Thanks For Your Texts

I saw your text. I am sure I did. Well, I saw that you had texted me. Maybe I opened it. I cannot really remember. I know I did not respond.

I want to apologize, but I was once told that an apology is only sincere when it is accompanied by a plan to do better.

I probably will not do better.

I mean, I will sometimes. I will most of the time in fact.

But I cannot promise that I will do better all of the time, which brings me to this post.

I cannot promise to always be better. Because I am not always better.

October is tough every year for some reason. If I had to rank my toughest months to get through, February and October would consistently be near the top.

I understand February. The days are dreary and cold. It is the depths of winter.

But October? October is lovely. The trees are beautiful, the mums are nostalgic, and we celebrate so much in October. Our anniversary, Saint Daddy’s birthday, and Sunshine’s second favorite holiday, Halloween. I have no complaints against October truly.

Except that every October, I spiral.

This October was no exception.

I felt the weight of my days. I literally psyched myself up before leaving my car in the morning. “You can do this,” I said this morning as I turned off the ignition and grabbed my bag on my way into the building. “I believe in you.”

Good. Great. The first step is the hardest one. I can do all of the others.

But at the end of the day, I am spent. I faked it until I survived it. I pretended and smiled and fought the good fight.

And occasionally, I cried.

I cried because it is hard and I am so tired and I feel unappreciated and unnoticed and unsupported and a million other things that, were it not October, I might not have felt at all. I certainly would not have felt them so deeply.

But there is something about October. Something about these cooler, shorter days. Something about the way they blur into each other. Something about the most beautiful fall days that makes me feel disconnected, discouraged, disengaged.

So yeah, I saw your text. And yours. And yours too. I read it or maybe I did not but I will. I saw your email as well and her email and that one over there. I saw it. I saw that you called. I might even have seen your smoke signals, read your card, seen your love.

But I, shamefully, was too deep in my head to respond. I had too much going on to act, to react, to reciprocate.

I get it. It is awful of me. You deserve better. That is something I apologize for. I am constantly trying to do better by you, by all of you. I want to be the best I can be, the one you can rely on, the one you can trust to respond.

But my muck is too deep sometimes and self care occasionally means seeing your text and saying nothing. Self care sometimes means leaving the conversation when it is not quite over. Self care sometimes means hiding a little so I can find myself.

There are limits. If you really did need me, I would have been there. If your text said “I have a problem,” I would not hesitate because I am a loyal and dedicated friend.

But my lack of text back said “I have a problem.” I hope you understand.

October is ending. I will read your texts, all of them. Has too much time gone by that I can no longer respond? Probably.

But know, please know, that, even when I say nothing, your texts might be the lifeline I need to help me remember that my muck is not something I need to wade alone.

So thanks for your texts.

Thanks for you.

Moms Always Deserve Time Away

I am currently on a bus leaving my closest major city. I took a train to get to this bus station. I am on my way to the ocean during one of the coldest snaps on record. At the end of this bus trip is my best friend, whom I last saw in a hospital bed, and six other women who live my life in one way or another.

Saint Daddy drove me to the gas station across from the train station nearest our home this morning. I kissed my children goodbye, bought some hot tea, and boarded an express train to the city.

Before leaving work yesterday, I checked my email one last time and promised myself that I would not look at it again until Monday morning.

My friends and I have tickets for shows and plans to dance and eat and laugh for an entire weekend of limited responsibility and limitless fun.

We are all wives. We have all been married about ten years. We all have at least two kids, ranging in age from ten years to ten months.

We have spent the last eleven years supporting and loving each other from all over the country. This weekend, we meet up to celebrate life and friendship.

When I mentioned this trip to people, the resounding sentiment was “good for you” or “you deserve this.”

I never really considered time with my friends as something that I deserved, yet as a mother, the notion of me just going out for a weekend is one that seems to require justification.

Why is that?

The other question that I have been asked is “What are you doing with your children?”

Let me address that first.

I assumed that the cat and dog would take care of them. I gave the dog a pep talk about the importance of letting Grumpy and Sleepy eat their own food before eating it herself. As the cleaner of our two animals, I put the cat on diaper duty. She will be more thorough about avoiding diaper rash, I am sure. Sunshine will fend for herself like a wild animal. She will decorate her hair with bows and live on cheese sticks and rice crispy treats and the blueberry muffins she and Saint Daddy made together yesterday.

Wait! I guess I should have considered that Saint Daddy would make a viable option as a guardian for our children this weekend. I wish the dog would have mentioned something…

Since I work outside of the home and Saint Daddy works from home, he has always been our children’s primary caregiver. He is great at it. We both have our strengths. The other day, in reference to a scene from The Office, he said he is more of the day-to-day guy and I am more big picture. He does the dishes every day; I clean the windows a few times a year. He changes more diapers; I spend more time on reading skills.

