I can’t do it. I can’t pretend that our 27th Wedding Anniversary was actually happy. I have a "thing" with people who post the “fabulous life” on social media as if life is all roses. This phenomena that has taken over our lives can lead to some of us feeling more depressed than ever. The reality of most of our lives has plenty of thorns, weeds and dirt.
Yes. We were both smiling pleasantly. (I was acting, mostly. I haven't felt like smiling in weeks).
*Get it together Karen! You're at our favorite place. This is fine dining. The food will be delicious! We can even afford this...sorta. We made it! Married 27 freakin years! Smile. Dammit! Be happy.
My husband, Alan always has that dazzling smile. He’s so good-looking and such a charmer. His public persona is impeccable. Everyone says, “He’s the nicest guy they’ve ever met." He has a loving, giving, open heart. I love that about him.
Of course, there are two sides to every story and every Gemini.
I know all truths are that are hidden beyond my husband's smile. He struggles through this life like any black man does. He is always proving to the world that he isn’t your average black man. He's none of the stereotypes. He’s not your average man.period.
How many men do you know who actually stay in a marriage for 27-years with the stress of providing for and raising three boys, two on the autism spectrum? My husband is human, flawed, with moods, inner struggles and insecurities just like the rest of us, despite his charm and dazzling smile.
He’s a better actor than I am though. I am beyond the whole “acting happy” stage of life. I have very few fake smiles or f*@%s to give these days.
We had a happy “moment” for our anniversary. I’m thankful for that. The food at Eddy V’s was beyond delicious. We shared a perfect crabcake, a Ceasar salad (which always brings back a memory of my dad. He always made the real deal Caesar with anchovies, from scratch.) Halibut topped with avocado, crab and Panko bread crumbs.
My French 77 cocktail/s (with vodka instead of gin) helped me smile and enjoy the moment. His perfect Old-Fashion cocktails helped him relax.
When we got home and tried to wind down, the anniversary was not genuinely happy. The truth is, we have mental health issues in our home. Mental health or lack thereof, can steal the glory of the actual “happy” like a shameless thief. It can ruin the party in the blink of an eye.
After this year of CoVid, pandemic, quarantine, social isolation, work-at-home, college-at-home, unemployment, and racial tension, my mental health is in the toilet, swimming in shit. Such a pretty metaphor, isn't it?
I will not speak in detail of my adult children, but their mental health, or lack there of, impacts my mental health. It has been a shit-show of a year. I am holding on to life by my fingernails.
The other day I wrote a journal entry that would scare most people if you read it, depending on how you interpret it. I cursed everybody out! I called out all of complete bullshit that has been effecting my life for years now. I have been living the stress for 4 other adults, problem solving, feeling their emotions, (empath) listening like a therapist who lives with her clients. It feels like they continue to ask me for more, and even if they don't ask, I give it. My letter was saying goodbye to that b.s.
I don't want to end my life. What I want is to actually start living it fully...in peace. I’m mature enough to realize that life has really awful moments, but you get up the next day and try to make it better than yesterday. You grow. You stretch. You say goodbye to what no longer serves you. You work to create the life you want, even though you’re exhausted. You don’t give up.
You keep working through the pain, and along the way, you encourage others to keep going, to take care of ourselves, to forgive ourselves for the places where we fall short.
You didn’t need to ask for my help for me to give it to you. This kind of thinking can lead to a woman’s undoing. *Burnout and cumulative stress can end in physical and mental illness. Stress can lodge in your body as heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.
As a caregiver, mother to adults on the autism spectrum, and wife of 27 years, I work continuously to create and keep boundaries; to find mercy for myself. I practice self-love, self-compassion, and self-care. We keep practicing until we get it right.
Some people will take your last breath if you’re willing to give it to them. My adult children will probably stand over my grave and yell, “but Mom, I need…”
I work hard every day to say yes to myself. It’s not easy.
Will you come on the journey with me?
*"Burnout -The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle" (Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. Amelia Nagoski, AMA, 2020)