The Best Medicine
Yesterday I saw a picture of someone’s house on Instagram. It was an entryway, I think, with like, a pile of folded shirts and a bag on the ground. And a phone charger. And it was captioned with something along the lines of “#reallife.”
It was probably a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back type of scenario, but my eyes rolled back into my head as far as they could possibly go, and I instantly closed out of the dumb app that takes up way too much of my (and everyone’s) damn time.
Is that life today? Is that supposed to be relatable to me? Is that actually comforting to people? To see that even perfect homes have “ugly chargers” plugged into their hallowed walls?
Today, even effortlessness appears so full of effort. Even being spontaneous and casual appears curated, as if Jackson Pollock himself spilled the coffee all over the pristine, marble countertop. And being “laid-back” and “real” and “authentic” is lathered on like a thick, shiny Sally Hansen topcoat that hopes to be invisible but knows it’s everything but.
I’m in this precarious position of loving getting and providing inspiration from beautiful images of superficial things, but wanting to gag over how pretentious and ridiculous the entire thing feels sometimes. I genuinely believe there’s a place for the aspirational, but I prefer mine served alongside a heavy dose of actual reality, not the faux-messy kind of reality that seems to be cropping up more and more in social media as an answer to all the perfection.
I’m currently typing this from my bed where I’m eating an apple with the last bits of peanut butter scraped from a jar I bought last year, spicy pepperoni (purchased with the intent of making homemade pizza, which never happened) and Sour Patch Kids I bought for lunch from Staples earlier. Yes, for lunch, and yes from Staples, which low-key has an amazing candy selection. My laptop is about to die but I’m too content, frankly, to get up and find my charger. On my windowsill there are 3 empty cans of Polar seltzer, a glass of water, a few Beano tablets, and nail polish. My clothes I just changed out of are on the floor (and Jon’s are too, and so are the ones from yesterday, and the two days before that), as are two empty boxes from a Nordstrom order and the tissue paper that came with it (now ripped to shreds by Kaya and also littering the ground), a dog bone, shoes, and a heaping dirty clothes basket. The dresser is covered in receipts and money and keys and loose change and sunglasses and bobby pins and deodorant and cords. Always cords. And dust! So much f*cking dust.
And to even tell you that feels like part of the problem. I’m attempting to convince you of my imperfections. Because in fact, if you actually knew me, I wouldn’t have to convince you of it at all (and I definitely wouldn’t have to convince you that that was my dinner tonight). Because of course I’m a human being with a house and life in shambles some (most?) days. But anyone who’s experienced actual pain, actual grief, or actual ecstasy, knows that in fact, being a human has nothing to do with the state of your house at all.
That’s the nature of this relationship, of this virtual world today. It’s a depiction, and the access is inherently limited, as well as inherently curated. And although I feel like I’m trying to be discernible about the difference between my ideal world and reality, I am terrified of the idea that I’m failing at that. I refuse to be the “crazy, random, scatterbrained blogger with, like, a charger in the wall because #reallife.” If that’s real life, then we’re living in a trite, pathetic fairy tale that no one is even watching because, BOR-ing.
Anyway, on the days I can’t seem to sort through it all; on the days I don’t feel proud to be a “blogger” or “influencer,” the best medicine is the same stuff it’s always been. It’s spending IRL time with people who just plain get it. People for whom effortlessness is actually effortless, and reality is real; for whom relationships are hard, parenting is exhausting, money can be a struggle; for whom trying takes work. But far and above even that, people for whom life is about laughing (at themselves and others), reflecting (looking inward), learning (looking outward) and connecting (through honesty). I love an aesthetically-beautiful room or a pretty outfit as much as the next person (I clearly do, and I clearly care), but it’s separate from joy, separate from love, separate from humanity. It needs to be separate, for the sake of everyone’s sanity here.
Anyway, I take comfort in the fact that my world can have and be both. I can strive to have a clean, curated house, and I can also know that it doesn’t actually matter one bit. There is way too much else out there. And all my favorite people on earth know that, too.
The other night, I was taking a “walk” (loose term; we stopped every two minutes to pet cats, collect pine cones, and look at leaves) with my almost-four-year-old nephew, and at one point he stopped and said, “Look how pretty the sky looks over there Aunt Sarah.” And besides obviously going weak in the knees, I felt such warmth inside over his little profound statement. That’s what being a human is—getting to stop and look up at the sky together, with our hands full of sticky, sappy pine cones. Even four-year-olds get it.