I’ve worn this shirt for three days. My wife knows it, the kids know it. Now you know it. That wasn’t the plan, by the way. It kind of just happened. I first wore it on Saturday, you see. We were traveling. I woke up on Sunday morning. I needed to go to the store. I realized I left my suitcase in the room where the baby was sleeping. She had been fighting a cold so none of us had been able to rest well. Since I had rather pluck my eyeball out with a fork than risk waking her, I got this shirt out of the bathroom where I had taken it off the night before. It didn’t look too bad, I thought. Smelled clean. So I put it on. We traveled back home that day. We made it home, we got the car unloaded, three lunches made for the next day, kids showered, a sick baby into bed and I found I had no energy to change, so I went to bed as is. So here I am, Monday morning, in this shirt.
It kind of sums up life, doesn’t it? “I’ll make better mistakes tomorrow.” The ebb and flow of jacking things up and trying to fix them. The practice of vowing to do better, be better and try harder and then forgetting that we vowed such things. The moments we feel like we are handling our stuff just fine and the moments we wonder how we remember to breathe without a calendar alert set for every 2 seconds: breathe in now, exhale now.
We all hide things. Everyone does. We allow only a select audience to see us at our most vulnerable. What we hide is, obviously, what we are most ashamed of, where we feel like we may be judged the harshest.
I never really hid my sexuality. Other than omitting information for work purposes or general safety issues, I’ve always been pretty open about that. I have never been “ashamed” of who I am. I have felt guilty before on how it may have affected others but I never felt convicted for it. Maybe because I found support in the gay community pretty easily on. I knew that people loved me even though I was gay. It may not have been the people I had wanted most to accept me but it was enough right at that moment. My sexuality is not where my vulnerabilities lie. I mean, I might be gay but I’ve got my shit together right? I thought, perhaps foolishly, that I appeared well rounded to others. My goal was to appear strong, entirely self sufficient and like every day was a joyous occasion. No bad days here.
Honestly, my biggest shame triggers have been my self perceived inadequacies: My inability to multitask, the inability to finish things I start, the way I become disinterested in things and quit, the fact that I don’t work to my potential, my lack of organizational skills, the way I seemed to be the last person to know that we no longer put two spaces after a period. I have a habit of keeping people at arms length sometimes. I attributed this to being an introvert and that may be true. But it’s also because I wanted to be seen only when I was ready, when I was expecting it. I wanted to be seen when my house was clean, my hair was done and everything looked pretty. I was terrified of what might happen if someone saw my life in disarray. I couldn’t admit I didn’t even come close to having it all together. Doing everything right was my way of feeling worthy of love and friendship.
I’m also moody. Call it PMS, call it what you wish but the fact is I am not always jovial. I have anxiety and I can get out of sorts when the train derails, so to speak. When my anxiety is high, anything unexpected can make my mood sour. It normally doesn’t last long. I can be back up in no time. But if this sounds like a roller coaster, it’s probably not far from the truth. Like, the kind that goes upside down after you have had a some deep fried Oreos and a funnel cake. I’m not always in a good mood. There, I said it. While that may seem like normal life to some, it makes me very self conscious and guilt ridden. It’s another thing that I have made a practice of hiding, like the mess in my closet. Like the way ALL my drawers are junk drawers. I’m pretty positive all my kitchen drawers have a pair of scissors in them but there are none in the office. Yeah. I’m about that life.
I’ve always struggled with the things I have mentioned. I always managed to control the ins and outs of people so that only a small handful ever saw any of my faults. When I met my family (my soon to be wife and three stepdaughters), my shortcomings became harder and harder to hide. Once you are in the day to day with someone, your stuff starts showing. Not all at once, mind you. Just a little slip here and there. Each slip caused me great anxiety. Yet when I looked up, they were still there. At first, this made my anxiety worse. Why were they ok with my absent mindedness? Why did they not care that I gave the peanut butter and honey sandwich to the wrong kid? Why was child number two okay that I forgot her open house at school? Why was my wife not bothered when my mood was off putting? What was WRONG with these people?
After I realized I was stuck with my family (Thank God!), some other things happened. We became a family of six. Having a baby is probably one of the most therapeutic things to happen to me. I have definitely learned not to take myself so seriously. Before kids, I would panic if someone showed up at my house unexpectedly. What if it’s a mess? What if the refrigerator looks gross and they want to get something to drink? What if I didn’t take my makeup off last night and I have raccoon eyes? What if I don’t have on a BRA? Gosh so much focus on me, just because I didn’t feel “good enough.”
Now? Well, let’s just say that having a baby has made me come to a full stop on many days. I wore myself out trying to keep things perfect while taking care of a baby. I no longer had the time or energy if it looked like bedlam when someone stopped by. Even if I had a heads up, there’s no time to pull it together because I have a child camped underneath my breasts or running around the kitchen emptying drawers while the dog ran off with the contents. So I’ve learned to be still. I’ve shown my laundry piles. I’ve shown my disorder and disarray and now, the shirt I’ve had on for three days. The point is, no one has judged me. No one has decided they didn’t like me. If they did, I couldn’t be down with them anyway because I like the people in my squad to be cooler than fans on high. When did you realize it was ok to just be? When was your moment? Who were your people? I hope you will share it with me and share in my vow to make better mistakes tomorrow.