Like a calm blue lake under the July sunlight that seems like it should be about 90 degrees, but instead everyone around it is in pants and long sleeves because while it is July, it is July in northern Michigan, very northern Michigan, and it is not hot or even warm. We used two blankets at night and put the boys in footie pajamas and when we bike the winds are cool enough that we still can’t wear shorts.
Or like this picture, where it seems like an idyllic trip kayaking with the family. Eliot was entranced by being that close to the water, and Lincoln tried not to move an inch the entire time he was with me, simultaneously scared and exhilarated. But really it was the second big physical thing we had done that day, and I still struggle with exhaustion sometimes, and the kayaking after the 9 mile bike ride earlier that day was a bad decision.
Pre-motherhood, exhaustion for me meant aching muscles and maybe a bit dizzy. Post motherhood it means reaching a point, often far quicker than I mean to, of having nothing left to give and speedily falling apart physically and mentally. So when I got tired, too quickly, I told Joe we had to turn around, and then we turned around and the current was strange, and Lincoln’s weight in addition to mine made it harder, and I couldn’t get the kayak to go where I needed it to go. And instead of calm decision making, I had a little panic, floating on that lake. I sat with it for a bit, let Lincoln point out all the seaweed from his front perch, and then found my way back to shore. It could have been worse, but it disheartened me that I still have that brink, that cliff, within me.
Or this picture, this light filled, morning picture; if I just put this picture up on Instagram, you would think we had a peaceful morning with our cereal and our boys, when in fact what happened was Lincoln woke up, exhausted and overwrought already, because in July in northern Michigan the sun doesn’t set until about 1015 pm, which means he doesn’t fall asleep until 1030, and this lack of sleep led to a giant meltdown about the dirty kitchen table, because when he is tired and overwhelmed he needs perfection (wonder where he gets that from). And I wiped down the table and told him he could wipe down the table if it wasn’t good, and instead of doing that he fell on the floor in tears because he ‘can’t eat at a dirty table Mom and there are still crumbs there’. So I suggested he eat outside, and that’s what he did in order to avoid the crumbs.
Or this picture, this beautiful stone formation on Mackinac Island, which I leaned over the railing to capture, and which hides the edge-to-edge crowds that we had to sidle through, the crowds where we kept losing sight of the boys, because we decided to take our UP vacation on the Fourth of July weekend, which must be the busiest weekend in the year up here. The ferries were packed, the bridge was packed, the bike trails were packed, and everywhere we looked there were people. (The upside of that was that a group of strangers heard Lincoln talking about my birthday, and they sang me happy birthday, right there, with the crowds around us and the horse drawn carriages behind us.)
Or this picture, which shows Eliot delightedly combing through the Fourth of July sparklers with barbecue sauce on his face, but does not show him hiding under the chairs with his snuggle over his ears when someone told him the firecrackers might be loud, and it definitely does not show his screaming face when one of the firecrackers actually was a little loud, and does not show how I had to take him inside and hold him on the couch and distract him with a book for a good five minutes before the sobbing tears subsided.
But just because the tears and the panic and the crowds are not not in all my pictures doesn’t mean they aren’t there, because they always are. How things look aren’t always how things are, and what we see isn’t everything or even half of everything. And when the good half is all we show, it’s not just not all of the truth, but it squeezes our life a little smaller, it even can change our mind set a little bit, it can make us think that we’d enjoy it a bit more without the complications, when really, it’s not true. Because when everything is perfect, when everything goes the way it should, it gets a little boring, doesn’t it? It gets a little predictable, it gets a little normal.
So I want to show these pictures with a little commentary this time, to open up our lives a little bit again, to show the other half, the real life messy half, and sometimes, the half that really matters, like sunlit breakfasts, birthday serenades from strangers, and tight hugs on couches when things get just a little scary.
You know, the things we get from the messy half.