And you know what? If Sunshine does not practice her sight words one time this weekend, Sunshine will be fine. Saint Daddy will feed her well-balanced meals, brush her hair, and get her to bed by 8:00. He does not need me to survive the day-to-day. He can survive just fine without me.

He wants me as his partner, and I complement him well. He is better with the schedules and details. I am better with holiday magic and childhood wonder. We parent as a team, and when necessary, we can both do it solo.

My children are fine this weekend.

Please do not worry for them.

Worry about me. I deserve this.

I am tired. These last six weeks have been difficult. Between Sunshine and my best friend being sick and work issues and deadlines and, oh yes, I began graduate classes at the beginning of January, I have had little time to process my world.

I have been overwhelmed with life.

I reached out for support and felt isolation. It is not anyone’s fault. It is probably my own. I blame no one.

I made my decisions. I chose to bear it for too long.

As a mother of two nearly two year olds and a five year old who works full time, my days are jammed. After work, I try to practice Sunshine’s reading skills, run, do my coursework, play with my sons, bathe little people, get everyone in bed at 8:00, and clean up the living room for our babies to destroy again the next day.

It is go, go, go until Saint Daddy and I get into bed.

We are tired. We are weary.

We are happy. One day, we will look back on these days that are moving so quickly and we will feel deep longing. Our lives are messy and beautiful.

But we are tired.

I dare anyone to judge that sentiment. We can love our children and be grateful for them and be the very best parents for their little souls, and still feel a permanent sense of exhaustion.

There are no breaks for parents. Not unless they give them to themselves.

This weekend, I am taking a break.

I miss my babies already. This is not selfishness. I am not pretending they do not exist. I am not shirking from my duties as their momma. I am not choosing myself over them.

I am recognizing that a tired momma is not her best self. A tired momma is not the momma my babies deserve.

In a very real way, I am spending a couple of days away because my babies deserve a momma whose mental health is not completely taxed by the constant pressure to do everything.

This weekend, there will be many fewer things for me to worry about.

I am great at worrying.

The thing I deserve is not really time away from my babies but time away from my worries.

I am halfway to the ocean. It will be cold outside but I will have friendship to keep me warm.

And when I return to my wonderful family on Sunday afternoon, I will be all the better for my time away.

We all deserve this.

We Will Figure That Out When We Get There

If I had a dollar for every time I said that, we would have so many fewer things to figure out when we get there.

I have been thinking about this a lot over the last month. It has been more than a month since my last post. Allow me to explain…

My best friend was sick. Not, like, a little sick, but really sick. It started as a cold that would not quit. She was diagnosed with various issues that seemed to be related to a cold. Bronchitis, laryngitis, a pulled muscle from the cough. And you know what? They would not quit either. She saw specialists. They told her it was anxiety. “It’s probably panic attacks.” My best friend does not have anxiety. She has had panic attacks. She knew it was not panic attacks. “Maybe it’s heartburn.” She saw a cardiologist who essentially told her she was too young to have any real issues, but if it would make her feel better, he would run tests. It was not serious enough to rush anything. Two weeks’ wait was fine. The next day, I drove to her house to spend the night with her while her husband was away. She wailed in pain while I held her baby and felt helplessness. Three days after meeting with that cardiologist, she had heart surgery. She gave her stent a name. That stent saved her life. It deserves a name.

If I could have put into words my feelings about it when it happened three weeks ago, I would have waxed poetic about a life spared. I would have praised God above, the universe around us, and medical professionals who finally hear a young woman when she says, “This isn’t normal. Something’s wrong.” I had so many feelings. Relief, joy, gratitude. I love her very much. I need her very much. I could have lost her, but I did not. We did not.

Before she saw that cardiologist who brushed her off due to her young age, she told me she feared that she would die. She told me that she feared that she would have to give up so much about her life that she loved. She told me that she was scared. And I thought, “We’ll figure it out when we get there.”

Sunshine was sick. She first became sick on the second Sunday in December. I took her to see The Nutcracker at a nearby college. We go every December. When intermission ended, she asked me if we had to stay for the second half of the play. I was surprised. She loves the ballet. She said, “I don’t feel like myself.” We did stay for the remainder of the performance. When we arrived home, however, she put herself to bed. It was 4:30 PM. She would not leave the bed for dinner. That night, she threw up in bed. She was sick for most of the next day, but that dissipated as the day progressed. She went to school the following day. She had a cold, but her belly was fine. No one else was affected.

