It was one of those days. One of those weeks, really. One of those homeschooling, lucky-if-I-get-five-minutes-to-myself-between-doctor-visits kinds of weeks. Busy is an understatement. That evening my youngest had a school event where I'd see friends and neighbors and I was feeling thrown together, and not really keen on the world seeing me in this condition.
I have one child in public school and am homeschooling the other. Both have some specific medical issues requiring this tactic. This leads to an interesting, and mostly manageable dynamic, but leaves little time for self care-- and a great need for recovery. All week I'd been grabbing lightening quick showers... but it was beyond hair washing day, ya'll. Way beyond. My ultra-fine-straight-as-a-board hair needed more TLC than I had time to give. My focus had been on basic hygiene: soap, deodorant, and toothpaste. (I've postponed more than one hot date with the curlers this month.)
I'd also had the dreaded mammogram that day. Not your run of the mill, disagreeable, uncomfortable, chilly kind of mammogram. The "we think we see something, but it may just be the picture so come back and have another" kind of mammogram. The smash your delicate tissue and your rib cage to be sure it's just a blip on the screen kind of mammogram. The ice cold, intensely painful, hold your breath and count to 25 kind of mammogram. (Several, actually, from repeated angles.) The tears stinging, Duggar-side -hug-for-two-weeks-after kind of mammogram.
What little make-up I may have had on before that ordeal was likely sliding down my face, but I had not had the time or the energy to check. There were homeschool e-mails to write, return calls to make to teachers, and a play date between school and The Big Dance.
Bless my sweet husband, who covered the dreaded (home school) Geometry lesson, allowing me some respite before the public school day ended. I slipped on resting gear, and worked on recovery for the time remaining until my youngest and his friend arrived from school. Then, I hit the ground running. I was in charge of recreation and refreshment, dinner and drop off. Not to mention hunting down clean towels, providing hair gel, Axe body spay, and "on fleek" dance wear.
About a minute before dropping two pre-teen boys off at the middle school, I realized I was wearing jogging pants, a dressy top, and house slippers. Lovely ensemble, but no time to change. Two very excited 13 year olds must be chauffeured to the event of the year. I threw on a fleece jacket to complete the look, and, feeling rather disheveled, shifted the mini van into gear.
When I arrived at the school, I was relieved to see only Dads outside. After a couple quick (side) hugs to the male halves of the couples we know (so as not to be completely antisocial) I jumped into the mini van, asking our friends to "Tell the girls I'll say hi after."
I was completely OK with the Dads seeing me in this disordered state, but the Moms? I had absolutely no desire to walk through those doors.
Now I have lovely friends...sweet and supportive, wonderful. Every time my eldest has landed in the hospital I've had beautiful people showing up and helping. Meals arriving while I am frantically loading up medical supplies, Do-you-need-anything calls and texts. Friends cleaning ketone induced throw up off bed sheets while I drive to the ER. Blessed ladies checking in on my husband and taking care my youngest, making sure the other half of my family is OK, while I am ensconced with my eldest in a hospital room.
These are pray-for-me, precious kind of friends. Quality ladies, not mean nasty backstabbers like you sometimes see on TV. But I could not bring myself to walk through those doors looking such a mess.
I had an intense yearning for shampoo, a pedicure, and that hot date with my curlers. Later, I wondered why? Barring the few PTA moms I don't know what was I afraid of?
A lot of these ladies have seen me with no make-up on. A number of them know what I smell like after a 5K. Quite a few have seen me at the water park sporting the the half- made-up, half melted candle look. So why, on this day, of all days, did I sprint back to my minivan and drive carefully, but compulsively away?
A while back I discovered a blog that resonates: You Are NOT My Competition
She brings up the point that women can be quick to judge. (Did I mention the crusty smears of dinner preparations on the sleeves of my blouse?) Sometimes the evidence of a difficult or taxing day is worn not just on our clothes, but in our hearts. At these times, I feel less than. Less than together, less than successful, less than perfect. And, let's face it- most women struggle with perfectionism... with the idea of some standard we should live up to.
If I'm keeping it real, there are a lot of days I don't reach that standard. A lot of days where my house is messy, and there are dishes in the sink overnight. I have the urge to say to the less harried perfectionists out there- don't judge.
Whether you understand or not, my life is chaotic. I've been working to clean those dishes in between battling for health and wellness, and what comes first is not the pan that soaked too long, but the son I am trying to keep alive and well. Some days, just having blood sugars in range and sensory needs met is all I can accomplish. Sometimes the victory is that we did NOT make the trek to the hospital today. Sometimes, my own need for recovery trumps the dust bunnies and the crumbs.
I've had to learn to let go. To give grace- to others, and to myself.
Sometimes the hardest part is claiming grace for me. I can justify the actions of others, but I know myself. I know what I am capable of, what I value--and I have high expectations of myself.
Still, sometimes I let myself down. I am not perfect. I'd really like to be. Yet in the middle of the ups and downs and struggles and anxieties, I do the best I can. I'm learning to choose mental wellness over outer appearances. It's a battle, but I am reminded Whose opinion of me matters.
I'm working to Let Go of perfection, and of what others think of me. I'm working to nestle in to the One who offers unconditional acceptance, greasy hair and all.
I'm learning to Let Go of perfectionist expectations and simply take care of myself. Embracing self care does not necessarily mean I have make up on or coiffed hair. Sometimes it means that it's Ok to rest-- and it's ok to not look completely put together. To admit to a nap after a grueling ordeal in a busy season... on the world wide web no less. To be OK if you don't "get it" and to leave you free to your own judgements- without letting it affect my self esteem.
So... will I go in and say hi to my friends next time I am feeling less than up to par? I can't guarantee it, but I sure do hope that in the moment I will remember my worth is not found in how people judge me, but in who God says I am:
Unconditionally loved and accepted, mess and all.