Over the last three months, I’ve spent a lot of time on Snapchat. I know, right, what is it, 2012? But I have. And on my public Snapchat, Mike and kids rarely appear. On Snapchat, my life looks… kind of good. Lots of selfies (my hair has been AMAZING in quarantine, and between my eating restrictions from my surgery in February and NOT eating when I’m at the hospital with Mike, I’ve lost nearly 30 lbs) with glib captions, lots of pictures of my toenails with the pretty colors I paint on them, lots of pictures of my nights “off,” the two nights a week when a CNA comes to our house overnight so I can theoretically sleep for more than four hours, but instead I have a drink or two, soak in the bath until 2 am, and then sit awake, staring at a book without reading or connecting the dots in 1000 dot-to-dot books or musing about my own psychological state. I’d say about once a month there will be a flurry of six to twelve snaps, usually with pictures of a new skincare routine, a concoction of bath bombs and candles, a line-up of coloring books and pens (all gifts from friends who want to encourage me towards a little self-care), and with each picture a few sentences about what I’m going through, emotionally, in terms of understanding myself and how I need to exist given the unyielding load of parenthood and caregiving and quarantine and somehow living with myself.
Mostly, though, it’s selfies. My hair does look fucking great.
This is different from any of my other social media channels, because, as with everything in my life, I compartmentalize. Facebook is for mass communication. Instagram is more personal, but it’s a cross-section with the professional. Curated visual intimacy. My Snapchat, though? That’s where I go to feel like I am an autonomous person, outside of what is needed of me. That isn’t to say it’s more honest. They’re all honest. They’re just honest about different things.
Snapchat is where I go to be honest about trying to love myself when so much of my life is out of control, and I think it’s helping. I feel better about myself when I can flip through my own snaps and see a pretty woman taking care of herself in ways both superficial and concrete. She’s the put your own oxygen mask on first version of myself. Which is to say, it’s not that comprehensive of a self-assessment. She takes the time to care for herself, despite the world falling apart around her. She enjoys the views from the hospital and hotel. She lingers on poems in the books she reads. She hydrates.
Thanks to the structure of Snapchat, she’s gone every 24 hours. Whatever nice thing I said about myself yesterday is meaningless. Whatever potentially selfish act I performed 24 hours ago is gone. Whatever emotional epiphany I had last week may as well have never happened. Snapchat is the epitome of living in the moment. And considering how hard each moment of my day frequently is, that these disappear is a profound comfort.
Snapchat is the only place I go to complain.
But the fact is, it’s also a lie. All of my social media is a lie. All my life is a lie of omission.
The fact is my days are SO much harder than I let on, anywhere, ever. The conversations I have are so much more complex, so much more painful, so full of weight and import and pain. The fact is my life is much duller than you might guess. Most of my hospital days are spent sitting in silence, waiting, doing as close to nothing as possible. I don’t post on Instagram all the parking lots I pull over to cry in. I don’t post on Facebook when a new persistent symptom turns my day into a scavenger hunt through notes for correlating information. I don’t post on Snapchat when my pajama pants fall down over and over again because the knot in the drawstring that hasn’t been untied in five years is permanently stuck at what is now “too big” for me, and how at once I feel proud that I’ve lost the weight I’ve been unhealthfully carrying for so long, and at the same time grief that nothing is the same anymore, not even my pajama pants, and I don’t know if I know myself anymore. I don’t know how to be when I’m isolated from my friends, when my relationship with my husband is so overwhelmed by one-sided care, when I am constantly apologizing for myself and stopping him from doing the same, when I have a whole world of communications that are secret. Talks with the kids that are not for Mike. Talk with my friends that are not for my family. Talks with Mike that are for us alone. Talks on Snapchat that will vanish forever in a few hours’ time.
The fact is people are constantly asking me how I am, and I never give an honest answer. I usually say something like, “I’m okay,” or, “Hanging in there.” And these are true in one spectacular way; through all of the shit of the last six months, losing Jac and her daughter, Mike’s medical drama, losing Shana, Mike’s ongoing complications, the pandemic, the kids’ trauma… Through all of it, I haven’t once considered suicide. And for me, that is proof I am both okay and hanging in there. When you’ve been suicidally depressed, “okay” is a refreshingly low bar.
My life is a masterpiece of compartmentalization, and friends and family peer into it through my social media- the only interaction it’s safe to have in These Unprecedented Times- and they tell me I am strong.
“I’m praying for you.”
“You’re in my thoughts.”
“You are so strong.”
“You inspire me.”
“You’re doing great.”
“Don’t forget to have a glass of water.”
“You’re not alone.”
“Mike is lucky to have you.”
Is he, though? Aren’t I? I don’t know.
I do know that the happiest version of myself is the one on Snapchat, who doesn’t often post about Mike and the kids, and can take comfort in the superficial aspects of her existence. She’s a bit shallow, but I like her. Honestly, I like all of them, all the little, fractured versions of me. Despite all the shit going on, I’m discovering how much I actually like myself, and that is truly not a small thing. It’s an even higher bar than “okay,” I think.
But none of them are me. And none of them explore how badly it hurts to watch the most important people in your life suffer. Mike is suffering. The kids are suffering. And while I intellectually know that it is not my job to make it better, to kiss them where they hurt and put them back to rights, I feel like it is, and I feel like I’m failing.
I feel like I’m drowning.
I’m doing the best I can. It’s not my best, there was never a chance it would be my best, but it’s the best I can NOW. And the superficial version of me who snaps half a dozen selfies a day and catalogs her self-care routines is helping me see that this shitty approximation of “doing my best” is actually kind of okay.
I’m okay. I’m hanging in there. My hair looks great. And sometimes that has to be enough.
You can read more about finding peace with an out of control life here: An Atheist Tefilah
Read my most recent post here: 100 Ways to Die, or, Kids and Glioblastoma in the Age of Coronavirus
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