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This picture popped up on my Instagram feed tonight, and boy did I need to see it. Social media is funny like that. On the one hand, it gets a bad wrap, delivering scripted, perfect glimpses into imperfect lives, often fostering resentment, disappointment and feelings of failure. On the other hand, sometimes it hand delivers a message that speaks to your very soul. That moves you to tears, or helps you to pull up your pink panties, dry those tears and move on. 

I had some experiences this week that made me feel small and broken in ways that I thought I had long matured past. As it turns out, adulthood does not inculcate one from feelings of self-doubt and exclusion, or fear and loneliness. Nor does it preclude others from giving in to their most base instincts, lashing out at others in mean-spirited, passive aggressive, and downright rude manners I once thought were reserved for the halls of junior high.

These experiences have forced me into a rare bout of self-reflection, and into a need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to record my thoughts. As it turns out, I’ve spent much of my own adult life crafting a certain and specific image of myself. Not only to others, and certainly not for them. No, I’ve crafted this image for myself, and projected it to the world. Certain that I am, and have always been, this tough-as-nails, take-no-shit person, who has it (mostly) all together, and couldn’t possibly be brought down by those around me, or hurt by anyone at all. 

Truthfully, in many ways, this identity I’ve created for myself has helped me much more than it has hurt me. It comes in particularly handy in my job, where I’m exposed to the rawest of human emotions, from the highest highs to the lowest lows, and where chaos coordination is a prerequisite for success. It’s certainly helped me through some really heavy personal experiences that I’ve often overlooked as truly difficult, but have shaped me in ways I’ve yet to acknowledge. 

But, I'm also realizing that in some ways I’ve allowed this image, this protection method to become a very one dimensional shell of a real person. A sort of physical representation of that perfect Instagram shot, hiding the mess just out of the frame. The truth, as I’m realizing, is that there’s a lot more to me than meets my eye. A lot more than this image I’ve spent so much time cultivating, and curating, and reinforcing, for myself as much as anyone else.

The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that while I am occasionally tough-as-nails, I quite often take shit from people whom I thought were my friends. And sometimes, repeatedly, and willingly. And when it happens, even when I know it's coming, I do get hurt. And I do feel small, and left out, and a little broken, no matter how much I hate that I allow others to make me feel this way. The truth is that bravado aside, I’m a lot more than the strong, tough, and impenetrable persona I’ve created.

I’m also a kind-hearted person who believes her own good intentions are reflected in those around her, and who is occasionally (often) disappointed to find they are not. I’m a friend who will bring you soup when you’re sick (homemade and in a cute container, perhaps made and remade until it’s perfect, because my perfectionism knows no bounds). I’m a person who will drop you a candy bar, or a Diet Coke, when you’re feeling the stress of life, and who thinks a well-timed rant session can save the world. I’m a person who spends countless hours and minutes of my day thinking of ways to help those around me, to show them I’m thinking of them, and who longs to offer them solace and comfort in any way I can. Of course, I’m also a friend with the grandest of intentions, but with the absolute worst follow through, whose plans often dissolve into a pile in her ridiculously disorganized office. Products purchased, letters stamped, but never mailed, never finished. I’m fiercely loyal, and I’m happy to be the friend who will hate those who’ve wronged you, perhaps even more than you do. Which of course comes back to bite me when you decide you don’t hate them anymore. 

Beyond a friend, I’m a mom. I’m a mostly stay-at-home mom who loves to spend time in the kitchen with her kids, baking and projecting, but would rather stab her own eyes out than sit on the floor and play dolls or figurines for 10 minutes, which really feel like 200 hours. I’m a mom who is so grateful for the time she gets to spend with these precious souls in her charge, but who is sometimes resentful of her husband for the very job that provides this opportunity for her to be home. I’m a mom who wouldn’t trade my place for all the world, but who often feels like she’s losing every last brain cell, and occasionally feels jealous of those that kept on the academic track, and are building beautiful, brain-stimulating careers, with lots of letters behind their names. I’m a mom who craves organization and order, but who is hopelessly disorganized and who can’t open her van door without half her house (and life) falling out. I’m a mom who cares (maybe too much) what her kids look like, and what they wear when they leave the house, but who is an utter failure at making sure that everyone has clean underwear to put underneath those brand new clothes. As an aside, laundry and I will never be friends, and I feel I can say with absolute certainty that while I may miss the little bodies that create them, I will never miss the piles of laundry that seem to occupy every last corner of my life. Mostly, I’m a mom who gives every last ounce of effort and energy she has to those around her, yet feels like a complete failure more often than not. A mom who stays awake at night, wondering how she could do a better job tomorrow, but wakes up cranky and manages to do even worse because she’s so exhausted from staying up worrying all night. 

I’m also a wife. A wife to an incredible husband who is her teammate, best friend, and who (almost) never makes her feel second best. A wife who doesn’t always do the dishes, who never takes out the garbage, and who refuses to plunge the toilet (good thing we have 4 bathrooms, huh?). I’m a wife who plans crazy last minute trips, and big projects, flippantly asking “how hard can it be?” when planning another hair-brained project that’s sure to be more involved (and expensive) than anticipated. A wife who is so lucky to have a man who brings her Coke and donuts as often as roses and lilies, who doesn’t mind a little clutter on the floor, and who works his guts out for those around him. A husband who reminds her that she IS a good person, IS a good mother, and that while she’ll never fix those who continue to hurt her, that she doesn’t need them anyway, and, most importantly, who gives her a soft place to land when she dissolves into tears anyway.

My point is, that there’s more to me than meets even my own eye. And I’m 100% certain there’s more to those who have, and likely will continue, to hurt me as well. And while when I started this missive, I fully expected to end it with, “and now it’s time to move on, and take back the power to hurt me," the truth is, I’ll probably still continue to be nice, get walked on a time or two, and generally avoid rocking the boat. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, maybe I’m actually a pushover, or maybe because if I couldn’t see all facets of my own self, who knows the magnitude of what I’m not seeing in those around me. 

It also occurs to me that in my vain attempts to craft this persona of myself, perhaps there were times I’ve (unintentionally) hurt those around me, and made them feel less than, and excluded, or unimportant. Perhaps even to those who hurt me so much this very week. If that’s the case, if I’ve hurt you, and you’re reading this, I’m sorry. As much as it pains me to admit it, I’m still a work in progress.

Well, there you have it. I’m decidedly not perfect, occasionally tough, but often more sensitive, vulnerable, and easily hurt than I care to admit to even myself. To those of you in my life who have chosen to love me in spite of all of that, know that it means the world to me, and that there’s probably a gift, letter, card or baked good sitting in that pile in my office with your name on it.

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