A week later, she threw up in bed again. She spent the next day at home, but she was fine. She returned to school. At 2:00 that next day, her school called me. Sunshine needed to be picked up. She did not have a fever, but she had thrown up in the classroom. She was not permitted to return to school the next day. Saint Daddy took her to the doctor that night. The doctor suspected a lingering virus from the week before. Again, no one else was sick. She had no fever, but she was lethargic and nauseous and, occasionally, vomiting. She spent the entire day after the one when I picked her up at school in her bed. I could not get her to open her eyes long enough to eat a few bites of food.

I was scared. I was scared about all of the things that can cause nausea and lethargy without a fever or being contagious.

Saint Daddy swears up and down that this is not true, but he is a bit of an alarmist when it comes to medical stuff. He swears this because his mom is a much more extreme alarmist. She is a nurse and she sometimes diagnoses our children via Facebook posts. Shortly after Grumpy’s stitches episode, she babysat the kids while Saint Daddy and I went for lunch to celebrate our anniversary. She said she noticed that Grumpy tripped a lot and wondered if we ever considered the possibility that he might have cerebral palsy.

I truly appreciate her concern. She loves our babies and worries about them. But she is definitely an alarmist.

Saint Daddy does not consider himself to be an alarmist because he is not that extreme. But as I sat there watching Sunshine sleep, unable to rouse her, crying and praying, Saint Daddy came to me with theories. “Maybe we need to have her tested for the serious stuff.” Maybe it’s a tapeworm, maybe it’s another parasite, maybe she has… The last one is one I cannot even put into writing. It is too much.

What will we do?

We will figure that out when we get there.

That night, as I put Sleepy into his crib, he vomited all over their bedroom floor, his crib, and himself. I did not think I would ever celebrate a vomiting one year old, but there I was thrilled.

If Sunshine is contagious, Sunshine has a virus. We will never have to figure that out. Praise God. Amen.

Sunshine’s issues did not end there. Her cold remained. She felt periodic nausea over the following two weeks. We believe that Grumpy and Sleepy did as well, based on their appetites, but they could not tell us themselves.

That is when Sunshine began limping. She could not step over the baby gates anymore. Her leg hurt.

We took her to the doctor. “Maybe it’s the virus. Sometimes viruses in children can affect their hip joints.” The same virus that began three weeks ago? When do we worry that it might be something more? “Call us if it is still bad in two days.” She continued to cry out in pain and to limp around the house. She did not run around. She barely stood up at all. Two days passed. My mind went crazy places. I called my sister and she said the thing I was thinking. She did not say it, just as I would not write it, but we both thought it.

How will I live?

We will figure that out when we get there.

Sometimes, I feel like Saint Daddy thinks I do not care the right amount about certain things. I think he wants me to worry about things in the same way that he does. I know he knows that I spiral. When my best friend told me she was afraid that she might die, I told her that I refused to think about that. I could not think about that. I could not imagine that as a possibility. I would spiral. I would lose my footing. I need her to be okay because she is such a monumental part of my life. I needed to think about that only if it would actually happen, not just in case it would. The same is true of Sunshine. I needed to pray for both of them. I needed to do what I could do. I needed to drive to her house and spend the night. I needed to make Sunshine chicken soup and spoon-feed it to her as she laid down with her eyes closed. But I needed to not think of the things that could happen.

I am great at the worst case scenario. If you are ever looking for someone to tell you what the absolute worst outcome could potentially be, I promise to be that person for you. Trust me. I have imagined some horrendous outcomes to completely innocuous situations.

The last thing that I need in these situations is for someone to remind me that there are things that could go wrong. I can do that myself.

With that in mind, if I can somehow shut down that part of me that will focus on every negative outcome imaginable, I want to do that. When I manage to do that, I say, “We’ll figure that out when we get there.”

Five years ago, when I was nine months pregnant with Sunshine, I planned a major event at work. It took me nearly six months of concentrated effort. I made phone calls, organized teams, and formulated plans. It was a massive undertaking.

Whenever my second-in-command asked me very specific questions, I tried to answer them to the best of my ability, but sometimes I said, “We’ll figure that out when we get there.”

it was my way of telling her that I believed our preparation would lead to a smooth event, even if I had not ironed out every single wrinkle in the fabric table coverings. The following year, as we planned our final event together before we both moved on to different ventures, she said our motto would always be “We’ll figure that out when we get there.” Ultimately, I believe that hard work and planning can lead to it all “working out” in my favor.

