In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had some conversations that have plunged me into my good old navel-gazing mode. I’m going to babble on for a while today, so don’t feel obliged, or you might want to pour yourself a hot beverage and settle in…
“I always feel like I have to be perfect,” a friend told me quietly the other day, matter-of-fact, and I bobbled my head in wholehearted agreement. For as long as I can remember, there’s been a perfect version of me lurking in the back of my mind – the one that’s miraculously sprouted gazelle-like legs and has luminous, blemish-free skin. A less awkward me that bedazzles a room full of people with abundant wit and charm; someone who never, ever accidentally publishes a blog post. My perfect self would put Mother Teresa and Martha Stewart to shame, all while retaining sensual allure. You know, the usual suspects: perfect appearance, personality, home, job, partner, kids and pets. This version of me would be above and beyond the stay-at-home vs. working mom discussion because all would be juggled beautifully and effortlessly. And flawless me would never be jealous or envious, and would handle others’ jealousy and envy with aplomb (because when you’re perfect, you can’t avoid the green-eyed monster, right?).
It’s exhausting just writing about my perfect self; she is annoying.
Do men do this? From my many, many years of female friendships, almost every woman I know expends a great amount of energy feeling guilty about not being the end-all-be-all. At any given moment, I’m assaulted by promises of wrinkle-banishing creams and thigh-reduction exercises and life-enhancing tips and tricks for romance and friendships. People are making bazillions following their passions and the explosion of social media catapults me into “ordinary” folks’ lifestyles that look like they’ve been produced by Vogue’s production team. Who are these fashion bloggers? How do all these people keep up on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and Vimeo and blogs and the next big thing?
About a week ago, I had coffee with another friend; she’s been thinking about starting a blog and wanted to know how to run a successful blog. Ironic, no? Here I am, feeling like I’m not keeping up at all because I can’t find the time to write tutorials or finesse photoshoots in moody, distressed-toned alleyways and lavender fields. I have never called myself a blogger (mostly because I hate that word) and still don’t talk about it much with people in real life. I don’t even know how to tweet — could I be bamboozling others into thinking I’m legit?
I started this blog because I was at my most imperfect self. For all intents and purposes, I had been fired from my job (it was a little more complicated than that, but “canned” pretty much sums it up). My health was in ruins, my family in disrepair, my ego completely shattered and all I could think about was how I had failed. I’d never failed so spectacularly before. I’ve been known to worship the version of my perfect self and did everything to become her. At my job, I was deluded into thinking I was her – words like “rising star” were bandied about, and I was offered a better position, a handsome salary, an ergonomic office chair. I dressed well, felt competent, even successful. I was insufferable, really. Eventually, I couldn’t handle the long hours and increased stress, and soon I crumbled. Political savvy was not my forte, and I was repeatedly and publicly humiliated in meetings. My star had fizzled out.
Stuck with my laundry list of imperfections, I felt like I wasn’t capable of much when I became unemployed. So I decided to start over. I was determined to show up every day and try everything I’d ever been interested in. To practice and practice and practice some more. My goal wasn’t to represent some aspirational, idealized part of my life but to chronicle my trial-and-error progression through this blog. To get better, not perfect.
Over the fifteen months I’ve been practicing, I’ve learned a few things:
1. Blogging requires an incredible amount of work – unless you love it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, not only with producing your own work but by the scope of amazingness on other blogs. I spend more hours than I’d care to admit on my blog posts, and I absolutely love it, but I earn zero money through it. This makes the husband nervous and he wants me to monetize the blog somehow. At this juncture, advertising and sponsorship don’t feel right to me and I’ve never tried to promote my blog. I deeply and firmly believe that other opportunities will arise, which leads me to…
2. I’ve learned how to trust my instincts. By focusing on the things that feel right, opportunities have arisen. I’ve connected with wonderful and talented people across the globe; I’m going to be teaching; a plethora of exciting projects are in the works.
3. I’ve become more frugal. It doesn’t come naturally to me — I like nice things and have somewhat expensive taste. But in order to “live the dream” as M likes to refer to it, I am learning how to be a lot more thrifty. It’s actually been liberating not buying clothes for a year and figuring out priorities for expenditures. I still have a long way to go, but I’m taking baby steps to becoming a frugalista.
4. I have more patience and contentment in my every day. Sewing in particular is an exercise in patience. When you think about it, who in their right mind would want to sew their own and children’s clothes from scratch in today’s mass-produced world? But sewing, for me, is joyous, a much needed slow-motion button in this frenzied pace. The plentiful mistakes are frustrating to be sure, but I sometimes look at all the things I’ve made and I can’t believe they came out of my own two hands. No one asks whether K’s clothes are handmade unless they’re aware that I sew. I derive immense satisfaction from knowing that each stitch is infused with happiness. And the happiness is there in every drawing, photo, and paragraph I craft. Creating=contentment.
5. I feel more connected and discovered how much strength is in community. This blip of a space in the world wide web has been a gateway to unexpected friendships and a gold mine of resources and like-minded lovelies like you. I love looking through my archives and treasure each comment and marvel that people are reading my words (or maybe you’re not and just looking at the pictures – that’s awesome too). “Do you guys spend all day leaving each other warm, fuzzy, supportive comments?” M asked me incredulously one day. Yes honey, we do.
6. Above all, I’ve learned how to be more disciplined. I learned how to slowly build new habits and the biggest benefit of this has been for my health. It’s true what they say: if you don’t have your health, you got nuthin’. It’s taken ages for me to stop feeling like some hideous alien had overtaken my systems to conduct gut-wrenching experiments. I’ve concentrated on taking care of myself and in the process, I’ve found that I’m quite fond of my stubby legs and funny social faux pas moments and all the other “flaws” that make me the person I am.
It’s been a wonderful fifteen months of blogging and I’m eager to keep creating and sharing and practicing. I don’t know much, but I know this: perfection is boring; there’s nowhere else to go from there and maintenance is a nightmare. Am I right or am I right?