That’s not how I pictured it

by Christy Gualtieri

Not too long ago, I was at a friend’s house celebrating her little one’s first birthday.  Everything was set: beautiful cake, food on the grill, and children running every which way underfoot. The adults all stood around talking; and before we knew it, lunch was over and it was time for cake.

That's not how I pictured itThe parents of the birthday girl got her all ready to go: sat her in the high chair, affixed a frilly pink birthday hat on her head, and presented her with her own “smash cake” – a miniature version of the one the rest of the guests would enjoy. As we all sang the “Happy Birthday” song, I took a look at my friend, who was smiling for the photos with her daughter. As the song ended and it came time to “smash” into the cake, as most babies are wont to do, I watched my friend’s face cloud slightly with disappointment when the birthday girl just sat and looked at the cake.

It wasn’t like the baby didn’t enjoy having the cake present. She was just pretty calm about it. Too calm. Way too calm. Her mother was disappointed, and the emotion was written all over her face. Where was the voracious giggling, the hands crusted over with frosting? Where was the butter-cream smeared face for the camera? Doesn’t every baby love cake? Why is my kid different? What did I do wrong?

This is so not how I pictured it, my friend seemed to say.

This statement could apply to so many people’s lives. You don’t have to be a parent to have this thought. Sometimes I’ve said this phrase multiple times in a day, it seems.

My son has no interest in books, the way I did as I kid. That’s not how I pictured it.

My mother isn’t the kind of grandmother I want her to be. That’s not how I pictured it.

The business deal that seemed like such a certainty just fell through. That’s not how I pictured it.

Paying back our student loans is sucking all of our money away. That’s not how I pictured it.

My home was destroyed by a natural disaster. That’s not how I pictured it.

And so it goes. Asking a question is normal, but the trouble comes when we dwell on it instead of opening our eyes and looking around a bit more.

Are you going through a rough patch in your life right now? How can you be made a stronger person because of your circumstance? Can we tell ourselves that no, this is not how I pictured it, but find ways to celebrate something about it, even if it is an extremely small thing? That will give us practice for the next time something comes up (and because it’s Life, things will come up). That will give us another way to fill our lives with joy and capture something unique and wonderful that we can picture.

Best Wishes,

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!