The other day, I was out with a few girlfriends for lunch. It only took a few dozen texts to find a date and time we could all agree on, but we didn’t stop until we came up with a day that worked for everyone because we needed it — really needed it.
When we arrived, we all looked amazing — hair done, makeup on, great shoes, the whole nine. We embraced each other, trying not to act too excited in the crowded restaurant, but it was more than excitement. You could almost smell the anxiety lingering over our lunch. We were really looking forward to seeing each other, so we could vent and leave feeling a little more humanized and a little less alone.
These women are the kind of friends you can be real with, so when one of them asked me how I was and I responded with, “I am great,” I quickly recanted. I was not great, and I took back what I said, admitting it had been a shitty week.
“Good, because I am having a shit week too,” my friend responded. “I have the worst PMS, and I got in a fight with my sister last night. It was horrible. I am still shaky over it. Is it too early to order a glass of wine?”
I told her I was really sorry and that fighting with family is hard, but she looked absolutely fabulous — so there was that.
“Thanks, but to be honest, the only reason I look like this is because I canceled my dentist appointment this morning and decided to spend my time getting ready for this lunch instead of doing any housework. The place is a wreck. I can not be allthethings at the same time. It just doesn’t work like that.”
My other friend went on to talk about the struggles she had been having, how her therapist made her cry yesterday, and that she has no idea how or where she will find the time to find another one, but she has to. She needs it. She is a single mother, and her mother is sick.
And while she, too, sat next to me looking splendid, like she had her shit together, she did not feel that way. She is taking care of everyone around her and needs to take care of herself a little more. And she knows it, but she can’t seem to make it happen.
It was all so familiar — I could relate. Maybe not in the exact same way, but stealing time from one obligation to fulfill another, not quite getting the balance right in life, and feeling anxiety when something unexpected comes up and throws you off in a way that makes you feel like you are spiraling out of control — those feelings are so relatable. Nobody is immune to these situations. Nobody.
We were relieved to have this time to verbally throw up on each other. There was comfort in knowing we all have our stuff, the messy shit that most of the world doesn’t see. It wasn’t that we were happy to see our friends struggling, but there is something in knowing when your life feels like it is falling apart, you are not alone.
The truth is, I really don’t know anyone who has their shit pulled together in a pretty little package. What we show to others isn’t always what is really behind the curtain. We are all struggling, we all have dysfunction, we all feel crazy busy, and we have all, at one time or another, thought we were losing our goddamn minds.
This is also true of the women who look pulled together all the time; even the women who have endless energy and volunteer for every function; even the women who are always happy and cheery and have a bunch of crazy kids playing at her fun house all the time; even the women who seem to excel in their careers and home life; and yes, even the women who always have a clean house and attend yoga every single day.
And as we sat and talked more about how fucked up things could get and how we constantly wonder if we are the only ones who struggle with the day-to-day shitshow known as adulting, a woman was walking by, desperately trying to get her wild toddler to cooperate. Her ponytail was falling out, and she was carrying a newborn, a diaper bag, and what looked like a mangled to-go box. She was almost in tears, and looking at the three of us didn’t help.
I recognized that look. It was a look I had given other women who appeared to have found calmness and peace on the other side of parenting, to the women I used to see who were lunching in style as I ran through a restaurant wishing I could sip on a glass of wine and have an adult conversation that lasted for more than two minutes before getting interrupted, to women who appeared to have their shit together.
I wanted to tell her it wasn’t what it looked like. We were no more “together” than she felt at that moment. Maybe it looked that way, but if she really knew us, she would see all of our skeletons.
No, you don’t have to air your dirty laundry all over the place, but there is so much good that comes from knowing you are not alone in this. We are all a little messed up. We all think being an adult, a parent, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a caretaker is hard. It’s really fucking hard.
So just know, even if we appear to have it together today, tomorrow may be a different story, and there is no shame in that.
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