I have to believe that way so I do not obsess over the details. Sometimes, I get lost in the details. My anxiety makes me get lost in the details. My anxiety tells me that I need to think about every little detail. My anxiety tells me that I need to be in control. Over time, i have been able to tell myself that I do not have to be in control. It is a coping mechanism to say these words and give myself time to deal with what will come my way.

These situations are not the end of this either.

How will we handle twins? What will we do with the dog when we go on vacation? How will we get there? What if the boys do not walk before fifteen months? What if the car breaks down? What if? What if? What if?

We will figure that out when we get there.

I promise.

Friendship Should Not Be a Chore

Someone recently told me that no healthy friendship ends dramatically.

Looking back, I can pinpoint a few of my friendships that did end dramatically, and with the clear eyes of someone removed from those situations, I can see how right she was when she said those words.

Friendships change. They fade. People change. And some of our relationships are entirely dependent on the person that we were when they took place. I had plenty of friends in high school and undergrad who are little more than Facebook friendships to me now. I think of them fondly, I am glad I knew them, but we are not truly friends anymore.

That is okay. We had our places in each other’s lives, and now, we have moved on to new things.

Have you ever thought about how much you know about people you now know nothing about? Do you think about all of the birthdays you can remember? The favorite colors? The future plans?

Sometimes, I wish I could shred some of that information. I wish I could throw it away. I wish I never thought of it. And, inevitably, those things I wish I could forget are the pieces of information that I gained from the friendships that ended dramatically.

One such friendship was the one I shared with my best friend in the world from the end of seventh through ninth grade. We were inseparable. We shared a bed during sleepovers and spent the summers together every day. One day early during sophomore year, she was mad at me and, without realizing how close I stood to her, she told someone I did not even know how horrible of a person I was turning out to be. When I called her on it, she proceeded to work on turning people against me. Very high school.

When it was all over a year later, I was better off without her. And the people who stayed around were the ones who led me to Saint Daddy’s arms. But I remember her birthday, her favorite color, and that she wanted to name a son Bastian. Years later, she made the news for committing a heinous crime, and that last fact haunted me for months.

It was not a healthy friendship. That is why it ended so dramatically.

I was friends with someone else, someone whose friendship defined my life while it lasted. She asked more of me than I was willing to give, but I gave it anyway to see her happy. It strained my other relationships. It strained me. I had many sleepless nights as our friendship progressed. She manipulated my feelings and gaslighted me. If she was upset, I could be doing more to fix it. If I was upset, there was nothing she could do, she said. Sometimes, she ignored me entirely for a day or two and then apologized with a gift. Looking back, I can see it for the abusive relationship that it was, but at the time, I was committed to maintaining it. I was not happy.

Friendship should not be a chore.

That is the other thing that person mentioned in our conversation. Friendship should not be a chore.

I do not know why some of us choose to stay in toxic friendships. I can only speak for myself.

I have mentioned before that my anxiety makes me cling to this notion that everything is perfect, even when it is not. Walking away from a friendship is providing evidence that I could not make a relationship work. Having a friendship end is providing evidence that I was not loved enough.

My anxiety rages against both of those ideas.

I cannot be a failure. I cannot be a failure. I cannot be a failure.

Losing a friendship appears to me as failure.

As with many thoughts that my anxiety brings to the forefront, this idea is a little ridiculous. Continuing to love toxic people does not save me. And sometimes, I have to be the one saved. Saint Daddy has saved me.

In both of these relationships, he was the light at the end of the tunnel. The first one because that lost friendship led to the ones that took me into Saint Daddy’s arms. In the second, he was there the entire time, watching me foolishly put her ahead of everything else until he told me it was time to stop. And I did. For him. I am grateful for him asking me to stop it. He saved me. He usually does.

How do you know a friendship is toxic?

Does one of you get inordinately jealous if the other one has other friends? I do not mean something simple like, “Man, I wish I was going out with you tonight instead of staying home.” More like, “I can’t believe you told someone else that completely mundane part of your day and didn’t even mention it to me. I thought I was your best friend!” That is obsessive, and it is unhealthy.

Does one of you demand that attention be on them instead of any other person? This is for long periods of time and also for small periods. If you are at your niece’s birthday party, for instance, and you keep getting texts about how you should not be ignoring your friend, that is unhealthy. Walk away.

Does one of you expect emotional support and validation while consistently diminishing the feelings of the other? If every time one of you says you are having a tough time the other one mentions how her life is harder, that is unhealthy. We all have terrible things going on in our lives, and friends can acknowledge the suffering of each other while still knowing that they are hurting themselves.

Pain is not a competition.

Does one of you seem to disappear when the other needs support? If your kids are sick or work is hard or money is tight, does your friend tell you that sucks and then ignore you until they need something themselves? That is unhealthy. It is similar to the previous paragraph, but it deserves emphasis. Caring goes both ways.

