Pictures in a magazine are just a snapshot in time. No house is that spotless, no family is that calm, no relationship is that loving all the time. After the camera leaves, the house, the family, and the relationship get a bit messy, and that is normal. The pictures of my life are real images. I may be a bit messy, but I am still the great, wonderful, loving person that I am. Loving the less than picture perfect picture of me.
I wanted the perfect life. The perfect husband, with the perfect house and kids. The perfect career, and the perfect social obligations. The perfect church, and the perfect education. Yes, I wanted Ebony magazine to do a spread on my perfect life so that all that knew me and saw me could see what the perfect life I had. My family sitting on the couch, wearing velvet dresses and tuxedos, smiling at each other, head tilted just to the left,..Hold it…Hold it…Snap…Got the shot.
But, somewhere in my very real life existence, when the picture was taken, there was something wrong. There was dust in the corner. There were no kids. The flowers on the table were slightly wilted. One of the kids, upon closer inspection, had ketchup on his shirt. And my husband is looking at the photographer’s assistant’s ass in a way he hasn’t looked at mine in years.
What went wrong? What happened to the picture perfect life that I wanted so much?
Sometimes in the pursuit of perfection, we miss the perfection that we have. We chase after what we think we want. We go after the “successful” lives that we see others have. We pursue the things that society says will make us successful or happy. In the search for our perfect lives, we hang on to dreams that just were not our dreams to have…
In my effort to create my picture perfect life, I began to collect things. I collected people, ideas, glasses and plates for entertaining, relationships, clothing and shoes to wear to the perfect events, people, books to have the perfect topic to talk about, loves, and hates. I collected what ever would make my picture perfect and complete. My collection increased as I kept listening to people, some with good intentions, that have my ear and were advising me on where I needed to be and what I needed to get there. Even worse I began to listen to my own unrealistic expectations that ran through my head. Now my picture had become cluttered.
I then began to make my life full of activities. I became engrossed with joining this and that, because the thought of going home made me physically ill because it was not perfect. My home office was my sanctuary. I became busy, so busy that I missed the small things that were going on that made the cracks in my perfect picture become bigger. He’s out late all the time. We don’t talk like we used to. We don’t do the things we used to do. I don’t laugh anymore. The intimacy is gone. He sleeps on the couch. I don’t have any kids…just a dog. The bill collector is wanting payment. I don’t feel as valued at work as I used to. The small cracks of the reality of life were invading the picture perfect existence that I wanted. I created so much busyness that I did not notice the small cracks until they had become gaping holes in my life picture.
Life became tiring. I found myself spending more and more time in bed, because it was just too hard to get up each morning. I was exhausted all the time. Life had become just a continual line of wasting energy on trying to fix something that was not broken because it was never intended to be together. I found myself forcing and faking most of the day. I was trying to force things into place for my perfect picture. Faking a smile. Forcing conversation. Faking a feeling for something that was not really love from the beginning. And more importantly, I was tired of spending so much time and energy trying to keep the outside world from seeing the reality of my life, as if they don’t already know it is a mess.
One day, after years of neglecting my perfect picture, I found another picture of me, and I was laughing. I was celebrating life, and I was happy. Then it hit me, the real picture of my life was perfect for me. No husband, No kids. No perfect home in the suburbs. No stellar career. No, none of that was really my perfect picture life. I began to understand that having those things did not make me less of the woman that I am. My picture is not a spread in Ebony. It is more like a series of articles in the New York Times magazine. Something that can’t be gathered in one article, but over several, with follow-up articles. Why? Because my picture perfect life is several snap shots. I have before and after shots. Portraits, landscapes, and action sports shots. Pictures in low lights, and that are backlit. I have self portraits and professional headshots. I even have little naughty bedroom pictures for me and mine.
My perfect picture is in the now of the right now moment. And however it looks, it is me. And I love it.