Behind the Smiles

We took a couple of  days to get out-of-town at the beginning of last week – just the four of us and the dog exploring a local mountain town. If you try to piece together our time away based on social media posts, you’d assume it was a relaxed couple of days full of food and quiet fun…

Of course, the story you can piece together on social media is rarely an entire story. Even though I am very open about the less-than-Instagram-ready parts of our family life, it is still easy to fall into the trap of presenting a super shiny, happy image on my personal social media accounts.

What the images show are certainly not fabricated moments of happiness – the smiles are genuine and the moments captured are the ones which will become the cherished memories of those days. But there is so much that is not captured in these – or any – pictures.

The truth is, we are floundering again as a family. We are collectively exhausted. The past two months have been among the roughest my son has experienced in over a year, with an increase in both his anxiety and depression. As a family we are once again trying to figure out what our new normal looks like as we attempt to balance not allowing the monsters my son battles to dictate our entire world alongside giving him the space and love and support he needs to survive this latest relapse. At the same time, we have all been grieving the death of my father-in-law at the beginning of November. He had been battling Alzheimer’s, so while his death was certainly not unexpected it still was sudden, and grief is definitely coloring our world as we enter this holiday season.

So those happy moments captured on Facebook and Instagram, are definitely moments of light in what is currently mostly dark. The change of scenery certainly helped us all, but it did not erase the realities we are living. What you don’t see in the pictures are…the panic attacks and volatile outbursts my son had in very public places, or the frustration of my daughter when our plans had to change to accommodate her brother’s needs, or my husband dealing with back pain that is very likely rooted in a lack of sleep and an abundance of stress, or me in tears over nothing and everything all at once. Those are the moments I didn’t photograph or share, but are burned in my memory deeper than the moments I did photograph and share.

The truth is, I often have a hard time finding and remembering the moments of light in a time of darkness. By intentionally photographing and sharing the things that are shiny and bright, I am helping myself to both be present in that moment and to remember that moment. But I am also keenly aware that the image I sometimes present of our family on social media is more beautiful than it is broken. It is easy to be fully real, raw, broken and beautiful here in this space, but it’s not always as easy to be so fully flawed and authentic in either the “real world” or my social media presence in that “real world.” I hate that, but it’s a definite truth.

So on the end of this Thanksgiving week, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to those all of you who read my words, cheer for and grieve with my family, and encourage me to use my voice in the most authentic way.  Thank you for being with me in this life that is real, raw, broken, and beautiful.

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