Perfection in an imperfect world

A perfect day?

A perfect day?

I call it a love/hate relationship.  Some days, I absolutely love it.  And some days, I just want to rant and rail against it. 

What makes me so impassioned one way or the other?  The virtual world of the internet.

I don’t tweet on Twitter; I don’t tumble on Tumblr; I don’t post photos on Instagram. 

I’ve limited my online interactions to writing this blog, two Facebook accounts – one Mama’s Empty Nest blog fan page and one personal –  and an occasional pin on Pinterest.

I love my blog but endure a tumultuous love/hate relationship with Facebook because it’s just too much unreality for me. You read that correctly – unreality. 

There’s either too much drama with too much spilling of one’s guts, or too much aggrandizing with that ‘look at me, I live an adventurous life and I’m proud to brag about it’ attitude.  

I’m one of those odd balls who prefers to function in the real, flesh and blood, good times and bad world.  Nothing makes me happier than spending time with real people, not just their online personas.

With that said though, I do relish my blogging community.  The bloggers I’ve connected with through this venue have proved to be real, honest to goodness folks.  And that’s why I love my blog, but kind of hate my Facebook.  I keep my FB pages because I can publicize my blog posts there, and it helps me maintain contact with faraway friends and family.

But the online world still troubles me and an article I read yesterday at work truly resonated with me.   Author Shauna Niequist wrote in Relevant Magazine that social media portrays life as nearly perfect and therein lies a problem.  When we view other people’s exciting, well-edited lives, we become dissatisfied with our own lives, even envious.  I think she has a very valid point.

She states, “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.”

She believes the danger is that we aren’t creating true community with those partial truths and well-edited photos.  And she’s right. 

She also states that when we view unrealistic, “perfect life” versions of others, envy rears its ugly head.  And we become dissatisfied with our own lives because of that nasty emotion.

Reading this article prompted me to remember a comment a friend threw at me  years ago.   She told me with exasperation in her voice, “Your life is so perfect.”

That comment sent me reeling.  It cut to the quick and I felt hurt by it and to be truthful, shocked.  But it forced me to evaluate my life and question whether I was projecting an unreal, perfectly plastic version of my family and our lives together or was she simply misjudging me? 

I wondered where her comment stemmed from.  Didn’t she see my pain?  Didn’t she notice my lack of contentment?  For crying out loud, didn’t she see my messy house??

At the time, I faced struggles – lots of them.  My family certainly wasn’t perfect; we had the same quarrels, issues, and messiness of life that every other family has.

I resented her for that comment.  Perfect life?   A perfect life would have no pain.  A perfect life would be living near extended family with lots of support.  A perfect life would be one without heartache, without sickness, without loss.  A perfect life would be one without disappointments, without fear and anxiety.

And I believed then and still do that while I’ve been blessed with a good life, a fulfilling life, I was in no way living a perfect life.

All of those thoughts tumbled back into my mind while reading this article.  And it caused me to wonder what readers perceive when they read my blog.  Do I portray a ‘perfect life’ here?  I hope not.  When I write, it’s from my heart and it’s real, but does that translate into my writing?

I’m not a Pollyanna.  I have struggles, but I don’t wallow in them.  I tend to look at the bright side because the alternative is just too depressing.  And I rely on my faith in Jesus to carry me through.   Because He is perfect, I am not.

It’s true I have a close-knit family.  We are immensely blessed that we’ve stayed that way.  And while my adult children are wonderful, they’re not perfect (sorry, kids!). 

I have a long-lasting solid marriage to a decent, hard-working respectable  man, but our marriage hasn’t been perfect (no one’s is).

I have a strong, enduring faith in my Savior, but my spiritual life has not been perfect either. 

So here’s my conclusion – I put down in words the thoughts and images that occur to me not to portray perfection but in an effort to build community with my fellow bloggers and loyal readers.  This blog isn’t perfect, but it’s my real attempt to connect with my fellow human beings in this virtual world.

Niequist aptly described community in her article this way:  “Because community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other’s actual voices, when we enter one another’s actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters.”

