I have a confession to make.
I’m not who you think I am.
I’m going to tell you a big secret. Are you ready?
A mess. Such a gigantic mess.
People who know me from work often mistake me for a perfectionist. Someone who is organized. Detail-oriented. Punctual. Put-together. A Stickler with a capital S. When I try to protest, “No, I’m really not!” I’m usually dismissed with a wave and a laugh. “I know it’s hard when you’re a perfectionist,” they say. “You’re too hard on yourself.” And I’m left feeling bewildered, because I know the real me, and I’m thinking, Wanna come over to my house and see for yourself how NOT a perfectionist I am?
To be fair, when you’re a copy editor by profession (OK, really by nature), the desire for neatness and consistency and right-ness is part of the gig. So yes, I can make sentences flow nicely, and I can draw people in with a compelling paragraph (gosh, at least I hope that’s what I’m doing), and I can try my best to make sure the capitals and the commas and the quotation marks are all in their proper places. On paper and on screen, yes, I am organized. I am neat. I am annoying with my red pen. I hold all the Rules, the Guidelines, the Rights and Wrongs in my brain, and can whip them out at a moment’s notice.
So why in the world can’t I be like that in my actual, day-to-day life?
A typical morning in my house starts around 6:30 a.m., when my 6-year-old bounces out of bed in the most annoyingly cheerful manner (let’s get real, I’m just jealous of her morning-person super powers). She wakes me up and then flips on PBS because it takes me about half an hour to become coherent in the mornings, and she knows this. Bless her. Once I’ve woken up enough to notice the time, my morning panic ritual begins. I forgot to make the baby’s bottles for the day last night! I forgot to run a load of school uniform laundry! I forgot to prep our lunches! I never checked E’s backpack yesterday to even see if she had homework or papers that needed signing. I forgot that I was supposed to run to the store for decent school lunch items, and now I’m sending my child to school with four varieties of crackers and a juice box. You get the idea. By some miracle, I get the baby fed and settled with whoever is watching her that day, and we usually manage to get ourselves out the door at least close to on-time. But more often than not, my hair is still wet, and I do my makeup in the car after dropping off the 1st grader but before I arrive at work… or in the office parking lot, where I wave to my coworkers from my minivan with a tube of mascara in my hand as they’re walking in.
Then I remember, I didn’t plan anything for dinner, either.
And on these mornings, I beat myself up over what a total disaster I am, and what a mess my life feels like, and how tired and guilty I feel. And then I pull it together, walk into work, sit down at my desk, pop open my laptop, and train my focus elsewhere, putting everything else out of my mind until I’m back home again that evening and starting it all over again.
I need help.
Over the weekend, this routine—which began around August of last year, when I returned to work part-time after our sweet miracle baby (a story for another day) was a little over 3 months old—finally caught up with me, and I collapsed under the weight of the burden I’d been carrying. I cried, I curled up into a ball, I yelled at my amazing, wonderful, always supportive husband, I cried some more, I apologized… I felt all the feels, as I guess people are saying these days. I felt them out loud, and it was ugly. And then I took a deep breath, and I let God take it all, and I slept.
All I can say is Praise God, His mercies are new every morning. On Sunday I woke with a new resolve. Instead of feeling this sense of pressure because of all that I perceive to be expected of me and because of what all the other working moms are doing well (are they, really though? am I not alone in this chaotic existence?), I felt something new and unusual and a little uncomfortable…
Boy, am I flawed. So flawed! I am so imperfect. I do not have it all together, as much as I’m tempted to pretend I do. My life is messy, and I am a human being in need of grace. God gives us His grace so freely, and it’s so unbelievable and so overwhelming, and yet, that I can grasp. Giving myself a little grace, though? For a mom/ wife/ daughter/ sister/ friend/ employee who wants so badly to be the person everyone needs me to be? That is hard.
This morning I took a little trip to Target with the baby (she doesn’t seem to like Target much, which is really a problem), and I had a little too much fun selecting file folders and desk organizers and a planner. It’s a tiny step toward organizing my home life so that I can be the mom and wife and woman God has called me to be… not because it’s what’s expected of me, but because I want to take good care of these people He’s given me. It’s by no means a magic wand that will fix my messiness. I’m sure I will still feel messy, and my home will be dusty and un-vacuumed, and my surfaces will be cluttered. I will probably still forget to make the bottles sometimes, and I will
probably definitely still pull a dirty shirt out of the hamper and wear it again because I decided to sleep instead of do laundry last night.
But today my heart feels a little tidier, and it’s a good place to start.