embracing imperfection

Originally this post was going to be titled “practicing imperfection.” The problem is that practice implies that it’s something you have to intentionally do that you wouldn’t otherwise be doing. The laborious hours of piano practice from 4th grade through 12th grade come to mind (short fingernails, scales, metronome ticking). And the problem about “practicing imperfection” is that is would lead you me to believe that I am only imperfect when I am being purposeful about it. The truth is, imperfection shows up aplenty in my less-than-perfect, far-from-ideal day-to-day life under the sun

I just usually prefer to hide from it or run from it or pretend it isn’t there. Denial can be a very happy place to live. Until you awaken to reality. Like Dorothy’s discovery of the wizard of Oz, it feels shattering to lose all that we were hoping for in the blink of an eye. So, in the interest of living in light of reality, I want to consciously embrace imperfection. 

What this might mean is that I’m quicker to say I’m sorry when I’ve realized I hurt you (or when you tell me), or that I don’t try to scramble around like a crazy person to clean up the mess of a home that’s lived in because you’re coming to dinner and you don’t have kids yet, or that i don’t always do my hair and makeup to drop off my kids at preschool, or that when the small imperfections of life occur in my home/school/church/neighborhood – instead of judging and distancing, I lean in and accept. For this is what I hope from you when you notice my imperfections. Chances are, you will more often than I can. Sometimes I need to hear about them; other times I’d prefer that you cover it over with love and grace. I will try to do the same.

Have I done this? Do I do this? Those of you who know me in real life know that, well, sometimes I do. And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I speak before I should. Sometimes I stay silent when I should speak up. I’m learning. And so are you.

Let’s breathe grace for one another. Let’s embrace imperfection. 

Two stories to illustrate, from the past 24 hours:

(1) A couple was over at our house last night for premarital counseling with my husband and I. They had just gotten settled into our couch (barely) when I heard cries erupt from our 3-year-old twin daughters’ room upstairs. I rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah – they haven’t really settled down very well tonight.” But the scene that greeted me when I opened the door was a far cry from this. Or, rather, the stench and the sight of one girl vomiting in the middle of the room and her sister crying out from the fear and shock of it all. Oh my. I don’t do vomit. At all. So I’m saying, “Seth, I can’t do this!” as I run down the stairs. The sweet couple quickly ushered themselves out the door, and I can only imagine that this session could be entitled, “reasons to wait a few more years before having kids.” Oh, yeah. #Embracing imperfection.

(2) This morning I had managed to wrangle the squirmy (but feeling much better) girls through an entire and very full wholesale store shopping trip. You know, the one where you’ve gotta get the deodorant and the tomatoes and the milk and the eggs and the pens and the Oxy-Clean – plus groceries for the week. And I was pretty worn out by the time we got to our car and I unloaded all of our assortment of items. I was rushing a bit because I wanted to get back to meet my friend for lunch. And then I realized that I had forgotten to get the main ingredient for our lunch together: the rotisserie chicken. The Heather-who-tries-to-hide-imperfection would have hightailed it back through the store TO THE VERY BACK where they keep the chicken, probably screaming and dragging my kids behind me, and I would have felt very frantic all around (more than I already did). Instead, I called my friend and asked her if she could bring chicken. Wouldn’t you know – she had one in her fridge already! What kindness in this embracing imperfection journey … what about you? I’d love to hear your stories.

What started me on this journey? I am deeply indebted to Emily Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl and Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Books I plan to read and reread for the rest of my life … and hopefully write a chapter or two of my own to add to their conversations.

what keeps me from creativity

In reading through Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, her chapter on creativity was particularly thought-provoking and inspiring. [The mark of a great author is to do both, and Brown does this so well!] I began last week with my thoughts on “why a non-crafty mom needs creativity” and wrote it as “part 1” of my creativity thoughts. Here is part two.

First, my experiments with creativity over the past week:

a “thankful” banner for this Thanksgiving season20131030-142731.jpg

I ventured into the mess; bought craft paint for my girls to paint a pumpkin with; and let them go to it. We all had fun, and the mess was less than I thought it would be.

I also bought glue sticks for them. (yes, small step – but really a big leap forward for me) They are the look purple-dry clear type. Which meant my girls used them as paint. And while I sipped my morning coffee on Sunday, I looked up to find purple glue everywhere. On the tile floor, on the refrigerator … you get the picture. I was reminded why I often don’t venture into the arts and crafts realm with twin three-year-olds. The good thing is that they’re old enough now to consider it fun to clean up their mess. Which they did.

And then perhaps a less conventional expression of creativity happened when I stuffed the dirty pots and pans into the kitchen cabinets because I had 12 dinner guests from my neighborhood bunco group arriving in 2 minutes. When I texted my mom this picture, she said – “See, look! You are creative, Heather!”20131030-142809.jpg

But back to my original question – of what keeps me from creativity? Fear of mess is an obvious one, but that really isn’t the main obstacle. Brown speaks about creativity’s opposite as depression. And quite frankly, I think that depression can cause lack of creativity just as much as lack of creativity can cause depression. One is a symptom of the other. The motherhood season between 18-month-old and two-and-a-half year old twin girls was not my favorite. Along with living what felt like a depressed version of myself, there was an accompanying lack of creativity. Survival seemed to be all I could do day-in and day-out, trying to muster up enough energy to make it till naptime was my daily goal. Creativity? Forget it! I couldn’t even “creatively” choose anything besides the same exact lunch every day.

Yet slowly, surely, quietly, step-by-step, God brought me out of that hard season. And as depression dissipated, I noticed the resurgence of creativity. In small ways, like being spontaneous instead of needing to plan every minute of every day, and in returning to life-giving creative pursuits. For me, highest on that list is writing. And so I began to blog regularly, starting with my personal June challenge of daily blogging inspired by Grethen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. As I wrote more, I began to notice and savor life and those I love more. And then I had more to write about, and on and on it goes …

The one thing that still can threaten my creativity is what Brown identifies as the trap of comparison. When we begin comparing to others, we cease creating. I feel either false pride in being “better than” or (way more often) paralyzed by my perception of another’s creativity as much more inspired/better/talented than mine. Take this small example of doing a group craft project at a friend’s house a few weeks ago. We were painting wooden spoons, using painting tape to make stripes/etc. Overall, I had a great time. Making art is fun; getting to chat with other friends while doing so – even better. But then the insidious lie of comparison crept into my head. I looked at the other spoons and concluded that theirs were better – more creative – more beautiful. Mine just seemed so … plain. 

How ironic that is was the day after, in my “post-comparison hangover,” that I first read these words that Brown wrote in reflecting on how creativity slowly dissipated in her home as her parents shifted focus from living to acquiring:

My parents were launched on the accomplishments and acquisitions track, and creativity gave way to that stifling combination of fitting in and being better than, also known as comparison.

I’ll close here for today, as a poignant reminder to us that begs the question: am I focused more on fitting in with others or creating as an outflow of who I am, where I am?