“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.” –Jack Kerouac, On the Road
This post is about two things:
#1 — Real life is not the staged, happy bullshit that you see on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Social media would have you believe that there is something wrong with you. There’s not.
#2 — Life, real life, is a lot about madness, riot, and emptiness. There is magic and beauty stuck in there, too; but our actual lives, the actual hell of them, that’s real and that’s okay.
Social Media Is Not Real Life
A little more than six months ago, I decided to give up social media. For the sake of full disclosure, I didn’t give it up completely. I still share my blog posts and document special moments and thoughts with my accounts. When I feel like my heart will burst if I don’t speak out against injustice, I make political posts. I scroll through friends and families accounts for a short while each day.
Compared to the way things were before, however, I have made significant changes. I eliminated my FOMO (fear of missing out). I am okay with just seeing whatever I happen to see. I have a faith that if something truly important happens in a loved one’s life — and they want me to know about it — they will just tell me.
Now I view social media as a casual thing, not a necessity. I check in once or twice a day and I don’t feel the urgency that I used to feel about “missing something.” That is a huge victory.
The other big reason that I cut back on social media was comparison. At times, I had been judging my life next to other lives — holding myself up against an unrealistic expectation, and declaring myself not good enough. Admittedly, I still struggle with this one. I am certain that if I completely eliminated social media from my life, this would go away. The thing is, I don’t want to completely eliminate it. With the changes that I have made, social media is now a healthy part of my life. For all of the bad, there are equal parts or more, good.
While I still feel the stinging insecurity of not being “good enough” from time to time, I have learned to harness that feeling into more productive means. I work to transform my thoughts from, “I am not good enough” to “How am I going to be better?” Also from, “She is perfect” to “We all have our challenges and social media is mostly just carefully-crafted, over-polished bullshit. It just ain’t real life.”
The Actual Hell of It
That brings me to the photographs in this post — real life at its core. Ugly. As a blogger who works hard to create that carefully-crafted, over-polished bullshit, Pinterest-perfect image, it makes my skin crawl to share these photographs. But for a few days there, in the midst of a hellish, hectic week — this was my reality. Shortly after I snapped these pictures, I spent four hours straight cleaning and organizing. Everything was back to normal and I could have taken some gorgeous interior photographs to be proud of. But I didn’t. I took these and I’m sharing these, because sometimes it’s really important to cut the bullshit and share the truth.
Life isn’t always perfect. Sure, there are days when I look great and my babies look adorable and we spend the whole day at the park and take gorgeous, frame-worthy photographs of the whole damned thing. But there are also days when I’m lucky to get myself and my children dressed and fed. There are days when I lock myself in the bathroom and cry, while my children watch an entire season (or two) of Curious George. That’s real fucking life. It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful. There’s beauty in the breakdown. In this world, of “social-media-staged-perfection,” we’d all do well to share a little bit more of what’s real, and a little bit less of the bullshit.
And now, a list of not-Pinterest-worthy things that happened last week, just for fun.
1. We returned home from a busy afternoon to discover that there was a power outage in our home. As the afternoon light quickly faded, I discovered that I do not have a single match or lighter in my house. While scrambling to put together an overnight bag in the half-dark, the flashlight batteries died.
2. Marina dumped every single snack and bowl of food that I gave her every where, every single time. Crumbs, all of the crumbs.
3. One hectic morning I desperately scrambled to get Roman to school on time. Feeling victorious, with both children in the car and the car seat belts finally secured, Roman proceeded to take a massive sip of his chocolate milk, gagged, and puked all over himself.
4. I stepped on all of the sharp-edged toys that my children own, in bare feet, at least five times.
5. The toilet clogged, again.
6. During (yet another) hectic morning, I rushed to get everyone out the door. The one thing that I look forward to during morning rush is my cup of tea. Everyone was finally ready and headed toward the door. I reach behind me for my warm cup of tea, so excited to enjoy it on the car ride. I pick it up, but somehow it slips from my hand, the top is knocked loose, and… splash. By this time the kids are out the door. I have no choice but to abandon my precious caffeine treasure in an ugly puddle on the floor.
7. One evening at 6:00 pm, I realized that the only things that I had consumed all day were a can of Pepsi and a small handful of goldfish crackers.
I love you, my dear friends. Thank you for being with me — through the beautiful, and through the ugly too.