This kind of illusion can make people feel bad.
I distinctly remember the first time I dropped by a friend’s home and saw an entire box of Cheerios strewn across the floor. We both had a preschooler and a toddler, and although my house frequently looked like this, I had hidden that reality away in my dark closet of parenting and homemaking shame. Seeing that I was completely and utterly normal was a burden lifted.
I have read a few interesting blog posts, e-mails and articles about how inadequate other people’s blogs and public images made people feel. I can sympathize. There are websites run by amazingly talented women that I took off my reading list because of how lacking I felt when I saw their stunning sewing and knitting projects. I do not knit or sew. Knitting, I simply don’t have enough time or patience to dedicate to. Sewing I consciously gave up in a noble effort to swear less, because nothing can make me cuss like ripping seams.
There were other blogs that featured large, beautiful families. They lived in perfect homes, and had perfect clothes, and got perfectly acknowledged for all of their perfect and seemingly inherent, effortless awesomeness. I am not perfect. I struggle with only three children and I live in military housing, which doesn’t belong in the same sentence as the word perfect. And there aren’t people standing in line to applaud me and throw open the windows of opportunity for just being me. Because I was found wanting in these areas, because I was jealous, I stopped reading.
Now I am well aware that you can take a photo and crop out the clutter. Pictures are usually taken when children and Mommies are all dolled up, and not straight out of bed. I have skills that you don’t have, and you have some that I don’t have. I have never, ever met a perfect family, only people who love each other in spite of a laundry list of imperfections. I have never met a person who didn’t feel pain over some hardship: illness, divorce, unfaithfulness, choices of their family members or struggles with their personal mistakes. I’ve met people who deal with all of this very well, beautifully and inspirationally, even, but no one is spared hard things. We’re all a little stupid and vulnerable. We’re all not perfect.
Isn’t it dumb? On one hand, someone thinks I’ve got it all together and on the other, I feel like a total loser. Why in the world do we as women and mothers choose to compare the worst of ourselves to the very best of others?
It is such a waste to draw these comparisons, and yet we do it all of the time. It is a crisis of perspective that causes depression, dependency, debt and at times, a loss of self, as we try to be more like someone who we aren’t and squander the talents that we do possess.
I love this quote from Patricia Holland.
“Obviously the Lord has created us with different personalities, as well as differing degrees of energy, interest, health, talent, and opportunity. So long as we are committed to righteousness and living a life of faithful devotion, we should celebrate these divine differences, knowing they are a gift from God. We must not feel so frightened, so threatened and insecure; we must not need to find exact replicas of ourselves in order to feel validated as women of worth. There are many things over which we can be divided, but one thing is needful for our unity—the empathy and compassion of the living Son of God.”
We are all blessed with both talents and inadequacies, and they can both make us better people if we know how to use our gifts to bless others and we know where to seek the blessings we need to become better.
I have been trying to teach my children that happiness isn’t found in things, and it isn’t found in fame or any kind of worldly recognition. Popularity doesn’t equate with joy as we see time and time again splashed across tabloids and news shows. There are a lot of very empty, unhappy people who we hold up as standards and try to emulate. We try to fill that emptiness with the popular car, the trendy hair, the designer bag, the auspicious social group. It never does get fixed that way. Some holes can’t be filled with anything found on earth- we have to look higher.
When we look sideways at our friends and neighbors to see who we should be, we will never get the right answer. We need to look heavenward, and receive inspiration and blessings that make us exactly who God created us to be. He created us to be Noble and Great and distinctly, uniquely Ourselves. That is the knowledge that erases the emptiness. If you are His, you cannot be a failure.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure and making people feel good, I am going to leave you a picture of my laundry room. I never quite got around to dealing with this disaster when we moved in, and it has been a dumping ground for all sorts of household rubble. Also, being sick this month has not lent itself to a whole lot of laundry getting done, so I had to stand on a pile of clothes to take this shot. There you go my friends, reality. And I’m still ok, in spite of it.