Today's guest post is from a dear friend of mine who wants to remain somewhat anonymous to protect the identity of her subject. It's about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, our tendency to compare and the fundamental need for empathy and compassion. (I've written about it a few times, if you were wondering.) But this intro is already too long, this beautiful post stands on its own.
She lives her life to the minute. Plans.every.second. Her babies were molded to fit the recommendations of Dr. so-and-so. Every morning, her alarm goes off at 3:50. Snooze buttons are for sissies.
Gym from 4:15-4:50. Tag husband for his gym slot. Shower. Hair. Makeup. Coffee, paper, news. Husband returns. Kiss him. Leave for work at 6:15. Husband readies the children and takes them to school. Work. Get everything done. Prove she’s superwoman. Polite lunch talk. Talk with friends about how perfect life is going. About the vacation that's planned and paid for in cash, how awful it was that the toddler had the nerve to throw his food on the floor and act out in church. Talk about the luxury car and how it needs to be detailed. Go to the grocery store for exactly 1/2 hour one day a week to get the week's groceries. Stress that she buys generic because she’s a penny pincher. Handle everything with grace, and then some. Head home at 3:15. Grab children. Activity for an hour. Make home cooked meal. Baths at 6:30. Two stories and bed by 7:20. Clean the house. In bed by 8:45. Do it again.
Did I mention she's tall, thin, and beautiful, her husband is good looking, and her kids are the perfect mix of all of their good features?
Of course they are.
This girl has dirty secrets. But she doesn't like to tell people that she suffers from a debilitating disease. That she grew up poor in a tiny rural community. That she's the classic psychological profile for middle child syndrome: must be better than my older sister, must care for myself because my parents have to care for my special needs sister who's (now) in a group home. That she lost her mom to cancer 2 weeks before the birth of her first child. That she lost that child's twin at 12 weeks gestation.
No one saw her grieve for her mother because her 12 week maternity leave coincided with mourning.
She manages her life in order to hide the disease.
She closes her door when things are out of place.
She works overtime to make sure that no one sees anything but the perfect.
She has worked hard in school and in her profession to get herself as far as she can as fast as she can. She deserves the success she's brought upon herself.
She doesn't realize that her words about her perfect life hurt others who are not as fortunate.
She doesn't realize that planning for the future isn't a possibility for some. She forgets what it's like to rob Peter the electric bill to pay Paul the grocer.
She forgets that the emergency fund for some is the $100 stashed in an underwear drawer, not six months worth of a six figure salary.
Some see her as a robot, moving through the motions. Some as a spoiled diva with no grip on real life.
Someone not-so-gently informed me last week that she’s not well liked.
That she’s the mean girl in the office.
But this is how I see it:
She's just a mom, doing it the best way she knows how. She's my friend. The one that organized my office baby shower, babysat my son for free, and let me take a nap under my desk when I was exhausted from working overtime in my first trimester but couldn't tell anyone else I was pregnant. She's the one that convinced her husband to do our wills pro-bono, because every time we had the spare money, our 1993 hand-me-down houpti would eat it. She's the one that buys my office birthday cake and remembers my favorite things. She loves her children more fiercely than I've ever seen. She brings me my favorite coffee on special days and understands that some days my depression forces me to close my door and do my work with tears streaming down my face.
Lest I forget? She knew I was pregnant before I did. She urged me to take that test before I even believed it was a possibility. That's how well she knows me. That’s how dedicated a friend she is.
Yes, she's hurt my feelings with her words about others many a time. She forgets that I can't pay cash for car repairs and the last "vacation" I had was to see my in-laws. I usually don't tell her when I take offense, because she's not trying to be malicious. The times I've tried, it turns out that her feelings have been hurt by people telling her that her life is a fairy tale. In her mind, her friends do just as well as she does. We make smart choices and we dot our I's and cross our T's, just like she does.
She doesn't see why everyone can't live the life she leads. Her memories of the hard parts are either pushed so far back in her memory, or she skipped over those parts because she married a man who worked his tail off to make sure he'd never have to live those hard parts.
I’m learning that you never know a person’s whole story. But if they DO let you in to those deep, dark places? It might be that you’re trusted with secrets dark enough that a person is willing to accept negative views from others in exchange for a few genuine, fierce friendships.
Ignorance is bliss. Perfection is a myth. Sticks and stones may break my bones, and words will never hurt me.
Sometimes, they do. But mean girls need love, too.