I am an anxious person. I am incredibly introspective. I notice little things. I internalize.

If one of you turns to the other and says that they felt belittled or hurt by the behavior of the other, does the other person brush it off as irrational? Do they provide excuses instead of acknowledging the hurt. If they do, the relationship is unhealthy.

I am not perfect. I may very well have been the toxic person in a relationship or two over the years. I try not to be.

Jane Austen wrote: “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it’s not in my nature.”

I like to believe that I live up to that ideal. I love completely when I can. I am loyal to a fault sometimes (it is how I end up holding on to toxic relationships). My anxiety makes me desire perfection and positive reception at all times (again, sometimes to a fault).

But there is no shame in leaving a toxic friendship. If it is the right thing for your mental health… If your friendship does feel like a chore… Walk away.

It is okay to take care of yourself. It is okay to take care of myself.

Think of it this way: If you had a friend who was in a relationship where they were constantly being hurt, what advice would you give them?

Be your own friend. Take your own advice.

Let go of the toxicity in your life.

This is like an open letter from someone who has been there.

I cannot allow my anxiety to put me into situations that contribute to the further deterioration of my mental health. I cannot lose my spirit in pursuit of someone else.

What do I have?

Saint Daddy is my heart and soul. He is my first and my last. He is my solid ground. He is so much more than my best friend. He understands every little piece of me.

My best friend hears my silence. She validates my feelings. She supports me endlessly. She is family that I have chosen for myself.

My BFFL is a constant. She is like a sister to me. She gives me stellar professional advice and a reliable sounding board.

I have my babies, my sisters, my mom. I have some of the best colleagues in the world.

I am letting go of the toxic and surrounding myself with people who are good and loving.

If you are putting up with toxicity, I challenge you to do the same.

I Will Always Fight

I work in a very social profession. I work with people. Many people, day after day. I make phone calls, attend meetings, send emails, manage groups, participate in discussions, collaborate, inform, petition, intercede, and support. I lead, spending large parts of my days in the “spotlight,” being the decision-maker.

I am surrounded by people.

I love my job. Anyone who knows me knows that about me. It can be difficult and stressful, but I love it.

It is a very social career, and I… I am not a social person.

I am an introvert in a job best suited for extroverts.

I can fake it for a while, but at some point, my stores become completely depleted.

The term is social introversion.

I am best suited for my home. I do not need to be surrounded by groups of people to feel happy. In fact, large groups of people make me nervous.

I hate small talk. I am actually really bad at it. I never think to ask casual work acquaintances how they will spend their weekends. If they ask me first, I reciprocate, but I do not think of it first. I care about the fact that my colleague’s husband might be sick, but I worry that I might be prying by asking.

I do my job well because I understand it, I know what is expected of me, and I love meeting and surpassing expectations. But the social aspects of my job that are not my “actual” job are parts that I rarely have the energy to accomplish.

A few weeks ago, I told someone that I struggle to interact with people outside of my regular duties at work. She expressed surprise. I said, “I’m not very strong socially, and I know it. I try, but I am tired.”

She said, “I think you picked a funny career then.”

Maybe my career choice is ironic in light of this information, but I believe that there are a number of social introverts in professions best suited for extroverts.

This is my attempt to encourage them as well as myself.

I am an introvert.

I need quiet time. I need to sit on my couch with reruns of The Office or my Kindle or my well-loved copy of Pride and Prejudice or my cross stitching and just not be talked to. I need long runs on country roads or winding trails. I need hot baths and peaceful Sundays. I need yoga sessions that allow me to meditate and pay attention to my own breathing. I need quiet moments with Saint Daddy nearby and no other concerns because he appreciates silence as much as I do.

After spending a full day at work, I need a chance to not talk for a little while. After a full week, I need to stay in bed with a book for an hour and just be.

I am not energized by socialization. I am exhausted by it.

I am an introvert.

But I am a social introvert.

Some situations do bring out my best side. I am “on” while performing my duties at work because it brings me joy. I could spend entire days with my family or closest friends and not feel completely drained. I am shy when I first meet people, but once I warm up, I am a loyal and dedicated friend. I would do nearly anything for almost anyone. I love being helpful. I love being needed. I love filling a need.

I am well-suited for certain social situations, even if I need quiet time to survive them.

Because of my nature as a social introvert, I may appear to others as something other than what I am. If I feel comfortable with someone, I am warm with them. If I meet someone new, I can appear standoffish and rude.

After hours of being “on,” I run out of the energy to fake it anymore. I become easily agitated and, again, appear rude.

