I had the pleasure of spending Mother’s Day this year with my three sons. As they get older, it’s not so easy to get them in the same place geographically so, when it does happen, it’s a bittersweet kind of sweet.
As we are wont to do (I’m bringing back wont), we talked about people we know: old friends, lost connections from the neighborhood of their youth. What ever happened to…? I will ask. And they usually know or have some vague idea. That’s one gift of social media. Very few people will actually disappear from my sons’ lives. They won’t know how it feels to simply wonder what happened to the John Sepe’s and Jimmy Connors’s of their youth. (Yes, his name really was Jimmy Connors).
I asked about A, an old friend of theirs who had struggled mightily with substance abuse.
“Yeah, you know, he’s always GTS,” my First said.
“What’s GTS?” I asked casually, trying not to relinquish any of the cool mom persona I (probably wrongly) envision myself having.
“Going Through Something,” First said.
“I kind of always assume that about everybody,” the Middle mused.
Of course, that was a mic drop moment for me because I’ve schooled my kids in that sentiment for as long as I can remember. It’s an important one — a crucial one — because it’s almost always true.
There’s something about GTS that I love. It’s a hopeful acronym. It intimates that whatever we’re going through, we’re going to come out on the other side of it. Whatever it is will eventually be in our rearview.
It also encapsulates what it means to be alive. If we’re breathing, we’re going through something, we’re processing something. As you read this, you’re going through something. I am, too. It was a cruel-ish winter for a number of reasons that aren’t so important and, perhaps, not so cruel either. But, like you, I’ve been GTS — more than one thing to be fair. And that’s also usually how life works.
This past season, the normally comedic series took a dark turn. We see Rob (also his character’s name) struggle with alcohol abuse. It was a bit of a surprising twist as the show had previously focused on the imperfect relationship of Rob and his wife, Sharon, and their cutting, hilarious repartee.
But even before we see Character Rob devolve into old habits, I thought I noticed something different about Real Rob. I saw something in his face that, for lack of a better description, looked like pain. Was I crazy? Was I in therapist-mode overdrive? This guy’s in a comedy. He’s being funny. But I saw something and I couldn’t un-see it for the duration of the season. Even when delivering his punchlines, I thought he looked as if he might just crumble. And that it was taking every ounce of his emotional energy to not have it happen for the cameras.
And just this morning I read that Rob Delaney lost his two-year-old son to cancer in January.
Of course, I don’t know when this last season was filmed. And I don’t know where his little boy was in the course of his illness when Rob was playing at playing Rob. And maybe the timeline is all in my head and they wrapped the season long before he had any inkling that his baby would become ill. And that soon his heart would be broken into shards that will never — really. never. — fit back together the same way.
Rob Delaney is GTS. He is now and always will be. Because sometimes our somethings are unresolvable. And we have no choice but to figure out how to carry them around because living requires we hit our marks — even when it’s all we can do to show up. Just like Rob Delaney did when his son was dying and when, I imagine, nothing in this world was funny to him at all.
In this age of social media masking and masquerading, the recognition that everyone is GTS is more important than ever. And we can’t be lured into numbness by believing (about others and, yes, even ourselves) that our perfect Insta selfies will ever/accurately/actually/remotely represent our whole truth.
So, if there’s a lesson here, it’s this: Be kind. Because the whole truth is — you, me, Rob Delaney, and every other soul — we’re all GTS.