Last year I saw this woman walking across the street. She caught my attention and awe because she was the epitome of put together, classy, and sophisticated. She had this aura of ease and like she had a magic wand. Like she’s CEO of some important company, has five kids and a partner who adore her, competes in ballroom dance competitions and probably MMA, writes books, keeps her stylish house spotless, throws the kind of dinner parties that make even the most snobbish foodie drool, and somehow gets ready in the morning in ten minutes. All on her own. My immediate thought was, "I want to be her when I grow up."
I'm mostly the opposite of that. I joke that I've always been the dirty kid. But my parents literally had to send a change of clothes with me to school every single day because it was inevitable that I would find that one puddle or mud pit during recess.
I’m a bit scattered and perhaps too often fly by the seat of my pants. I’m bored by structure and systems (But I never lose or forget anything so however I manage must be working.). It’s a miracle if I manage to have my nails polished for more than a day and I still can’t figure out how to keep lipstick on for more than five minutes (Get a stain, I know!). If I wear white (or probably any color), it will get a stain on it. I spend many work days in workout clothes and a hat rather than a business suit. I struggle to fit in everything I want to in a day. But I’ve harbored dreams that someday I’ll be that woman I saw walking across the street.
Then, came the realization, “It is someday. That woman is my age!”
I had a moment of panic. If I’m not her now, how will I ever be her?
That was followed by a moment of acceptance. I’m never going to be her. Because that isn’t me. I truly am the dirty kid and I like it.
The image I had of this woman probably wasn’t even who she is. Because life is messy. For all of us. Even if we look like we have it completely together.
I’ve told this story to some of my friends and they’ve all unfailingly laughed and said, “You are put together. And you always look cute.” But I have the absolute best of friends so I didn’t expect them to tell me I’m a mess. One of my best friends did acquiesce, “Well, we wouldn’t have as much fun if you were her.”
Part of the beauty of life is its messiness and completely involving yourself in that messiness. It’s joyful and sad and frustrating and surprising and exciting and angering and scary and full of love and adventure and challenges and ups and downs. It is all of that for everyone. Unless you aren’t living. And if you aren’t living in the messiness, I imagine life to be mostly lonely, boring, and sad.
When you’re too busy trying to be perfection, you miss out on all of the little joys in life. The joy isn’t in having the perfect house, wardrobe, makeup, family, or parties. It’s in letting the rain fall onto your head. Dancing around barefoot so that you have to wash your toes before bed. Getting dog or cat hair all over you because they just needed another hug. Baby spit all over your face because your peek-a-boo game is strong. Your hair blown all over the place because the only way to drive is with the windows open and top down. Laundry that didn’t get folded because a dance party was far more important. Lines at the corners of your mouth and crow’s feet because laughter is the best medicine.
It’s also about fully embracing the heartaches. Late nights with crying kids. The flu. Being fired. Getting divorced. Flunking out of school. Moving. Business deals gone wrong. Rejection. Making choices that don’t quite turn out as expected.
None of that is any fun in the moment. It’s so tempting to push it away. Pretend things didn’t happen. But when we do that we aren’t actually living life either. And when we aren’t living, we don’t find our way back to joy very easily or quickly. Life is an adventure, a messy, dirty, at times doesn’t make a whole lot of sense adventure.
So that woman might have it all. If so, she’s still my hero. But odds are she has her own share of the messiness as well. And if she always looks like that, she might not be having as much fun as the rest of us (or she has a lot of help). And I’d rather have fun and get a little dirty than be classy and always seem to have it together.