Skimming blogs and Facebook, one might be led to believe that every one’s life is hunky dory, 24/7. That every recipe tested comes out Saveur Magazine worthy, every event, Martha Stewart-esque. Slate Magazine published a great article on “the human habit of overestimating other peoples’ happiness.”
Libby Copeland gets it right in that article when she argues: “Any parent who has posted photos and videos of her child on Facebook is keenly aware of the resulting disconnect from reality, the way chronicling parenthood this way creates a story line of delightfully misspoken words, adorably worn hats, dancing, blown kisses. Tearful falls and tantrums are rarely recorded, nor are the stretches of pure, mind-blowing tedium. We protect ourselves, and our kids, this way; happiness is impersonal in a way that pain is not. But in the process, we wind up contributing to the illusion that kids are all joy, no effort.”
Lest you think that all my Pacific Northwest days are sunny, that they all end with perfectly funky raised beds, happy marital grins and savory soups and scones, let me let you in on a secret:
Sometimes my life sucks too.
Sometimes my hair thins.
Frequently I despise my job.
I have to work hard at my baby marriage.
I found a free bed frame and sanded it and painted it and it came out looking like ballet-pink vomit and it’s sitting, purposefully ignored, in my basement.
I can’t always zen out while picking and cleaning spinach or washing dishes again.
Some weeks I come home from school and sit on my ass, eat Ben and Jerry’s. All week long.
I freeze the recipes that come out tasting like cardboard or dirt, in hopes that N will unknowingly take them to work and take them away.
And…drum roll, please…
It’s okay. While looking for an old recipe from Ashley Rodriguez’s beautiful Not Without Salt blog, I saw this post, which almost brought me to tears. Her honesty, her hardship felt so human. I adored her even more for her struggles. For seeing them through. I watch my neighbors, both thirty-something-year-old public school teachers with a ten-month old and a three year old, and I see them melt into pools on their porch Friday afternoons. I know that one of my wonderful former teaching buddies suffers from a chronic disease and yet still wins teaching awards, and should win Mother of the Year and Friend of the Century. I look around and I see that our lives are challenging. Not in a bad way, mind you, but in a oh-my-gosh-I-know-that-this-professor-is-going-to-turn-into-a-werewolf-right-now-and-I-can-save-my-friend-if-I-can-just-force-my-friend-to-let-me-break-the-code-of-using-the-time-travel-watch kind of challenge. (1,339,276,299 points for a Prisoner of Azkaban reference, right? And yes, thank you for asking, I am on book four.)
I think society makes us–me–feel like it’s complaining if we share our struggle. In this idealized world of perfect Hawaiian sunset photos, perfectly coiffed brides, perfectly raised souffles, I think it’s important to remember that we are human. That we make mistakes. We have to work hard for the good things in life and encounter struggle frequently. And that each day, we have to pick ourselves up, make a decision to keep fighting on, and pull off another day. They won’t all be pretty. Up here, the trumpeter swans will not always create alphabet letters across a tangerine-dyed sky. Not all my seeds will sprout. It’s good to remind ourselves that we don’t live in the adorable Storybrook Lane, where our lives fold up neatly and can be tucked away for the night.
Messy is good. Imperfection is necessary.