Don’t let anybody fool you. What you see on the outside is often altogether misleading.
My friend Sheila wrote this great piece last week – Me and My Elmo Feet – talking about perception vs reality. What it means to be a grown up and that she is, after all, a grown up (and a lovely one at that), though it can be hard to feel that at all times in our heads. Insecurity rears its ugly head in all of us.
My response to her writing was this –
I think that no matter who we think has their shit together – they don’t. Not in all ways. Something is slipping. We cannot have it all well managed in all ways. Nobody can. And that’s ok. And the way you look at folks is the way other folks look at you. We all admire and are admired and most times we never know by whom.
Every year at holiday time, I get squirrely because I don’t have a perfect picture to send on a card and I don’t have addresses and just the thought of it makes me break out in hives. So I don’t do it. And you know what? People still like me. They don’t hold it against me, or if they do, they don’t show it. I mean, thank you?
That is one of my tells, that I’m still an immature ass. I can’t get my act together enough to send out holiday cards. How foolish. How inconsequential. And yet, every year it crops up. I see these cards come in and think, man, they must really have their act together. Then I reel it back in and just appreciate their lovely family and celebrate another year of making it through the best we can.
Having these twin 3-year-olds, I know what can sometimes go into getting a cute picture of them. And I know that those smiles can turn to terrifying murderous horrific shrieks two seconds after those adorable photos were snapped, so that right there is a pretty good indication of how when you look behind the curtain, things are not always as they seem.
My friend Sheila up there is one of those grown ups that sends out holiday cards. Because you see? I admire her in many ways as a grown up. But also, as my imperfect friend.
The real honest truth is that NOBODY has their act together. I mean sure, they can dress it up and put a stamp on it and not get a return to sender or postage due notice in return, but really, something is slipping.
I went out with Sheila and Jenn-Anne last week and immediately upon hugging each other we said, I SHOWERED TODAY. Like it was the biggest deal in the world, and believe me, some days, it is. The point is, we all absolutely got what was meant by those three words. I SHOWERED TODAY. We were not letting it win. To claw our way to the shower is a big freaking deal some days and we get it. It means more than just being physically clean – although YAY, right?
Nobody is happy all the time. Nobody is clean all the time. Nobody is assured of their physical or spiritual position in this world all the time.
We are all complex and multi faceted and wear many different hats and not every single one looks flawless. And that’s perfectly ok. Because it’s sure a hell of a lot better than it used to be for women. Sometimes I wish we had fewer choices, but most of time I’m damn thankful that I can pick and choose what I want my life to look like – within reason. And I am responsible for my choices.
That said, know this – everybody is failing in some way RIGHT NOW. If you look at every area of a person’s life, there is something falling through the cracks.
The woman with the perfect house that throws miraculous dinner parties? SHE THINKS SHE IS FAILING AT SOMETHING.
The woman who has a perfect career and great legs and can go for hours in heels without twisting her ankle? SHE THINKS SHE IS FAILING AT SOMETHING.
The mom that makes all her own baby food and has angelic non-crusty looking children under control at all times? SHE THINKS SHE IS FAILING AT SOMETHING.
I don’t know the specifics but my guess is, if you spoke with them one on one you would hear what they think they are failing at today. And it’s all ok. Because we all understand. Completely.
The fact that we try to do so many things and excel at them all is LAUGHABLE. We cannot possibly be great at everything and yet, we tend to be hard on ourselves when something slips. Act like Elsa and let that shit go.
This is a terrible thing to say, but just hear me out. Everyone you see thinks they are failing at something. In reality, failing may be too harsh a word. I’ve come to accept failure as a part of life, so I don’t think of it as an altogether negative thing. I think it’s just as important as succeeding.
But let’s call it slipping. Something is slipping. As a woman, I have too much to do, to be, to achieve, to measure up to. Sure, we want it all, but it’s impossible to do everything well. So, if you look at someone and think, man, she has it all together. Just for one second think, I wonder what she thinks is failing right now. I wonder what is seeping out through the perfectly manicured cracks. Because there is something. And that in NO WAY means she is a failure. Not the same thing.
This practice helps me daily. It helps me be a better mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, employee. It helps with empathy. It helps with judgement. It helps with compassion and grace. It helps with everything.
I learned early on in 12 step meetings that oftentimes the image people project on the outside is not at all what they feel on the inside. It took me until I was almost 30 to really get that and just now at almost 43 to absolutely accept it as fact. No matter what somebody looks like on the outside, they could very well be ravaged on the inside. A bloody mess.
Though I’ve done this a hundred times, I am currently fretting about giving a lead this weekend in front of way too many alcoholics that I fear will take issue with me because I can’t quote the literature the way I think I should, when really all I need to do is speak from the heart of my experience strength and hope and I will be enough. I know people that can quote til the cows come home, but speaking from the heart? They can’t do it. They want what I have. Just imagine. A thing like that.
We are so concerned with our precious egos that we mislead each other constantly. We mislead our families and ourselves. To some extent, it’s necessary, but on a grander scale, what the hell are we doing? Grant each other the grace to feel all the feelings and we are much better off as a whole. As a society.
If we can get vulnerable enough with ourselves to admit we can’t do everything well, when we can admit that to others we trust, well, that is NO KIND OF FAILURE.
People think they have me figured out by looking at me. They don’t. I think I have people figured out by looking at them. I’ve learned after years and years of practice, that I do not.
There is somebody out there that thinks YOU have your shit together. Probably many people. And they admire you. You may never know it and they may never tell you, but if you are fortunate to have communion with people, it’s good to talk about what is slipping. To say, “I am failing at this today. And that’s ok.” Because everyone has different gifts and when we share those gifts with each other, failure is nowhere in sight. For as many ways as we feel like we fail, there are infinitely more ways in which we excel and we need to give ourselves all the credit in the world for that.