I need to be surrounded by silence or, at the very least, by people who appreciate my silence.

What happens when I am not?

The phrasing that I use is that “I am not a good version of me.”

The me who has been overwhelmed by social situations is anxious. I am hyper-aware of my thoughts and feelings. I begin to overanalyze every word that comes out of my mouth. I fear that I have crossed lines. I do not feel adept at casual social interaction and I begin to imagine the worst scenarios. My brain cannot handle it, and I want to get out of those situations quickly without making a fool of myself.

The things I do to not appear a fool…

In these situations, when my anxiety begins, it is not uncommon for me to go from enjoying myself to quickly deciding that no one wants me there at all.

I have been in more than a few group conversations when we were all laughing and enjoying the moment and my brain said, “I bet they would be having just as much fun without you here. They might even prefer if you just left. Just think what they’re thinking of you that they won’t say.”

This sort of social anxiety caused by my introversion also means that, when I am depleted, interactions that would otherwise be taken lightheartedly will be seen as more serious than they are. When I feel depleted, and the light switch does not work and Saint Daddy says, “you were the last one to use it. What did you do to it?”, I do not hear “let’s figure this out.” I hear, “What did you do wrong? You mess everything up!”

I do not know statistics on people with anxiety who are also social introverts. I looked for a statistic on Imposter Syndrome because I wondered, but I did not look for one this time.

I like to imagine that, if no one else, other people with anxiety can understand my thoughts. They can understand how I can go from feeling at peace to being convinced that the world is not on my side.

I am trying all of the time. I consider myself a work in progress. I will never stop trying to improve myself. Not until I am dead.

Yesterday, I was thinking about myself, who I am and what I have done. The person I am now is better suited to handle myself when my resources start to deplete than I was even a year ago. I feel brighter. I know when to seek my refuge, and I do so as soon as I can. I ask more questions. I make more small talk. It is painful sometimes, but I see it as a good sign that I can do it.

I will be a social introvert all of my life. I will need peace and quiet to recharge before interacting with groups. I will have anxiety all of my life.

But I will not let any of these things define me.

Sometimes, anxiety does run my life, but I refuse to let it do so without a fight.

I will always fight.

Thank God for the Internet!

Every May, Saint Daddy and I have an elaborate Thanksgiving-type meal. We call it Halvesgiving. I roast a turkey breast, bake a pumpkin pie, and whip up Aunt Kitty’s stuffing recipe. We have celebrated Halvesgiving each May since we moved in together in 2008. We look forward to it each year.

I once pondered at which point I would be able to consider Halvesgiving a tradition, and my best friend said she felt that three years solidified it as a tradition.

My best friend lives in another state. For a few years, we would see her sporadically, without much consistency. For the last four Septembers, however, we have seen each other consistently . That makes it a tradition. Saint Daddy, Sunshine, and I drove three hours to her house when I was barely pregnant with Grumpy and Sleepy. I did not know there were two yet, and I told her in person that I was expecting a baby. We took a train to her nearest city, and I worked diligently to assuage my nausea as we visited a museum with our children. She promised me cheeseburgers if I survived the day, and I did it. We packed all three of our children into the car a year later for the boys’ first overnight trip. They screamed for about an hour the night we arrived because they were overtired and out of their routine.

I have never regretted a trip to see her. We have rung in New Year’s together, celebrated our children’s births and birthdays together, visited museums and beaches and festivals together.

Over the years, we have melded our last names into a Frankenbrity version of themselves that we hashtag when we get together every few months. Our children know each other. They are growing up together.

When I have something to say, she will hear it. When my thoughts are dark, she will listen. She is supportive, giving, and kind. If I asked her to, she would take down any obstacle that stood before me if it were in her power to do so. She is one of my champions. I am truly lucky to have her.

And because of my best friend, I thank the creator of the internet. Because my best friend was an internet friend.

In 2008, when Saint Daddy and I first got engaged, I was at home recovering from a traumatic car accident. Saint Daddy had worked out a beautiful engagement story for us, but my accident changed a few of his plans. He asked Dad for his blessing two weeks before my accident and proposed one week after my accident, at midnight on our sixth anniversary. I had surgery scheduled for three days later.

My left hand was swollen and useless. Therefore, sporting my engagement ring on my right hand, I spent days home from work surfing the internet. On Facebook, I discovered an app with wedding forums. I joined for the countdown that I could add to my profile. I dipped my toes into the forums, answering questions that seemed obvious to me. Some of the women seemed to know each other already, and that was a little intimidating. Over time, I began to wade into the water, until suddenly, I could hardly see the dry land behind me.

