From the outside looking in, they were the epitome of perfection. I suspect it takes exhausting effort to craft blemish-free masks. They made it look effortless. The funny thing is – I can't say they played any central role in my life. I saw them infrequently and thought of them rarely. Given those realities, I cannot account for why the news affected me as it did.
When I did think of them, it was to ponder their perfect reflections. They were a handsome couple with a gaggle of magazine cover worthy kids. I never saw anyone get ruffled. I don't think a hair on their heads stirred when the wind blew. They seemed to move through life effortlessly while every step my family took required monumental effort.
The mother rivaled Martha Stewart in demeanor and activity. Only in her case, she raised it to Biblical proportions making her the proverbial Proverbs woman. She did what I dreamed of doing...one day... despite that gaggle of children trailing along behind her. I looked at her and felt like the proverbial slacker.
|Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative|
To hear her tell it, those kids loved every book they picked up making her curriculum choices flawless and her days fluid and easy. She never seemed to 2nd guessed a single educational choice. Long before I began my own homeschooling journey, I felt as if she was the yardstick by which one would measure success should the time ever come. When my day did come, schooling was neither fluid nor easy. It was work. Hard, sweaty, often discouraging work. I 2nd guess myself daily for the 1st 8 years.
Her marriage was one to envy. They managed to get away for long weekends more times in a year than we had in our entire marriage. Demure tho' she was, she had an embarrassing, intentional way of dropping subtle hints about their active and robust romantic relationship. I shrugged those awkward moments off as best I could and tried to ignore the tendency to compare her fulfillment with my gnawing emptiness.
The first flaw in their perfect world included a financial crisis that rivaled ours. Somehow, they managed to escape the meltdown we endured. I suppose if I were writing their life story as a novel, I would have recognized that tidbit as foreshadowing. I was, perhaps, too self-absorbed with our own undoing to see the clues?
|Courtesy M. Horrocks|
After a while, I began to wonder if life was fair. Why did they get all the luck? Of course, we all know life is an equal opportunity quagmire. Didn't keep me from wondering. It's what fraidy cats do in the quiet of a lonely night. Ignorance is sometimes painful when you mistake a carefully crafted mask for bliss.
That perfect family image began to crack and splinter. The implosion began slowly and gathered momentum. Before it was over, ¾ of those perfect children were living lives of total chaos – the repercussions of which still echo today. All I could do was shake my head in wonder that I had been drawn into the hoax for so long. Not one little detail in the carefully crafted little world had been perfect.
Imagine my surprise when I witnessed my 2nd grader's command of basic math far out pace their 9th grader's during a casual conversation between the two some months later. I took no comfort in realizing how ironic my fears seemed in the light of truth. In fact, not only did I find no comfort, I slipped into limbo. Or, I finished the slide that started when I realized I had failed to plan my son's 9th grade history course.
|Catch Me if You Can|
I felt betrayed in a way I cannot explain. They had misled me with singular success. When I was a little girl, we played 'shadow tag' under the street lights after dark. If you stepped on someone else's shadow, it was his/her turn to give chase. The truth is, you can never catch a shadow. You will exhaust yourself trying. In chasing their elusive shadow, I had created a no-win situation for myself. And, I was already living a no-win kind of life.
Is it any wonder I woke up one day and realized I was living life in limbo? As I have recovered from the daze surrounding my mother's death, I have realized that my recovery is dual. The return to some sense of normalcy after the hospital-ward induced exhaustion was rather easy. Rest does what it does with efficiency.
In waking up from that state of exhaustion, I realized my 2nd battle would be the one to escape the limbo that entrapped me during our descent into invisibility and homelessness. It was a shock to realize how long I had been living in limbo.
|Courtesy T. Greene|
Just as an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, an object in limbo is gonna be doing that dance till someone changes the tune. Revolting as the realization is...the only one whose gonna change that tune...is me.
What about you fraidy cat? You ever fight the feeling that you are just living life in limbo waiting for the next thing to react to? Ever look back and wonder why a single event affected you with irrational intensity? Ha! Don't even try to convince me I'm the only one 'cause my therapist on permanent retainer told me I'm not. And, I pay her to tell me what I wanna hear! See you tomorrow? Let's figure out how to change the tune and stop dancing with the devil!
|Courtesy B. Creasy|