Beauty and Ashes

Yesterday wasn’t exactly a great day. My husband is myopically focused on what he believes our relationship should look like, and how I’m failing to live up to that.

I’m myopically focused on not ending up in another long stretch of major depression and anxiety.

I hate how mental health is often treated as less important and less impacting than physical health. If I had cancer, or even just a broken leg, I doubt my husband would be telling me what he thinks our relationship should look like and implying I’m unreasonable for failing to live up to his expectations.

He seems to genuinely believe he’s the innocent victim of circumstance and my bewildering behavior, that he’s been nothing but reasonable and has been handed insanity in response.

I vented to a friend and tried not to let myself sink too deeply into the depressed reaction that usually follows a discussion and/or fight with my husband.

I decided to take a walk after the girls were in bed, while my husband was still watching TV with the boys.

I walked straight into the magical beauty of this random, frustrating, terrible, wonderful universe.

The park was full of fireflies – more fireflies in one place than I’ve ever seen in my life. The field between the apartment complex and the park looked like it was sparking, and there were even fireflies in the trees, like some kind of fairy Christmas lights.

I stopped, and stared, and then I hurried home and told my boys to put on their shoes and come back outside with me, hoping the fireflies would still be doing their thing.

After watching for a few minutes and commenting on how it was cool but would probably be scary to find this scene if you didn’t know what was happening, my oldest went back home, but his younger brother wanted to continue walking with me.

I’d wanted to walk alone, but agreed to let him come along, and wasn’t sorry.

He’s 12, which is not an age that sits easily on most people, and he tends to keep things close to his chest even though he knows he’s welcome to come to me and talk about things that bother him.

Last night he was willing to talk. He expressed frustration over the fact that he’s trying to build a Magic: the Gathering deck and hasn’t been able to get the cards he needs, then said forlornly that it was something small that didn’t matter in the long run.

I told him it was okay to acknowledge feeling bad about small things, and that most of the big things don’t matter in the end, either, because we all end up dead eventually. (I’m not exactly a master of comforting mom speeches.)

I did talk about finding ways to manage our emotions and expectations so we don’t feel too bad for too long about disappointments, but said it’s a process and that many adults were still working on learning that, too.

I want my children to know it’s okay to care about small things, though, and not think their life’s focus has to be on big, important things. I know what it’s like to be raised with other people’s expectations about Life’s Purpose and the weight that can settle on the psyche.

He then went on to speak forlornly about his boredom now that he’s packed up most of his things, his frustration with how his dad is handling summer homework, and the fact that he feels like he’s fighting with his dad, his brother and his oldest sister more frequently.

I am, again, not exactly a master of comforting mom speeches, but I talked to him about human development, a child’s growing need for independence as they approach adulthood, and how parents don’t always handle that transition with grace, especially when they’re stressed.

I talked about how people develop empathy at different stages. My second-born is the sort of person that developed empathy early, but for many people it won’t happen until their teens or even adulthood.

I talked about how my sisters and I fought when we were children, more and worse than he and his siblings do, but that once we were adults we became pretty good friends.

I said knowing why people acted the way they did made it a little easier for me to handle, even though it didn’t stop me from feeling emotional responses to how people behave.

I don’t know if anything I said was helpful, but I think just the fact that he expressed his concerns and got a conversation that didn’t dismiss or belittle his concerns helped. His mood seemed improved by the time we returned home.

He went back to watching TV with his dad and brother, and I went upstairs, listened to music, and fantasized about being in a relationship where I’m loved and supported, until I was ready to go to bed.

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