It started on those wedding forums. We discussed everything about our big days. Women shared their dresses, their rings, their processional choices, their centerpieces, their bouquets. They talked about budgets and honeymoons. We started chat threads. The moderators of our forums did not love our chat threads, and they shut them down.

We took our chat threads to MSN chat where we talked about everything under the sun. We began to truly know each other. We stopped focusing on weddings, and focused on our lives instead. Weddings occurred and then life began. Suddenly, I was OG, and my relationships with other members were intimidating. I could not say when it happened, but there I was, with solid internet friendships.

We created side groups of members from the forums who had things in common. We gave each other safe spaces. We turned to each other with horrible news and moments of joy. We said goodbye to parents, ended friendships, switched careers, sold homes, finished degrees, adopted pets, lost pregnancies, and welcomed babies.

We mourned together and celebrated together. We found solace in our shared experiences.

If I ever had the occasion to doubt the power of internet friendships, these women, whom I knew largely through my computer and phone screens, have shown me that I had nothing about which to feel concern.

When some of us lost parents, the rest of us rallied by collecting money to send food to the bereaved and flowers to the memorials. When babies came early, we sent concern and prayers to fill that momma with love to see her through days at home with an empty crib and a baby miles away. When my second pregnancy brought spontaneous twins, my internet friends sent gifts to my sprinkle from all over the country. Some of them traveled to surprise me in my living room with my sisters and sisters-in-law. They sent me boxes of their sons’ clothing and breastfeeding supplies and support that only other mommas who have been there can offer.

A year and a half ago, one of our own received terrible news. News that went beyond many of the losses we had previously faced together. She had a full-time teaching job, a husband, a toddler, an infant, and breast cancer.

If nothing I have said already has convinced you of the strength of internet friendships, this will.

With that news came a beautiful movement. Women from various parts of the country, women with diverse backgrounds and a million things on their plates, women who disagreed over various aspects of everyday life put everything aside for our friend with cancer. We sent her gifts. We checked in. We visited.

Early this year, she let us know, in no uncertain terms, that she knew her time was coming. I will never forget the way that the internet sprang to life on that day. Quickly, plans were formulated to travel to where she lived to see her, to spend a day, to have some time, to say “I love you,” to say “goodbye.”  The date chosen was mere weeks after the day she mentioned needing to see people, and somehow, more than twenty women from more than ten different states, women with jobs and children and commitments, were there for her.

The hotel gave us a conference room for free if we ordered from their caterer for lunch, and we spent an afternoon laughing, playing games, dancing, and reminiscing. She joined us for dinner before heading back to her home, exhausted from a time spent among so many people who loved her so very much, even though they saw her so rarely, if ever, before.

Within a few months, her check-ins became less frequent. One or two of us became a proxy through which she communicated via her family. Then one morning, many of us woke up to the news that we knew would come but we could never prepare for.

We did what we do. We comforted each other. We sent money to her family, gifts to her children, and people to her service. We cried and we prayed and we hoped for peace.

That experience is one of beauty. It is a true representation of what the internet can bring to the lives of many.

When I was a teenager and the internet was new, I was constantly warned about the dangers of those online. I would never advocate absolute abandon of the senses and complete trust in people on the other side of the screen without hesitancy. I am already thinking about how best to protect my children from people they might meet online.

However, I have needed my internet friends over the years. I have counted on them.

On the internet, I have met women who struggle with the same demons I fight. I have helped them fight theirs. They have helped me fight mine. Mental illness comes in many forms, and by opening up my source of support, I have been able to know people who experience something like mine.

I think about my best friend. She and I met in a side group. When the group was created, we did not know each other at all. I tended to be active in the evening after my work day. She tended to be active during her work day, which enabled her flexibility when it came to her internet usage that mine did not.

She tells me now that she was leery of me because she felt like I came out of left field. She wondered who I was and how I ended up in the same group that she did.

Despite the distance between our homes (five hours at the time), we were actually some of the closest members distance-wise. One day, she invited me and Saint Daddy, who was not a daddy at the time, to her home. Her dad warned her about her decision as everyone had warned my teenage self. “You don’t even know her. What if she’s an axe murderer?” She promised to lock her bedroom door at night and hope for the best.

I do not remember everything we did during that first meeting. I am sure we went for food because food is an important part of our relationship. What I do remember clearly, though, is that, despite having never met her in person before, it was like I had. That is saying a lot because my anxiety makes me hyper-aware of myself when around new people. She was not new, though. Not really.

When I met her dad a couple of years later, after multiple editions of our semi-annual visits, he said, “So you’re the axe murderer?”

