“Please don’t clean for me”, my mother says before she comes to visit. I used to ignore her, and fly into a sweeping and Windex frenzy. At some point I stopped. I realized that no amount of cleaning would make her feel differently about me. She knows I’m not perfect, so there isn’t a point in hiding the laundry in the closet in an attempt to prove otherwise. I fly into a frenzy about plenty of other things, but that is a different story for another day.
I am fairly certain that no one feels like their perfect Instagram looks all of the time. The moments of “finished product” or mornings of picturesque coffee-scapes are fleeting. Most of the time is spent knocking coffee grounds off the scooper and onto the counter AGAIN and cleaning them up with your hand and what the HELL is the dog licking off the rug. Ew. What is that? Then, for maybe 30 seconds, the freshly cleaned counter is dappled with sunlight, and the coffee looks like art. There are no drips on the edge. Your dirty hands are not in the frame. And that’s fine. I am not railing against curated online imagery, or magazines full of perfect moments. I just know too many bloggers and stylists and photographers and event creators to believe for a moment that anyone lives like this all of the time, or even most of the time. These are beautiful, messy, real people, who are not perfect.
Our lives are full of so many moments. Some make us want to and take a picture. That is so beautiful. I want to remember that, to show everyone how beautiful this is. I don’t think that’s fake or hollow. Please, show the world a beautiful picture. But in our daily lives, it takes a little more vulnerability, not to overuse that word, but it does, to show the unhinging and the mess. To admit, even if it is to a few of your friends, that you are not feeling amazing. Tell them about a mistake. Tell them what you learned, or didn’t learn and how you totally made that mistake several more times. Let people come to your messy house. Do not apologize for your dirty car. You are living, and I think showing people that is the simplest way to build a community. Not a community of admirers, who are certain that your life is perfect, but of people who see you and know you. That feels like home. I promise. Even if it’s three people, it’s a relief.
There will always be people to judge you for being messy, for being too neat, for being boring, for being too crass or too hippy-dippy or whatever it is. I know: I have been very guilty of being annoyed with people for their “perfect lives” or “seemingly well-behaved dogs” or “ability to drink just 2 glasses of wine and not 5” or whatever it is. That has shown me two things:
- I was judging people based on what their lives looked like and
- All of those things had to do with my own insecurities.
Do what you want. Take selfies and take pictures of your perfect brunch date. Do it because you want to. When you are sitting there, though, looking through images online or in magazines or on television, remember: these images can’t encapsulate a person. These images do not change who you are. Your reactions might teach you something, like, “I am really insecure about how horribly behaved my dog is”, or “I really have a messed up view of my body if that person’s body is literally making me grit my teeth”. It’s fine. You are not a horrible messed up person. You are a person. These are other people. I read this quote by Baba Sheikh Farid that Laura McKowen referenced in an essay:
“I thought it was I alone who suffered. I went on top of the house, and found every house on fire.”
We’re all so hard on ourselves. We’re all on fire. I hope we can be a little messier together, and find the beauty there too. I’m trying to do my part, by sharing my mess. Seriously, I have no idea what the dog is licking off the floor. She’s gross, and she’s probably going to jump directly at your crotch when you walk into my house. I’ll live.