Why Is It Never Like the Movies?
I think I am one of those people who should have never been allowed to see movies as a kid. I mean it has totally fucked me up for life. I think that the good guy always wins, the love always get returned, the ending always happy. So not how life goes. And I have been chronically and horrifically disappointed by this, repeatedly.
My son came home last night and it was so bittersweet. It was a good reunion but the drive home was taxing. We had to pause the conversation twice. We didn’t hear each other a couple of times and I felt overwhelmed, disappointed and fearful most of the time. And at the very same time, we had some good conversations. I was able to see that he was anxious, tired, scared and feeling like a fish out of water at the same time.
The truth is that my son and I are so much alike yet so very, very different. And that has always, since he was like three created friction. And that I am not sure will ever change. We are so alike in our differences that it makes conversing hard and a great deal of effort for both of us.
I so wanted the movie reunion. Where he gets off the plane, runs to his mom and throws his arms around me and spins me around. So excited just to see me. I wanted him to be interested in things that I wanted to talk about and not immediately begin hitting me with all the things that he needs/wants. I wanted to have a poignant moment in the car where he thanked me for all that I have done, sacrificed, paid for. I wanted something other than my reality.
But this is not the movies. This is real life. And his homecoming was fine. It was lovely at moments, poignant when he hugged me for a long time before he went to bed, and it was also hard. It is hard to adjust to a new person that you haven’t lived with in almost a year, moving back into your house. It was full of fear, I am sure for both of us. It was full of expectations that both of us would likely say were not met. It was full of disappointment, minor ones really, I forget how much his energy and my energy work against each other. How two people who are so alike, can see the world so very differently.
The good news is that we were both able to use the skills we have learned, practiced and worked on for the past year. And I am grateful that I didn’t get the movie created reunion because that would have created a whole shitstorm of expectation rocks that I would be crashed against likely today. There were no harsh words, and really only mild frustration on both our parts.
I tried to see it from his perspective, how hard this must be for a 16 year old boy to come back to all that he left behind and begin anew. I was marginally successful at that. I also tried to give us each some grace, it was late. We were both tired and neither of us deals well with tired. So considering it was late and a long day for both of us, we did pretty well.
There were no explosions. There were no harsh words. There were no profane exclamations. We talked about hard things, and for the most part reached consensus. I just wanted it to feel better than it did. Which pretty much describes how I have felt about life as a whole.
I have to own that my life has never really felt the way that I wanted it to. I have historically wanted the movie scenes. The breakups, the letdowns, the change of tide, the love scenes, all of the fucking scenes to be like it is in the movies, and in reality, life is just not like that. And I have to own that I have been historically disappointed by this fact. And that is my issue. And I am mature and old enough now to own that I am the one that is adding that to the mix.
We do not get the storybook endings. Most especially those of us who have children who have struggled. It is anything but perfect and often so crazy that we can’t even explain it to anyone else. Most especially those of you who appear to have it all together and ARE having the Hollywood movie life. You are the people that we hide from the most.
But I know that there really isn’t anyone out there that is having that life. And that the Hollywood life isn’t all that those of us who don’t have it actually think it is. There are largesses and big payouts but those things come with their own high price tags. And I can only imagine the cost, because I have never been in the position to pay those kinds of bills.
As I climbed into bed, both my children in their own beds. Safe for the moment from life, from my own expectations, from their own ideas about a lot of things, and I realized that this is one of those habitual ways that I leave the present moment. I decide that I don’t like it. And then that creates this disconnect with me and reality. I begin to daydream about how I wish it was, how I hoped it would be, how much I wanted a different present.
In my fantasy world, I haven’t spent the tens of thousands of dollars, I haven’t had to send my child away, I haven’t had to do all the emotional, spiritual and physical heavy lifting. Life looks more like a cake walk, not the dumpster fire we have all lived for years. But then I remember cake walks. They were not all that much fun either. I mean you do get a cake at the end of it, which is good. But not necessarily the one that you wanted. And there is stress involved in the whole cake walk thing. (For those of you younger than 45 you are likely going to have to look up what a cake walk even is...)
My point is that life is not a cake walk. Nor is it a shitshow. Life is this series of moments that we try to contain and control by the stories we tell ourselves and everyone who will listen. We all want the movie script ending. But that is not real life. In fact, the happy endings are just believable fictions that cause us to miss the unfolding realities of our actual lives. Well, at least that is what they have been to me.
