You know how Facebook shows you memories from years gone by? I’ve been seeing some from a really shitty time in my life, and it’s impressing upon me how what you see on social media isn’t necessarily what you actually get. Or are living. Or are any semblance of whatsoever.
The first set of pics I noticed were some beautiful vacation photos a friend of mine took of me and my kids on the beach in my hometown. We’re wearing similar colors (as folks do in family photos), and we’re smiling and laughing. The sand is white, the water is blue, and the light is lovely on all of our faces. What you don’t see in this photo is my (then) husband back home cheating on me with someone young enough to be his daughter. (Although you could check her social media for all of her public photos with him at the time.)
A couple months later, my children and I are standing in the Chihuly glass museum with friends visiting from Florida. What I notice in these photos is how little my kids look. My daughter is still taller than my son, and she has her arm protectively around him in each picture. In one, I am standing with them. I have lost a significant amount of weight. We are all smiling with our mouths but not with our eyes.
In the photos from the following summer, I am even thinner. My children are taller, and my daughter is wearing make-up. We are on vacation in Florida again without their dad, who is still back home trying to decide if he wants to stay married to me. I am trying to wait out his affair and keep my family together, but it’s taking a toll on everyone. Friends are liking and commenting on how great I look, and while I thank them and like their comments, I feel like a fraud because my life is unraveling.
By the next summer, my son’s height has caught up to my daughter’s. She’s looking more like a young woman instead of a little kid. His teeth are starting to straighten out as his permanent teeth have come in. I am fit, tan, and smiling. My wedding ring is finally gone. The smiles on the kids’ faces are hitting their eyes, and though I smile too, if I scrutinize the photos, I look weary. What I think most about these pictures is that I looked the best I had in decades, but I felt the worst. It was THE most painful time in my life.
Fast forward a few years. We’ve just returned from yet another Florida summer vacation. In these photos, I am many pounds heavier. My hair has turned silver. My laugh lines are deeper. My son has surpassed his sister in height and has a 5 o’clock shadow. My daughter is a young woman. We are joined by another, even taller teenager who’s making us all laugh. In this photo, the protective arm belongs to a man who loves me, and it’s around my shoulders.
In this photo, five people are smiling.
In this photo, the smiles reach all five sets of eyes.