If it were not for the internet, I would not know so many people who understand my darkness and support my light. My best friend and I live in bordering states and went to colleges six states away from each other. We come from very different families. I was raised in poverty with seven siblings. She was raised the only child of a wealthy businessman. If we had met in real life, organically, without screens between us, it is hard to say if we would have connected as we have.

But now, I could not imagine my life without her, and for that, I thank God for the internet.

She’s Nothing But An Imposter!

Sunshine recently learned the word imposter. Saint Daddy and I taught it to her when she refused to let us dispatch a house fly in case it was her friend Frukie, a fly that may or may not be on one of her shows. Saint Daddy told her that the fly in the house was merely an imposter.

Someone pretending to be something they are not.

I have read that 70% of people will experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives. The incidence of the phenomenon is more likely to occur in high-achieving women and in conjunction with recognized mental disorders like anxiety and depression.

Imposter Syndrome is a staple in my life. It underlies my professional experiences. I often fear that one day I will show up for work and will be asked to leave as soon as I get there. I fear that at some point someone will realize I am not qualified, I am not capable, and I do not belong there. I have considered moving my degrees to my workplace in case I need evidence of my qualifications, but I have worried that the paperwork may be seen as forgeries.

I worry that this will happen and I will live the remainder of my life unemployed, embarrassed, and without means of recovery.

My professional role is just one aspect of my imposterism. It is one I can confront quickly. I go to work, no one tells me to leave, I continue with my day, and the thought is pushed aside.

The prevailing and more painful source of my imposterism occurs in my personal life.

I remember my wedding day. I was there. Obviously. I had spent a year planning the day, largely driven by what Mom wanted. I was not speaking my truth as much then. I wore a beautiful white dress and walked down the aisle to the man who was my foundation. The man who kept my heart afloat so many times. And when I reached the end of that aisle, I vowed to choose him every single day for the rest of my life. And he, wonderful man that he is, vowed to do the same for me.

How could I forget?

But sometimes, my imposterism is not so sure if that happened or if it meant what I thought it meant. Where is that piece of paper? Maybe I should carry that around too.

Imposter Syndrome is part of my friendships. It tells me I am not valuable, not loveable, unimportant. I worry that I somehow tricked my friends into believing that I am worthwhile, and that one day, they will realize my duplicity and walk away. More than that, I worry that they already know that there is nothing inherently valuable within me and that their kindness is first and foremost a joke at my expense.

I can feel my imposterism in motherhood as well.

There are times when I am holding a crying Sleepy and whispering soothing words into his ear when I think to myself, “Yes, this is exactly what a mother should do.”

I have looked back on pictures of my pregnancies and my children at even younger ages as proof that I made them and brought them this far. What if it is all very Truman Show and I have been tricked into believing these truths? Poor Truman was the ultimate imposter…

I had a similar thought while I was helping Sunshine with her bucket filling assignment today. I helped her cut out pictures and talked with her about what she saw in each picture. Then she explained to me whether the picture depicted bucket filling or bucket dipping (kind or unkind behavior). She then glued the pictures to the sheet inside the proper bucket (happy or sad).

As we talked, I thought, “Wow! I’m being a mom right now. Like a real mom. I’m not even pretending.”

I realized, as soon as I thought it, that I was clarifying for myself that I am not actually an imposter.

My Imposter Syndrome asks me to be the absolute best at everything I put my mind to. The absolute best friend, wife, mother. More often than not, it calls upon me to put certain aspects of my life ahead of other more important aspects. I occasionally have a hard time prioritizing correctly because I need to be everything simultaneously, and I need to do all of those things at award-winning levels.

My imposterism needs constant acknowledgment and encouragement. I struggle to validate myself. I want to be something to people, and I crave reassurance.

Imposter Syndrome tells people who deal with it that their accomplishments are a work of luck or even deception, even when there is evidence to the contrary.

My life is not based on luck or deception. I have worked hard to get where I am. I have forged a life with Saint Daddy based on love, trust, and commitment. We have created a home filled with joy and three beautiful children. I feel lucky to have my life, but I know it does not exist purely through luck. I have wonderful friends whom I can count upon in my darkest times and who laugh with me when occasions warrant mirth.

However, I know that I will constantly be plagued by my imposterism. It comes with my anxiety. During times when I am on the brink, there comes Imposter Syndrome to drive my brain to places it should not go, telling me that I am not what I have thought all along.

If you feel like an imposter sometimes, know it is a lie. You are real and valuable. You have accomplished much and you deserve pride in what you have done.

As for me, I am going to keep reminding myself that I am not living a charade. I am living a life of joy and hope. It is a wonderful life, and I am so happy that it is mine.