My son is better. He is calmer. Not the mess he was last year. And he is motivated. He is nervous, scared and terrified to do anything that resembles a fuck up. How awful it must be to live in fear that if he steps too far out of the lines, he could be sent away again. But that is his reality.
I am better. I am calmer. I am not the mess that I was last year. I am motivated. I am nervous, scared and terrified to do anything that resembles a fuck up. How awful it must be to live in fear that if he steps too far out of the lines, I might have to do something drastic again. And also find the money to pay for that. But that is my reality.
My daughter is not really better. She is kind of a mess. She is dealing with her own stuff and that is hard, hard stuff. She is working hard and doing well under some pretty difficult circumstances. She is nervous, scared and terrified that her brother and I will fuck this up and make our home a living hell. How awful it must be to live in fear that two people she loves, have created this very difficult reality. But that is her reality.
We are all in the same place at the same time but having fundamentally different experiences. And it is hard. No Hollywood idealized movie scene can save us from the reality that we are living a hard reality right now. It is not easy to transition home. It is not easy to reunite. Even with all the skills, therapy and help. It is still a hard road we are walking. A family torn apart now being mended slowly, painstakingly over time. The present, past and future all being written and rewritten by each of the characters: me, my son and daughter.
So I am doing the only thing I know to do: hold space. Breathe. Pray. Yoga. Meditate. Go for walks. Talk it out. Give voice to the terror. And try not to fuck it up while knowing that on some level I am already fucking it up. And so is he. And so is she.
I want so much for this to be all better. I feel like we all deserve an “ALL BETTER” situation. But we don’t, no more than anyone else does. Some people have cancer, some people have death, some people have kids with special needs and issues, some people have addiction. We all have something, and most of us have all of the above at different points in time.
I am going to try to remember that we are in the process of doing a great many hard things.
I am raising two teens by myself. I am working hard at it but I really don’t know what I am doing. There was no training and even the training I have got, fails me on occasion because life is not lived in textbooks, and therapy sessions and stuff like that. Life is lived on that bleeding edge of raw life. That place where you are asked to practice all you have learned while being so triggered and overwhelmed in the process.
My son is coming home to a place that is likely feels like it should feel better. That his mom was more chill, that his dad was present, that his sister was not so distant and unforgiving.
My daughter is being asked to make accommodations that she doesn’t want to make for a brother that she is still upset with and mad at. She is not loving the sharing of her space, her home or her mother.
We all wish things were different. And yet, here we are. We all have to relate to each other, and try our best to not heap more dysfunction on each other while living our daily lives which are rich, full and privileged.
I think my best option at this point is to try to remember that we are all fighting battles that remain largely unseen to the others we reside with...that we are all living this experience out loud and in real time but there is also a huge backstory going on for all of us. And that backstory is not congruent. We all have very different versions and they are all wrong and right at the same time. They are all based upon our own unique perspectives and issues, and traumas and healing.
We are all just human beings doing our best while often doing our worst. We are trying. And we are failing. But we are also succeeding. The success just doesn’t look and feel the way that we want it to. And this is hard. This is a hard place to live, to reside. And we are all doing the very best we can with what we have...and that is often way less than what we really need.
Transitions are hard for everyone. I am going to try not to lose sight of this. I am going to try to give grace to all of us and stop writing ridiculous scripts in my head - the ones that end with a fairytale ending and the ones that end like a horror show. I am going to try to stop writing anything in my head about what is presently going on in my home and work on being honest, open minded and willing. Willing to see reality and acknowledge its hardness, open minded that this is not the past and it doesn’t have to result in the old present, and honest about how I feel, what I think and that I am not all better myself.
We have all worked hard in our own individual ways, now it is time to see if we can blend all of that into a new family unit that isn’t abusive, dysfunctional, dysregulated or a dumpster fire. While remembering that we are all doing the very best we can, minute by minute, hour by hour. And that each of us have a best that changes. Some moments our best is amazing and at other times, so much less than best. But we are all trying, and failing, and starting over, and getting it right and wrong, and trying not to lose faith, hope and go for the love that has always existed. Even when buried under a lot of crap. The love has always been there. Like a diamond buried deep within the earth, created and forged there, but then ultimately not altered by the dirt, grime and muck that surrounds it. We too can rise. We too can extricate ourselves from the things that threaten to cocoon us in darkness. All we can do, is continue to be willing to search for the light, within ourselves, each other and shed some grace as we walk humbly on a path that not one of us wanted.