as an athletic director. I did not want to pretend with my family, and I wanted to give them my best, not just want was left over.
As I pulled up to the daycare, I would remind myself that these boys only get one mom and that is me. I am not going to handle everything perfectly, but there are perfect moments like when they all come running to me the second I come in the door, one in my arms and the other two wrapped around each leg – now that is living.
There are still times that I pretend more than I live, and that reflection today, really brought up some memories – some not so great but also some of the best.
It also made me recommit.
I will strive to ‘actually live an interesting life instead of pretending to be interesting.’
I want to live up to my blog name.
I want to be real.