Receiving comments and emails from people who read my words here is among my very favorite things in the world. Once in a while, however, the contents of those messages can make me uneasy. Sometimes people comment that it seems I have a “perfect” life. Other times I get adulation about my “perfect” children. And, lest you think everything I hear is nice, sometimes I get slapped down for being unaware of how good I have it.
The truth is my life is very far from perfect. My children are far from perfect. Nothing here is perfect, and I know also that nothing anywhere is perfect.
It’s not all shiny here. It’s not all wonder and noticing the streak of an airplane across the evening sky and reading poetry aloud. Those things exist, absolutely: usually every single day. But there is also shouting, and impatience, and tears. Years ago I remember someone telling me in a disgruntled tone that they couldn’t possibly be “present” for every moment of their life. They had a job to do, and dishes to wash, and on and on and on.
I was taken aback by that, and realized I was not communicating what I meant by “being present” clearly enough. I meant, and mean, it quite literally: being awake, being aware, paying attention. That does not mean loving everything. There is plenty that I don’t like in this life of mine. There is no question that the rooms of my days and of my heart contain mold and dust and there are regrets piling up in the corner.
But there is also so much good. And I sincerely hope that one thing I am is aware of and grateful for my good fortune. I don’t enumerate my blessings because I suspect that would be boring, and because it feels like gloating. But I am incredibly, intensely conscious of how fortunate and privileged I am.
This awareness often adds to my guilt about the melancholy that hovers over me much of the time. How can I possibly feel sorrow, and these prickly emotions, when I have so very much to be thankful for? But I do. And even in the wake of my oft-churning sadness comes a reminder of all the blessings that surround me. At my saddest and bleakest I still can’t forget all that is beautiful about this life. In fact I suspect it is precisely my sorrow – which comes directly from my awareness of how fast this life passes – that makes me so aware of loveliness and joy. They come from the same source, and perhaps are even just sides of a single coin. This experience, this life: sadness and joy, light and dark, beginnings and ends. It’s all one.
But back to my point. And I do have one: my messy, noisy, imperfect life.
Years, ago, I remember Katrina Kenison joking that her husband would “love to be married to the woman who writes the books.” How this resonated with me, then and still now. Sometimes when I am rushing everyone out the door in the morning, asserting that we are going to be late, late late!!! (despite the fact that I have literally almost never been late), Matt will turn to me and say: remember, Linds, live every moment.
Bedtime is a good example. I know how sacred bedtime is, how much I love these moments, how desperately I wish I had back all the bedtimes I wished away over the years. And yet, still, sometimes I trip up and snap at a child who is dallying before bed. Always, almost immediately, I am overcome with guilt. I wasted this bedtime, I think.
Daily, I demonstrate in myriad ways my distraction, aggravation, irritation, impatience. All of those emotions throb through my life, and I know I’m far from alone. In fact my friend Aidan wrote about this very topic recently. I know this frustration, this sense of falling down over and over and over again, is human. I also know others who feel misunderstood, though I’m not familiar with many who have been directly accused of misrepresenting themselves (as I have). I don’t, and I am not. This is my life. It is imperfect, and it is chaotic, and it is full of disappointments and regrets and mistakes, of raised voices and hurt feelings and tears. It is also full of brilliance and beauty and joy. I just choose to write about the latter more than the former. But I assure you: it’s all there.
Have you ever stumbled in the perilous gulf between perception and reality? Have others ever made assumptions about your life that don’t feel right? Do you get aggravated, short-tempered, and irritated?