I feel like a phony and a cheat. I have tried so hard to be strong and real and true to myself and my son. But I think along the way, I lied to myself (and cheated myself) a little. Here I am complaining that my husband cheated and lied to me about, well, everything, and today I realized that I’ve been cheating and lying to myself about, well, myself.
Awhile ago, I picked up this mantra from Facebook… bruised, not broken. I’ve tried to identify with that. I’ve told it to friends, “No, I’m okay, really. I’m bruised, not broken!”
And everyone loves it. They cheer me on and congratulate me for the positive outlook. But, it’s a complete lie.
I’m not bruised.
I’m not broken.
I feel like pieces of myself are scattered along this road that I’m on. And some days I feel like I am desperately trying to collect every single shard with hopes of one day gluing myself back together. Other days I want to ignore all the tiny pieces and just let it go. This week, I find myself worrying that there are not even any pieces left to collect.
Before dinner tonight I pulled my son around our property in a little red wagon. He sat there with this old snow globe in his lap, singing to it. The snow globe was nothing special, but small enough in a toddler’s hands to be exciting and special. It had a little teddy bear in it holding a red heart. It was old, but still held the water and the glitter and the snow. The little bear was smiling and holding that red heart close to this heart. As I pulled my son and his snow globe in the wagon, I broke down. He couldn’t see me cry, and as I silently wept, the floodgates opened.
I still felt so shattered and empty. I had spent the last few days blaming myself for everything. I was too emotional, I was ugly, I was too empathetic, I was high-maintenance, I was dumb, I was too much me. I guess I could say I was wallowing… but it felt like more than wallowing. I really doubted myself and hated myself. Like, fragile sense of existence doubted myself. I had made it a point to stay so strong for my son, to protect him and love him, but I had been pretty weak for myself and had not protected myself, or loved myself. I didn’t cry about anything in particular, but let it all out while I pulled that little wagon around. My husband had crafted a particularly mean lie that day, and blamed me for the fact that he didn’t call us for 2 days to talk with us. Silly, but significant at the same time. And it just tore me up and pushed me down into a very dark spot. A very dark, angry (and shattered) place in my heart. I felt helpless and hopeless. I blamed myself for being here, at this point in my life.
After the wagon ride, I dried my tears and started fixing dinner while my son played with the snow globe at the table. My son was so careful with it and had been playing with it for a few days now, for minutes (!) at a time. Tonight, the unthinkable happened and it fell off the table where he was so carefully playing with it. And it shattered.
It shook me deep, to see it shatter, because I felt like I was watching myself, in a weird way. The glass globe had been thin, fragile glass and it broke so hard against the wood floor that the glass was decimated. Only one solid piece remained, cock-eyed and against the little bear. Glitter was everywhere, but it was tiny and nearly invisible. The little pieces of snow almost seemed real, the way they started to dissolve once the air hit them. It was almost if there had never been a snow globe.
I felt like that snow globe. Old and shattered and useless. Everything I held close and thought important had been leaked out through a busted frame and there was nothing left.
Of course my son immediately broke down crying and started apologizing, looking through his tears at the mess on the floor. I shook off my own tears over my broken (shattered) self and set about making things right with him. It is so hard to help a toddler make sense of things. I have found myself weaving these funky, hilarious stories to help him in a time of panic. And tonight was one of those times.
I quickly picked up the little bear and his heart on the globe’s base, still intact. I knelt down with my son and dusted of that little bear, shards of glass poking up around him. How the heck to I explain this? My son immediately started asking me to “fix the bubble” back and went to go get his glue stick. I tried to quickly counter.
“Oh on, we don’t need to fix the bubble! Look! It is better without the bubble” How the heck to sell the idea that a snow globe is better without the snow and the globe?! I asked myself, panicking a little. Toddler drama is REAL.
I realized I had already caught my wailing toddler’s attention. Move!
“Look, look at the bear.” He slowly edged himself around to me, and peered down at this little smiling teddy bear.
“Look at how happy he is. He is smiling. No more glass bubble around him. He is free,” as I said it I cautiously looked over at my child. He had an eyebrow raised, and wasn’t buying it. I kept going.
“He can be himself now, and eat with us and be with us, and he isn’t separated by glass and glitter and snow, and look at his smile, and his heart,” I opened my mouth to keep going, but my son interrupted.
“He play with us now? And eat dinner? And no water or glass?” His voice had hope in it, but he was still suspicious. “I can play with it? Not break anymore?”
“No, there’s no more glass to break, little buddy.” He still wasn’t completely buying it, so I picked up a half-eaten bowl of applesauce and shoved a spoonful at the bear’s face. “See? He can eat with us now! And play with us!” I gave the bear a high-five with my finger.
“Bear my friend!” My son was so excited by the idea that the little bear could do our daily activities with us. Mom win.
Needless to say, we spend the next few minutes cleaning the broken glass out of the little bear’s base and telling him he would be okay. After that, it was more of an odd figurine with an unfinished base, but to me it was a mom’s masterpiece. My son happily clutched it to his chest, bringing it out only to shove a spoonful of rice or yogurt at its face every now and then at dinnertime.
As I type, he is sleeping with the little bear and its red heart. The whole incident made me think about myself. Maybe I’m still going to come out of the other side of this? I cautiously ask myself the question, hesitant to leave my pit of self-pity and blame.
Maybe the shattered part of me is like the snow globe… the important parts, the bear and his heart, are still intact. The deep parts of me, the true parts, are still there. And maybe now, those good, true parts of me aren’t separated from the world and from others by this fragile protective glass bubble.
I am an open book these days. I practically hand my heart to people when I meet them and I am trying to hard to be myself, not what I think people want me to be. I try to not feel shame when I share my story. I try to not think how others are judging me or what they are saying. I try to just be comfortable with myself. And content. I try to be content with the person I am. Maybe what I lost in all of this was that thin, outer shell that filtered what I wanted to share about my life, and what I thought defined me.
I still feel pretty crappy. I feel pretty lost, and I feel like a huge failure. But maybe I’ll just sit with these feelings for a bit and be content to just sit there, hug my heart to my chest like that teddy bear, and let myself feel them.