This morning I got a simple text from my mom. She said, “Is your life perfect? :)” While this was just a funny, cute, and slightly sarcastic way of saying “How are you?” it got my wheels spinning. My first reaction to the question was to literally bust out into laughter, and in fact my answer was, “Hahahahaha……..sure!”
Is my life perfect??? That’s hilarious!!! Good one mom! At that moment, it was amazing how fast all the reasons my life is NOT perfect and all the ways I have contributed to it being so far from perfection flooded my brain. It was like a dam had been busted through and my reservoir of failures all came rushing out. How does a brain do that!? But then I patched a hole back in the dam and closed that sucker up long enough to think about the question again. Is my life perfect? Maybe so…! Maybe it’s our definition of perfect that needs a closer look rather than all the reasons we think our lives aren’t perfect.
I think we can all agree no one is perfect, nor is there such a thing as a perfect life. We sure are a society that likes to compare ourselves to everyone else though; so the result of that is a lot of people wandering around thinking everyone else has it all together, or at least is much closer than we are. Truth is everyone has a secret or two that would break your heart. Behind every smile and “I’m fine” is a lot of pain and “I’m really not fine.” But we all want people to see our highlights, not our behind the scenes. Truth is, without the behind the scenes, the highlights wouldn’t exist. In order to appreciate the highlights, we have to respect and be honest about the behind the scenes. There’s an interesting dichotomy in the world where on one hand, we have finally started celebrating flaws and the fact that no one is perfect. We see this in Dove campaigns and Special K commercials (which I love by the way). But on the other hand, even as we “celebrate” our flaws, there is still an underlyng drive, force even, to be perfectly flawed…to be flawed in the right ways, and to still have it all together, or at least act like we do, and to look good while doing it. We say we’re fine when we’re not; we don’t ask for help or let people into our behind the scenes footage; we smile when what we want to do is scream. Oh, it’s fine for everyone else to be honest about these things and we’d be completely understanding and even relieved if someone else answered the question, “How are you?” honestly for a change… we just aren’t comfortable doing it ourselves. Or maybe this is just me. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually consider my self to be someone who shares too much and wears my insides on the outside a bit too much at times; but see there? That’s a flaw. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. We’ve created this thing where we enjoy honesty, but not too much. We love emotion, but don’t go over board. We celebrate imperfect bodies, but secretly say “cover that up please…and how about working out and eating a little better occasionally huh!?” We want you to be flawed and feel okay about it, just not too okay.
Now in some ways I think this push and pull keeps us standing. We need positive and negative forces to keep us balanced. It’s just difficult at times to fight off the negative ones. Maybe that’s the problem though. Maybe we arent suppose to fght so hard to shove down, control, get rid of, ignore or hide the negative stuff. Maybe we need to just learn how to accept it as part of the big picture; even as a necessary piece of the whole puzzle. I do believe we should always be striving for more and to reach our full potential in whatever we are doing, but there also needs to be an element of “I’m okay and I am good enough.” The older i get, the more i realize this cannot come from human beings. We set ourselves up for a lifetime of disappointment and frustration, and a vicious cycle of feeling not good enough and like a failure when we do that. Its a big mistake.
I’m reading a book called “The Resolution for Women” by Priscilla Shirer and it is amazing. As I finished reading the chapter today called “My Best,” which by the way was done very quickly after getting out of the shower (first one I’ve had in at least 3 days) while simultaneously doing leg lifts and squats because, let’s face it, I’m not totally okay with my imperfect body; and while I know 10 minutes of leg lifts won’t get rid of my cellulite, it at least makes me feel like I tried. It’s also the only few minutes I could find to myself since I have 3 tiny angels that depend on me; so as soon as my husband came home from work, I took the opportunity and combined showering, peeing, working out, journaling, eating and reading a book all into one 30 minute window. I have to say I feel pretty good about how it worked out though. The reading was interrupted by several “Mom!!!” calls from the other room, a diaper change, nap time, and breastfeeding the smallest one; but all in all, I’d still call it a success. Anyway, I digress. So the chapter is talking about being and giving our best, not only to those we love, but also to ourselves. So often we, especially women, are so busy giving our best, or at least trying, to everyone else, that we have nothing left for ourselves. In effect, this leaves us feeling depleted and incapable of caring for everyone else to the best of our ability because well, we have nothing left. So then that naggy “You’re not good enough” voice creeps in telling us we have failed because we couldn’t do it all perfectly.
