One of my very favorite past times is walking around quaint neighborhoods with my husband and daydream about the lovely houses that we pass. This was something we often did while we dated, and one time I even went as far as ringing a dear old lady’s doorbell at 9 o’clock at night to tell her that I just loved her house. It was a dare that my husband didn’t think I would do [can you see how wild and rebellious we were?] and while I may have terrified the sweet woman, it’s a funny memory that we still joke about today.
There’s this one street in particular that I drive down on my way to and from work. The houses are all enormous with massive, beautiful windows. Many have big front porches, and early in the mornings, the soft glow of lamplight shines through. I envision moms in their soft plush bathrobes cooking breakfast, dads drinking their coffee and their kids plopping down joyfully at the large kitchen table next to them. Maybe it’s warm French toast, topped with decadent cool-whip and covered with fresh, juicy strawberries. I bet the kids don’t bicker, and they all quietly chatter about their day ahead. Lunches packed, kisses exchanged, everyone probably leaves feeling so carefree and confident.
Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed walking past homes and studying everything about them. The types of windows, the large wooden doors, yard or no yard, one story or two–what is everyone doing behind these beautiful walls and is their lives as perfect as their residence? Fun Fact: I grew up in the country, and I have this very random memory of being obsessed with binoculars. I had a tiny notebook I would take outside along with them, and I’d plop down on our trampoline. Well, considering the closest neighbor to the back of us was my Grandma, who was still an acre away, it’s obvious that I didn’t ever SEE much. I don’t think it lasted very long (duh, how BORING?!) but I’d jot down, “Nothing going on at Grandma’s today,” or, “Aunt Dawn and Uncle Time aren’t home from work yet, not much happening” (they also lived across the field.) I suppose this means I’m a born people watcher and because I never had too many people to WATCH, so city life has amazed me!
The truth is, just like you can’t see behind my four walls, I can’t see into yours. The small frames on Instagram don’t even give a sliver of reality for what the first five minutes of our mornings look or sound like. The beautiful photo of my kids hugging lasted for three seconds and shortly after they were snapping at each other for something completely irrational. My office space in our dining room is just about the only consistently tidy nook that we have, and that’s because it’s used once or twice a day. The truth is, I despise mornings and because of that, waking up with a joyful and positive heart is always a battle for me. When the kids wake us before they’re supposed to, I’m usually spewing and huffing and puffing internally. I’m quickly overwhelmed, in both my classroom and home, and it’s very hard for me to just ‘go with the flow.’ Yesterday my daughter, while she was supposed to be dumping the mini potty bowl into the big toilet, (something I thought she could handle), instead smeared said potty bowl remnants all over the toilet and floor. I do NOT even know how this happened, nor do I want to, but that was a good fifteen minutes of my reality. (#momlife?)
Does cleaning up poop sound like perfection?
Obviously not, but I want to take a second and focus on that word, perfect:
having no mistakes or flaws;
completely correct or accurate;
having all the qualities you want in that person, situation, etc.
Our inner critic is one who tells us that we don’t have it good enough. We aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, or just enough–period. Your kids are better than mine because they’re more spaced out; surely they don’t fight, and oh yes, they’re the best of friends. Your house is better than mine. Your house is bigger, your yard is better, you keep it cleaner, and it smells better. But what if we stopped for a second when we begin to hear these nagging lies? What if we thought about what it is our hearts are coveting and then look our life straight in the face with confidence about where we are and what we DO have? Instead of thinking, “My daughter should have been able to dump her poop into the big potty without any incidence,” I could have just acknowledged it for what it was: “Maybe I should have moved MY butt and taken the bowl from her, perhaps I was just lazy.”
That might be a trivial example. But I think we all have these expectations for ourselves, our spouses, our kids, our friends and co-workers–and what really, is the point? My 4-year old isn’t the same as yours. You and I could have the same exact degree, but we probably teach very differently. My convictions are different from yours. And honestly, our visions, dreams, hopes and goals are vastly diverse, no matter how similar we may feel to one another!
I didn’t enjoy cleaning the bathroom, but I’m thankful for a daughter who tried to be independent. I can’t stand it when they fight, but I’m grateful my kids have each other. Sometimes my husband and I argue, but I love the heck out of him, and I’m glad God chose ME to be his wife. I’m homesick often, but how thankful I am for a reliable vehicle and that six hours just isn’t THAT far when I want to visit. My job is incredibly hard, and as a teacher, I don’t ever get to “leave work at work,” but I’m thankful to meet so many diverse children and no matter what, be changed by them. We feel we’ve outgrown our house, but it’s where we brought our babies home and where ALL of our memories exist–I’ll forever cherish the years spent there.
I could go on. But I know that you too are thinking of ways you ARE grateful for the imperfections in your life. And truth be told, I don’t really think everyone else’s lives are perfect compared to mine; I don’t despise our house or neighborhood or my close in age children. But I am guilty of comparison, and I encourage you today to stand against it WITH me. We are so blessed, poopy toilets and messes and all.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” -Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection