StompingOnIdeal

I still remember sitting in her living room, holding my squirmy two-year-old girl on my lap.

My friend spoke about comparisons and how she’d been tearing herself apart with them for years. I leaned in.

“I’d compare my clothes to that friend’s, who always looked perfectly put together. I’d compare the mess in my house to that other friend whose house looked like a magazine spread. I’d compare my figure to that other friend who’s never struggled with healthy eating.”

She continued, “I realized I was comparing my whole imperfect self — the one I knew better than anyone — to the perfect isolated parts of her and her and her that I saw all around me.”

That conversation built on the something new that had begun taking shape in me. Helped develop new eyes to see when I was doing the same, with a new desire for grace for myself, and her, and her.

Yet today, when I look across the school playground or through the color-coordinated world of mothers on the internet, even around a circle of friends, it is easy for me to compare the imperfect me to the parsed out bits and pieces of others and see myself forever coming up short.

Recently, I’ve had conversations with various readers of this blog — whether person to person or in the comments section — who’ve held up a piece of what I’ve written about my everyday life as evidence of the ideal.

The ideal marriage.

The ideal children.

The ideal friendships.

The ideal life.

Dear friends, let me proclaim this to you from my desk, cluttered with markers and a yo-yo and a pile of to-do’s, from this chair holding a woman with extra bad morning hair sitting in flannel pajama pants who should be on her way to meet friends this morning and is running late as usual … if you do not already know (and it feels silly to say because it’s such a personal no-duh from where I sit), my life is not perfect.

My two eldest children fight like rabid dogs, and I pull out the cliches and yell, “Just love each other! It’s not rocket science!” and “I’m not going to stand for you girls living like enemies in this house!”

Two of my daughters rush to comfort me when they see me upset at the conflict (which breaks my heart because I don’t want them feeling they need to take care of me). Another daughter stomps up the stairs declaring that I probably don’t care if I never see her again.

I snap at my husband for unlocking the house and leaving me to unload the kids by myself. “I don’t need you to ready the house. I need your help. You’re not doing me any favors here!”

I zone out while flipping through blogs on my phone when I should be sitting with my kids and asking them more questions about school.

Some days, I feel lonely, though I’ve been blessed with dear friends.

This week, I have struggled with anger, confusion and disappointment. I’ve felt left out. I’ve struggled to love.

I am learning to say no — with mixed results.

This blog is a place I work things out, and for those of you who’ve read for a while, you know that takes many shapes. Often it can be a celebration of what is good and right in my corner of the world because I need to remember the glimmers of beauty while I work out the hard things, and I’m a person who needs to work out the hard things.

I can easily fall into the rabbit hole, as my dear friend said this week — the hole of discouragement, depression, anxiety, overwhelm. Yes, I know that pit well.

And sometimes I’m just slugging it out or sitting with the questions, and I don’t have much to say about it here. I’m simply in process.

And sometimes I choose to delight in the beauty of light or the tenderness of my children in the midst, so I do not forget those things that shine on gray rainy days with kids who seem unable to breathe without annoying each other.

I am choosing to see the pure and lovely because they are gifts. Just that. And what I choose to see grows.

This morning, whatever your brand of imperfect, I feel the need to remind you:

You are not on the messed-up outside looking in at the shiny-right perfect. There is no such thing. No one has this life figured out. Not a one.

Imperfect lives, in all their shapes, sizes and brands of dysfunction — these are the way of humans in this world.

Today be released to live yours out without comparison, without an impossible standard of ideal hanging over your head and unless it gives you joy, without coordinating colors.

Amen.

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Linking up with Emily Wierenga at Imperfect Prose.

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