We get pictures in our heads. Long before anything happens, any decisions are made. Any prayers come true or go unanswered. And these pictures sustain us; in that way they are good. They let us know that we have some power within us to make things happen. To dream of what we know we want and need. But then we get closer to the picture, or even in the picture, and it looks different. What looked fine on the camera now looks strangely out of focus and in need of Photoshop.
But is the picture less perfect? Is it all wrong just because there is that glare there that “ruins” the perfect lighting? No.
I am learning this. I am learning that with every picture we have of our own lives and of anyone’s life is a little… off. Or, a lot. The idea of Perfect is betraying, at best. Because good is filled with flaws. Some we see, and try to fix. And some we create ourselves, before we ever realize we’re doing it. And then we find ourselves in a deep and probably dark place worried we’ll never get anywhere else. But really, it’s the same picture we imagined in the beginning. Only now it has details.
It has realness. The only quality that really tells us what is true. Because of course we never said “Oh, I want to wear this outfit and go to this party and not be able to stand because I have a broken toe” (true story). We just imagined the outfit and the party. But the broken toe and the pain? That’s the real part. That’s the truth part. And, maybe it makes the party different, but it doesn’t make the party any less good. It doesn’t make our presence there any less worthwhile. It doesn’t make the wine taste less sweet or the laughter less precious. The pain is just part of the picture.
I have been thinking about what’s real a lot lately. Because I feel less and less like myself and more and more like my life is splitting between who that was and who I am now. And because I am scared of this who, because she is more afraid. Wait… no, she is not more afraid. She is less afraid, she just talks about being afraid more. She admits it as reality. And that is scary, too.
I am sorry to talk in the third person, I know that is annoying. But my greatest fear is that I will have gone through all of this and not only still failed, but also never admitted I am scared. I am scared along with all the other things I am. And, more so, to have never said that it was okay to be scared. It was okay to feel like a big mess and a failure before I ever got to that picture. And I’m getting closer to it, I fear. I am either on the brink of falling flat or I know nothing at all.
I’m lucky to have people around me that understand that I talk and think and feel deeply like this and still accept me. And if there’s any chance anyone else reading this, ever, is feeling that way– that you feel and think and talk about it too much: you don’t. I promise. I am there too. It is okay. It is right. You aren’t too much. Your fear is not too much. It is not wrong.
It is real. Hold on to that real. That broken pain in the middle of the party. Because it doesn’t make the party, it doesn’t break the party. It just IS. You just ARE. Whatever realness is coming out of you or spinning around you IS.
The picture can be a mess and also be good.
I have this posted in several places around my house, saved on my computers and phone. I share it with people all the time. I love it, especially the end:
God speaks to each of us before we are,
Before he’s formed us — then, in cloudy speech,
But only then, he speaks these words to each
And silently walks with us from the dark:
Driven by your senses, dare
To the edge of longing. Grow
Like a fire’s shadowcasting glare
Behind assembled things, so you can spread
Their shapes on me as clothes.
Don’t leave me bare.
Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.
Simply go — no feeling is too much —
And only this way can we stay in touch.
Near here is the land
That they call Life.
You’ll know when you arrive
By how real it is.
Give me your hand.