It’s not all good, all the time. I was reminded of this as I posted yet another picturesque image to Instagram this morning. It took me a good 10 minutes to do a normally two minute quick pic (aspen groves in the fall don’t need much editing…) The extra eight minutes were spent trying to simultaneously suppress some inner rage while trying to figure out why my oldest son couldn’t pull it together this morning. Between some pretty constant whining, too many “No’s!” and a million insta-tears, I was at the end of an already short rope. My night was interrupted and even on the best mornings, Kai and I have had our moments since he was about 10 months old and asserting a will stronger than most Soviet era government leaders.
So I pretended everything was great and posted a picture to make everyone jealous of our life.
OK, so that wasn’t the real intent behind it, but sometimes I sit back and realize that yeah, we do have a good thing goin’, but it’s not all smiley emojis. And I think we all do it. Facebook is full of life’s best moments in picutres. Who posts themselves in the depths of despair? Who posts a family pic where everyone looks like they’re ready to punch each other in the face? Nope, we like to say “Hey, look at me! My life is so awesome!” Sure, two minutes later we give a status update about how it’s the hardest day ever or how awful it is that we need to pick between two clowns to run the biggest circus on the planet. But when it comes to showing off our personal mug shots, they usually look pretty good.
The pic I posted to make you jealous while trying to hold my tongue…
I speak for myself when I say that I struggle sometimes flipping through my feeds on social media. Looking at everyones perfect, fun, adventurous, fill-in-the-blank life, I reflect on mine negatively. Sure, it’s a good life but I want that adventure in Cambodia, I want a new house on a big plot of land, I want to buy an old camper bus and travel the world. It got to the point where I stopped flipping through my Instagram and only posted pictures. I got rid of my facebook app on my phone. I needed to focus on my life and not get so caught up in others. It was an extreme that most may not need to resort too, but I have heard of many who deleted whole accounts because of their personal feelings of inadequacy.
Just being real here.
Then I stop. It’s important for me to sit back some nights, crack open a good beer and light a fire. Gazing into the flames, I realize quickly that life is hard for some people, but not me. My main struggle is with a normal, loving, beautiful family of four. Or working through the envy and pride that pop up, literally, on my phone. The phone I can easily afford used primarily for my entertainment (Candy Crush? FTW.) I remember that I’m in the top %1 of the world that can afford a phone, a tablet, a home, a car… People are struggling with extreme poverty, abuse, war. Those are hard. All of us struggle; I can’t downplay my own difficulties but when I take a step back and refocus, I can work through my struggles with a shift in my attitude or a quick walk outside. That’s hard to do when you’re facing oppressive governments or demons of addiction.
I don’t know if it will work, but I think I want to try to get a pic of me at my worst. OK, maybe not my worst; I don’t think that would be good for anyone. But what if I posted a pic of me with my, as my boys call them, “stern eyes” on? It’s not pretty and by no means would people think my day was one to envy. Truth is, as amazing as this experience is for our family and for having all the space in the world to get outside, we still drive each other nuts sometimes. And if you ever want to test your relationship with your kid, try to teach them math or correct the direction of the “b’s” and “d’s”…
So there’s some vulnerability.
We do our best up here in the woods, but we are still real people who are struggling through the best ways to work through life together. I’ve often read these books by monks about happiness, suffering, anger and so on and I think “Do you have kids? Have you ever had a four year old tell you off? Tried to discipline your son and then cook him dinner and know you’ve got another 12 years of 24/7 life to work through?” I think sometimes that it must be easier being single or even just married. For me, striving to be happy and live a truly full life really came when kids showed up. My temper is tested and my outward joy ebbs and flows but I know this family is really what makes life the adventure it is. No, not the adventures I flip through of a guy searching for empty waves in Indonesia or a couple sputtering along Route 66 in a VW. The adventure that is this life. The one I’m on. The one that you’re on. Slow down and reflect on that adventure. There’s some struggles, some long nights, some hard years. But you can find the good too. I promise.