I’ve never really been that great at letting my(true)self be ‘seen’.
Even on days when I know I’m not going to leave the house, I dress up as if I were heading to a coffee date- lip-liner, jewellery and even a beret (if I’m having an ‘oily hair’ day). I recently asked Dave if he thought that was weird… he said ‘yes’. Up until this point, I explained it away as helping my mental health- as in, if I got dressed in the morning, I would feel more able to handle the day. To a certain extent, this is true, but I’m beginning to notice a more revealing truth underneath. I put on my costume so that when things are going to shit, I can look in the mirror and the reflection gazing back at me says ‘at least you can control your appearance’.
I’m sharing this week at Tribe about the two halves of life from Falling Upwards (Richard Rohr). I’m pretty sure, as this is my second reading of the book, that I invite complete chaos into my reality when I delve into these pages. Rohr’s insights tear me to shreds and expose new parts of my false/shadow self each time I pick up the book.
Merrin posted an article to the Tribe group this week about a group of women going to clean their struggling friend’s house. What was highlighted in the article, though, was not necessarily the amazing cleaning efforts of the group, but the bravery of the recipient in ‘being vulnerable enough to humbly allow others to see her in her dirt’.
That phrase has echoed in my mind ever since. I don’t like people seeing my dirt. Whether it is my unmade face, my crumb filled floors and benchtops, my parenting failures or my true thoughts on issues- I would prefer they see the me I have constructed instead. Yet I am always drawn to people who couldn’t give a stuff what others think, even if it means they might come across as vulgar or over-opinionated.
Allie came over on Sunday night. She almost didn’t because I had been very unwell with a blocked and infected duct that morning. I told her to come anyway, but warned her that she would find me in my pajamas! We shared laughs, shocking truths and wine and it was so refreshing and energising. After she left I made a mental note that I really need to prioritise these kinds of encounters.
Monica, Naomi and I have also started an informal accountability type group to help each of us with our individual and collective struggles as mothers. Each day we confess our failings to each other and celebrate each others achievements. Even though it has only be about a week now, I have noticed a remarkable perspective shift. Just sharing the shame and challenges of the day lifts a sizeable burden from my shoulders. When we read each others’ confessions of our darkest moments, we each react with complete understanding and grace for the failings, knowing how hard motherhood can be.
After a particularly hard day, in which I would have normally assaulted Dave’s phone
with countless expletive-laden texts, I reached out to the girls instead- showing them the crazy mess that was my true self. Naomi responded by writing the most beautiful and profound poem that I am in the process of committing to memory, to slow my instant emotional reactions to the loss of control around me. She has kindly allowed me to share it here.
My mummy love and mummy rage
Oh I know its just a stage
But the days are long and my hopes are high
I laugh, I learn, I teach, I cry
My teeth get sore from clenching tight
I count the hours until night
And perfect I will never be
Patience is what they want from me
So I take a breath, I pray to God
That love will clear away this fog
And put it in perspective, so
I appreciate this stage and grow
When she sent it through to me, I cried. It so perfectly expressed the struggle between who I wanted to be and who I was at that moment.
Where did I get the idea that perfection is the ideal? That I need to have everything under control to be happy? Yet that is the unstated goal underlying even some of my growth efforts, even to the point that I struggled with sharing my latest failing as a mum with the group, feeling like ‘I should have this stuff nailed by now’. Yeah, in three days.
I am going to fail every day, I’m going to speak in a frustrated tone and get tunnel visioned about things that don’t matter. I’m going to prioritise cleaning at the wrong times and unfairly see the kids as obstacles. I will build up some things in my head to be more than they are, and see unhelpful patterns in behaviours of a few days. I will react badly to mess and forget to take a deep breath to gain perspective. But I am learning! Each time I fall, I can choose to fall upwards, letting the failing teach me about my(true)self. The goal is not to conquer the negative decisions so that I become a mother robot. I have dirt, I am broken and I need others to grow. That is worth celebrating.