I could have done a much better job on this, but that might be beside the point...
Fashion. Magazines. Television. Blogs. Even religion can fall into the trap of image. Is this bad? I am not certain, because the thing is, image works. People with more pleasing imagery attract more admirers. But does the person with the most admirers win? He does in business, as admiration usually means increased sales and profits. He does in school, as admiration usually means inclusion into some group, being part of something (The "Popular" crowd, the athletic crowd, the brainy crowd, even the stoner crowd). And in blogging, it means more readers, links, followers and comments.
It is definitely true in mothering. Image. How does your house look? Your garden? Your dinner? What kind of kitchen ware do you have? Your children, are they cute, have matching clothes and are they well mannered? And you, have you gotten your shape back after having your kids? And your clothing: are you dressed modestly, yet attractively, showing off your good figure, but not emphasizing it? Are you at peace? Do you have a good haircut, good hygiene, jewelry that enhances, but does not overpower? Do you wear make up that is subtle, natural, barely noticeable, really, but you shouldn't go with out it. And your marriage, is your husband your rock, your hero, your soul-mate? Are you appropriately balanced between submission and partnership, enough to consider yourself a Godly woman and wife? And can you pull all these things off effortlessly, allowing your true self to show through?
Then there is religion. Do you have a good, solid prayer routine, one that starts your day, guides your life, and gives you balance on a rough and winding road? But is it more that a routine, is it your life blood, your fuel. Are you able to gather your family every day, and pray, meaningfully and sincerely, and do your kids buy into it all?
Of course, then there are things like home schooling, gardening, decorating, and on and on and on.
What is my point of this rather acerbic rant?
I can not keep up. I fall short everywhere. I am truly fatigued from comparing my insides with everyone else's outsides. I am tired of fighting the temptation to covet everyone else's lives. I have come to the conclusion (a gift of grace, I am certain), that I am coveting an image, not a reality. And what a stinking waste of a sin. Coveting something that isn't even real, for heaven's sake. I try to be "real". As a matter of fact, I get feedback about my life from others, saying they really like how "real" my blog is. I like that too, but since I have tried to be more real and shed the image I was trying to sell, my readership has shrunk to a fourth of its old size. Image sells! I am pretty boring with out all the wrapping paper!
What on earth brought all this on? Well, I was putting together the 7 Quick Takes Friday post, and it made me want to throw up. I had one about a turtle we found in our driveway, and how I made it into a school unit study. Blech. I had one about a meal I made that was beautiful and delicious, and I even took pictures of it to post. Blech. I had one about the bird house my son and I built together yesterday, and how we researched blue birds so we could put it in the correct spot for optimal nesting in the spring. Blech. And so on. Yes, I did all these things. But I had put it all out there neatly wrapped up in "Aren't I amazing" paper like I can't believe.
The truth? I had been wanting to do a reptile unit with my middle kids for THREE years. But I never did. Then one day, I almost ran over a turtle in our driveway, and they begged to keep it, and I let them for 2 days. They had to read all about turtles to build it a good temporary home (and so did I), what to feed it, and they wanted to know if it was a girl or a boy, and how old it was. So we Googled it. NOW, I could call that a unit study, or I could just say I took full advantage of an opportunity and my kids curiosity. It all depends upon how I package it.
The truth? One night, at 5:00 pm, I needed a dinner. I scrounged around and came up with beef and veggies, marinated them in salad dressings, and put it on the grill. (If I recall, it was some feast day, so I wanted the dinner to be good, but hadn't really planned anything yet). It turned out wonderfully, and I took photos to show just how together I have everything. Never posted that, though, because really, I was winging it. Again, it all depends upon the image I am trying to give.
The truth about the bird house. My middle son has been asking to build something, anything, for half his life. I stumbled across a blue bird house kit (pre-cut, pre-drilled, nails included. Bluebird fact sheet included) at the thrift store. We had it finished in 20 minutes. Satisfying? Yes. Something to photograph and make into an intentional project? No. Again, flying by the seat of my pants here.
And so on.
The truth about me? I am disorganized. I procrastinate. My house is cleaned by my children once a week, and good enough is good enough for me (check out the background in Melanie's 6 month photos. My room is a mess). My garden is too full of weeds and I let my tomatoes rot, and there are too many decorations in it (I could take some lovely photos, though. I take a few snapshots of my last flowering plants, and cut out the dead ones I didn't water since July). I am fat, and apparently not particularly motivated to do something about it. I have too much stuff, and why? I am confused about what image I want to give: Artsy or crafty? Clever or thrifty? Creative or kitschy? I don't buy or grow organic food, unless it is on sale and I happen to be at the store where it is sold reasonably. My children are extremely average, well rounded, but average. I haven't sent out Christmas cards and letters for 3 years, because I couldn't really spin things properly, and the image was either going to be one of worried distraction and concern, or a big fat lie. I have watched T.V. every day since Melanie was born, and often watch the news while nursing her. I don't pray well or often (formally, that is. I pray that I won't screw up my kids every 5 minutes or so). I have a good solid marriage that is a so much work I can not believe it. I struggle with anxiety and depression, though not lately, and while putting on a brave face gets me through, it feels fake. Thankfully for well over a year now I haven't had to deal with that, and I feel authentic. Authentically flawed. I am sensitive, jealous, and a worry wart. I like clutter, and hate it. I feel passionately about controversial issues I don't blog about because I do not want to alienate people I care about. Is that authentic or a cop-out?
(Gratuitous baby picture of a last minute table center piece I put out on the Nativity of the Theotokos. I got the idea from a different blog, and followed suit.)
Any way, there you are. Baring my soul and the constant struggle for me to keep up with my obligations, and yet remain real. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than having to call B.S. on myself. ( And on that point I want to be clear. I am calling B.S. on MYSELF and MYSELF alone. No one should see this as a commentary on their life or their blog. Please. Really. )