In this Valentine’s season, remember: Not all broken hearts come from a breakup.
I was standing in line, waiting to go to the restroom at an extravagant fundraiser at a beautiful home in our town’s premier gated community. There were actual celebrities there, a DJ from Miami on the top deck, an ice-sculpture beverage luge, glowing spheres in the pool, and more to make it a magical night. It was so chic, many of the town’s most beautiful and wealthy were there.
I had a headache as we headed over, but figured I’d push through because I really loved the charity throwing the party. I used to be on their board and deeply believe in their mission.
While I was waiting for the bathroom, I checked Instagram. I saw a friend’s post that was like a knife in my heart. For the very same night we were also invited to an entirely different type of event. One of my dearest friends was celebrating a birthday and doing a weekend away with her family and some other families. There would be no celebrities or fancy anything there.
The first photo was of my friend’s wife, then one of a few kids, but the snapshot that undid me was a quick video of 11 children running toward the camera at Moores Creek National Battlefield, smiling with the wind in their hair.
We (Andrew, Oliver, and I) could have been there. Except we really couldn’t have been. Between Oliver’s nurses, his feedings, his meds, his stomach pain, his diaper needs, his desire for quiet and peace due to autism, we just couldn’t.
But here is the thing that brought a deep pain to my heart: That was the life I wanted. Not the fancy Miami-themed party.
When Andrew and I got back in our minivan after the party, I told him to stop before he took a left out of the gated community. I wanted to show him something on my phone. As I showed him the video, I said, “We could have been there.” Choking back tears, I went on, “I would have traded this night for that place with those families and kids a 1,000 times.” By now the tears were coming from one of the most tender and broken parts of my heart and I couldn’t hold them back. Andrew reached his hand over and said, “I’m so sorry… I wish we were there too,” as he drove past the beautiful homes and through the neighborhood gatehouse.
But it wasn’t just Oliver’s care that kept us from going. Andrew had to work on a production on Saturday morning, I had to go into the office to work on our two companies, and I had an open house to run on Sunday. Business ownership has real rewards, but it requires true sacrifice. And that does tie back to Ollie too — we have the companies for him; we created them to help support his financial needs and our parental needs for flexibility to care for him.
When I got the heaving sobs under control, about five minues from our house, I said to Andrew, “I know we’ve been called to something different than basically all of our friends. And I know God is using it, but I still would trade this for that… but it doesn’t work that way.”
I know you can’t trade things in life. I know that prayer doesn’t work like a vending machine. I am aware that maybe some of the moms on that trip I wanted to be on were probably frustrated and annoyed with their children. Maybe they would have loved to get dressed up and, heck, even put their mouth to the end of that ice-luge thing.
They say the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but I can see it and it sure looks green to me. It smells good and reminds me of childhood. It looks like you could take your shoes off and wiggle your toes. From the outside looking in, having a home with healthy (physically and mentally) people in it looks pretty darn good.
I’m not entirely sure what I’m intending with this blog post. Maybe to say that if you see me on social media in a gala dress, know that it’s likely that on the ride home, the smiles turned into tears, because for all the glitzy things in our life, we’d trade it for a healthy kid and a normal life in a millisecond.
Or maybe it’s that I want to make meaning of my pain, your pain, the hurt that comes with loss and bitter disappointment. I want to button this up for you, but I can’t. If there is anything to understand from such heartbreak, it’s this: You aren’t alone in it. Never forget the most “put together,” “energetic,” and “inspiring” person you know might be one Instagram post away from her heart breaking into 100 pieces.
Yes, not all broken hearts come from a breakup.