Facebook’s “On This Day” feature greets me most mornings with happy memories. I see my most favorite people smiling on family vacations, treasured holidays, and the tiniest moments are all gathered together to remind me of my beautiful life. I see best friends and friends I haven’t seen for far too long. I am startled by how quickly the days with my daughter have passed by and I think back to all that my husband and I have endured and celebrated. And, oh, how I miss so many sweet faces that are no longer in this world.
Like so many people, I believe in focusing on the positive. It’s a choice to see what is possible and good and right and I hope to always look there first.
I also know that my life, and yours, is more complicated than our social media feeds disclose. Experience confirms for us that our lives wouldn’t be as full if we didn’t also know sadness, disappointment, loss, and betrayal. It is on those days that I seek out my favorite Gary Allen song:
Life ain’t always beautiful
Sometimes it’s just plain hard
Life can knock you down
It can break your heart.
You think you’re on your way
And it’s just a dead end road
At the end of the day.
But the struggles make you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has it’s own way
Of taking it’s own sweet time.
Lately, Facebook’s “On this Day” takes me back to those days that knocked me down and where we were the deepest in our bullying fight. It is a startling reminder of just how bad it was. I found myself five years ago torn between removing Morgan from school and finding a way to survive until that that final bell to signal summer break.
The reminders often take me back to Morgan sitting down to dinner only to retreat to bed because her stomach hurt. She would describe panic attacks at school, not realizing what it was. She would talk about not being believed and her fear of the bully. She would take her antidepressant each night and I wondered if I made the right decision in agreeing to give them to her.
I remember her doctor advising me to remove her from school because he felt like she was emotionally unsafe. I also remember an administrator saying he didn’t see her suffering at school. I remember telling him he didn’t see her suffering because she was being medicated. Mostly, I remember being incensed by such an insensitive and dangerous assumption based on what he saw or wanted to see in my 9 year-old daughter’s face. The fear often overtook me and I would question myself. Should I go against a doctor’s advice of taking her out of school? What if she harmed herself? I would never forgive myself. I knew I wouldn’t survive it. But, I couldn’t set an example of being silent to the injustices we experience and see. So, I pushed through my fears.
Our choice to advocate brings a steady stream of calls for help. And, the calls are coming. The last few weeks of school always bring a flood of messages from frantic parents and scared kids. Sometimes the bully is another child and sometimes it is a teacher or coach. But, at the core, every story is our story. No one hears. No one helps. No one wants to believe. Schools often push back for reasons I can’t understand. Parents are frustrated and afraid. Kids just want it to go away. And, so, we keep focused on the need for change.
I turn back to my Facebook feed and I wander into the future. One day, years from now, when I am not here I wonder what Morgan will see in her “On This Day” reminder. I want her to see pictures that make her smile, but I also want her to see ones that make her pause. I want her to remember the struggles and the times she was afraid. I want her to remember the days that I was as well. I want her to never forget that it didn’t stop me from standing up for her. I hope it inspires her to stand up for herself or for someone else when she isn’t sure she can. I want her to remember how hard those days were, but also how she helped make someone’s life easier. I want her heart to be full knowing the struggles do indeed make her stronger and that she can always count on happiness finding its way to her.
And, I want her to remember the moments that never made her Facebook feed. I want her to think back to us singing in the car, getting lost on our travels, and how it gave us courage to hold hands when we both were afraid. I want her to hear me whisper to push through her fears when she needs it most because I know she will smile and think of me when she sees the beauty of what is on the other side of that fear.