I’m very familiar with this voice. I carry it with me everywhere unfortunately. Well really I don’t think I carry it so much as it attaches itself to me like a stepped in chewed up peace of gum; or that annoying gnat that won’t leave you alone, following you around all day that you keep swatting at but no one else sees it so you just look crazy. You know the gnat I’m talking about! There are very few times that I am able to look at myself and feel 100% satisfied. Whether its someting I did, some way I reacted in a situation, something I said out of anger, something I haven’t finished, something that still needs to be done, a choice I made, something I don’t like about how I look, something I ate and shouldn’t have,…I could go on and on…there is always something, This is actually something my husband says to me all the time that drives me completely insane, probably because it’s true and impacts me just as negatively as it does him. “It’s always something with you!” While it’s true, it spins me into a strange place where I both have to look at this reality about myself that I don’t enjoy and that sometimes does not serve me well, while simultaneously feeling the need to defend it. The truth is that there is always something. There’s always something not done, not good enough, not how it needs to be or could be. BUT, what I am finally learning and working on is that…it’s okay! Hard to believe, I know…but it’s true!
My kids are actually who I have to thank for this realization. Anyone with kids knows, it simply is not possible to get everything done that needs to be done because it never ends… It’s always something! 🙂 There is always laundry being produced just as fast as you can get it done; there’s always a diaper being pooped in as quick as you just changed one; someone is always hungry or making a mess, the same mess that you just cleaned up for the third time this morning; there’s always a bill to be paid, something else on the grocery list we forgot, a plan to be made, a discussion to be had…there’s always something! That’s life! What kids do for you though, or at least one of the many things mine are teaching me is, which “somethings” to pay attention to and how to prioritize them appropriately. There will always be something that needs to be done and a long list of things you didn’t get to. That’s life!
The other thing my children are teaching me, and really I’d rather call It a gift they are giving me, is the ability to see myself. I have searched for the answer to the question “who am I” my whole life and tried to find that answer in many of the wrong things….you know all the usual suspects. When I lost my dream of becoming a professional dancer because of a raging eating disorder that almost took my life, I floundered around trying to figure out who I was without the one thing that had defined me for 18 years. I was completely lost. I tried to find and heal myself in a relationship that resulted in marriage and divorce by the age of 24, then before the paperwork was even finalized I was in another relationship with my now husband; all the while still battling bulimia because, if nothing else, it helped me define something about myself, albeit completely destructive and vicious. For a long time bulimia and trying to save and change everyone else (because that’s easier than saving and changing yourself) were what defined me… The result of this is, I had no definition other than a failure and a disappointment. Or so I thought. I had no self worth, no shred of self respect, no clue what confidence even felt like and I continued to make choices that confirmed how worthless and useless I truly was. I didn’t even feel worthy of praying because I was sure God hated me even more than I hated myself. Needless to say, the road to recovery from all of that has been a bumpy one and I’m still at the very beginning.
There are so many opportunities to be knocked down by life every day and I’m gonna be honest, I’ve allowed it to knock me down more times than I’d like to admit. But, it’s not the knocking down that makes us who we are; it’s the getting back up! And man am I getting back up! It’s so much slower and so much harder than I want it to be, and every day there’s someone to point out how I’m failing at it (even if it’s just myself); but I’m still here and I’m still trying! Today when I wonder who I am and what my purpose is, I look into the eyes of my children and they tell me. They physically light up when they see me and there is truly nothing more defining than that! There are other people in my life who’s eyes I look into and I not only can’t find myself but I also find the negative, ugly pieces of myself. Although this is excruciating at times and crushes my already broken spirit, it has pushed me to a stronger place. Today I asked myself the question, “so who am I?” Am I the broken, damaged, flawed, sick, crazy, bulimic, insecure, negative, miserable struggling failure of a woman I sometimes feel and even hear that I am? Or am I the strong, redeemed, beautiful, joy-filled, confident woman my children see and make me be? Am I the blessed beyond measure, heart overflowing with gratitude girl who looks at the three angels God blessed her with and feels humbled beyond words by the gift and responsibility, yet empowered by it at the same time? YES! The answer is yes to all of that! I am every bit of that and so much more! I am a flawed beyond anything explainable, broken, sewn together, fallen, standing, strong, weak, scared, brave, courageous, victorious, failed, bruised, damaged, controlling, fear-driven, food obsessed, body conscious, overly sensitive, joyful, sad, heart broken, freed, out of control, blessed, unworthy yet worthy, stumbling but trying woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend…A warrior in all senses. Through It all, with every ounce of imperfection in my body and in my life, I am exactly where I need to be and I am exactly who God wants me to be. I am flat on my back looking up, waiting for God to guide my next move and praising Him, even through clenched fists and a tight jaw at times. He made me, He knows me, flaws and all, and He still loves me more than anything I can ever understand! He not only loves and likes me, He delights in me! The same way i delight in my children and they delight in me, only times a million! Wow!!!
So, is my life perfect!? Well, I think it’s exactly the beautiful mess it’s supposed to be. I don’t have all the answers and the more I think I know the more i realize I know nothing; but I know God is walking the chaos with me. He has gone before me and He will go after me, and in that, I can rest. I think that’s all I’m suppose to do right now.