Since it’s not possible to actually sit together with my readers and blogging pals in their actual home or mine and to hear each other’s actual voices, my hope is that you can hear my voice through my blog.  It’s not a perfect way to communicate, but when it’s real and honest and true, it’s the best we can do.

I especially liked Niequist’s last paragraph: “And on the days when you peer into the screen of your laptop and all you see are other people’s peak experiences that highlight your lack in that moment, remember that life isn’t about the story you tell about yourself on the Internet. It’s about a million more beautiful and complex things than that, like love and faith and really listening. It’s about using what you’ve been given to craft a life of gratitude and passion and grace.”

Conveying a beautiful but imperfect life in an imperfect world.  May it be so.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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15 responses

  1. Well said Mama, so true and real. I love your comment : “I’m not a Pollyanna. I have struggles, but I don’t wallow in them. I tend to look at the bright side because the alternative is just too depressing.” Like hollering “whoa” in a mudhole, we all get muddy, but it’s what we do with it. I loved your post today – and I love you for your transparentness and genuine heart.

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  2. Mama, this post is so thought provoking and so very true. The internet can be a fake place for posting fake images and sometimes that bothers me, because it is so difficult to determine what is real and what is fabricated re self image. Still, I think I know you – from your writing – from your blog postings of the people and events that are important to you -from your comments and the comments of your family and friends. I haven’t seen your messes and you haven’t seen mine, but somehow I know the mess would not matter if we ever meet in person. I may be naive but I believe we are good people whose goodness comes through even though we strive so hard to only show the best of us – no matter which internet options we choose.

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  3. This made me think about my own Facebook friends: a couple of them always seem to complain about something. And I’ve “hidden” them, because nothing was ever right with them. It’s almost better to read all the happy stuff!

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    • Yep, Dianna, I know what you mean. As if the world can’t be dreary enough, some folks just really know how to drag you down. I’m not trying to be Miss Happy Perky all the time, but I absolutely refuse to wallow!

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  4. And I refuse to wallow, too. You said it so well how many posts ago?…our circumstances are our circumstances and we need to cleave to them as they are. You even backed it up with a scripture — was it from Corinthians? I’m trying to remember but just don’t know where to begin looking.
    That’s what makes me run home every day after I’ve gone out to do what I do — teach, consult, (I volunteer less than I used to– gave up the altar guild at church after seven years), write letters and cards, scrapbook, call the kids, my mother, brothers and sister to see how they’re doing.
    I see a down to earth person in you– anyone who has survived umpteen moves, been a supportive wife in all those moves and raised such beautiful children is such a testimony. Not to mention your comments that always resonate, making them sincere. Thank you btw. Just keep on keep on, stay the way you are. Of course, we want to set our best foot forward — who wouldn’t?

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    • Georgette, you always have the most positive, encouraging comments and I appreciate you so much! That ‘perfect’ label doesn’t bother me any more because I know it’s not true. Maturing does that for you, helps you weed out the truth from the untruth. And I knew after reading just a few of your posts, that you are a strong, non-wallower just like me! The scripture you probably are referring to is what I call my ‘life verse’ – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

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  5. I’ve learned over my 54 years that even the most seemingly cheerful people have had pain in their lives. They just don’t care to inflict their misery on others.

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  6. One of the nice things about the internet is that a user has the options of choice. We can choose which blogs to follow, which news stories to read and the extent to which we participate. I have been pleased and thankful to find people of quality like yourself with whom I can communicate at my (and their) option.

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    • Exactly, Montucky. I choose not to read blogs that are filled with what I call Debbie Downers or blogs chocked full of vitriol. I strongly believe that we are to build each other up, not tear each other down. I’m thankful for my blogging friends, you included!

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  7. I am like you, Mama, in that I don’t spend much time with Facebook either. It’s just a place to post my blog so it will reach more people. But I love blogging because it keeps me in contact with people like you. As for what we portray on our blogs, I don’t want to or need to portray a perfect life (an impossibility anyway), but I do choose to leave out many of the sad or painful things for the same reason I like to read novels that let me escape. I don’t frequent blogs that are constantly downers. I like to be uplifted or be given something to contemplate or read about something that triggers my own happy memory. That’s why I like your blog!

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