One of these things was the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference I attended in Little Rock--and it was amazing.
But first, we shall discuss the other. That thing being when I get really overwhelmed over how perfect everyone else is.
You know, online?
It was horrific; I was on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs. There was nothing remotely unfit. It was like visiting Pleasantville or Mayberry.
No fighting with husbands, burning dinner, yelling at kids, eating too many M&Ms, complaints about neighbors dogs pooping in the yard or judgmental inlaws. No unmade beds, dirty toilets, wet towels on the floor, messy houses, ant infestations, broken down cars, flea bites, domestic disturbances or obviously drunk tweets. So, basically nothing I could really relate to.
But there was plenty of perfection crammed into that tiny little screen on my laptop.
Generosity! Cups literally overflowing with the milk of human kindness! Flowers and presents and prayers and supportive loving kindness and understanding and effusive outbursts peaceful interaction and loving words and amazing friends and gourmet dinners and Pinterest moments and humblebrags.
And also, first world problems. Oh, I'm sorry: #firstworldproblems.
Running to the liquor store in my yoga pants! Took the kids to school in my pajamas again! Drank too much coffee and now I'm over-caffeinated! What am I going to do with all of these cupcakes! I have too much bacon!
That was the straw that broke my back. Too much bacon? Surely, you jest. I mean, I do my share of tongue-in-cheek first world problem overshares, too. And I've been known to fly my happy flag every now and then, but my life is not a Pinterest board. Unless you go to Pinterest and search "Nailed It!"--but wait until I'm done, because that's like falling into Pandora's Box.
That was what the internet was like on this particular day.
Though I do realize that most of what is on the internet has been heavily curated, pictures cropped to cut out the laundry basket or fat rolls, and status updates worded to only show oneself in the best possible light... I was discouraged, to say the least, but I couldn't turn away. Saw a tweet from the Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, and she was linking to a blog post she wrote that she flat out advertised as "not funny" so I clicked it. And read it. And loved it.
Because she wanted to know, did anyone else feel like a fraud? Like an imposter? And OMG yes. I did. I do. And so did thousands of others. So I tweeted back to her because I'm all about the tweeters and I told her that while we're all online saying everything is good, it's not really doing anyone any good and then? She FOLLOWED ME.
I had a health scare a year ago, went to the doctor thinking it was one thing, which brought up the possibility of a million other things. While I was mulling over the possibility of these million other things, I saw a segment with Jenny Lawson on the Katie Couric show that was wonderfully inspirational, discussing this traveling red dress thing she does, to help boost women when they need it most.
When I was sitting in the doctor's office, not knowing what was wrong, thinking all the thoughts and feeling all the feelings and half naked and covered with a paper sheet and waiting for the doctor to come in and perform my biopsy, I noticed the red taffeta curtain and it gave me clarity. My inner Scarlett Martha Stewart O'Hara was already whipping up a Pinterest board where I turned it into a ballgown. It was a signal of strength, of connection, and I knew I could get through this.
So, I sent a message to tell her how she inspired me. I told her that I've always thought she was way cool, too cool for me, but then when I saw her on that show and realized how real she was, how normal she was, and heard her talk about that dress, and then I saw the curtains, it gave me what I needed in that moment so when the doctor was carving a chunk out of my uterus, I did not cry though I did yell a few swears.
It gave me strength. She gave me strength. She wrote me back and it was like a hug. The biopsy came back negative, and the health scare turned out to be metabolic syndrome and Friday I go back for my one year checkup to see if I can go off my medication after losing about 60lbs and hopefully also my insulin resistance. *fingers crossed*
So when she followed me on Twitter, of course I was so excited that I had to tell my friend Heather. Repeatedly. As admins for the Oklahoma Women Bloggers, we talk about the business of lady bloggers a lot (as opposed to blogging about lady business, which would be a different sort of blog entirely), and I knew she would be excited for me. And she was, the first 16 times I told her.
We were spending the weekend at the aforementioned blogging conference, and I was nervous, to say the least. I didn't know a lot of these ladies and suffer from that thing where you constantly worry that someone is going to discover that you have no idea what the hell you are doing. So I tried to make eye contact and smile a lot and project the confidence that I wish I really had. While at the conference, many well-known writers came up in conversation and in our sessions, including The Bloggess. And when I read the blurbs of blogger Robin O'Bryant's book, Ketchup is a Vegetable, one of them was by (you know where I'm going here, right?) Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess. That blurb was like a presence telling me I was in the right place. Giving me strength like seeing that red curtain last year gave me strength. Reminding me that I wasn't the only person feeling imperfect; there were so many of us feeling the same way.
Throughout the many informative sessions held over the weekend, the recurring theme that kept coming up all weekend long was authenticity. It struck me: here I was, surrounded by capable, intelligent, hard-working, amazing women and we were all convinced that we were doing it wrong or we were less than or we just weren't getting it right or we were failures. We all collectively cried out for authentic moments of connection.
During one of the final sessions of the conference, Heather and I got a chance to talk about collaboration, and we discussed how we've successfully worked together pretty much from the moment we met and became nonsexual life partners (my words; not sure how excited she is by my choice of them). But during the session right before us, I unexpectedly heard the message that made my weekend.
|Heather and I recreate a moment from Listen To Your Mother|
during our session on successful collaboration.
And that's what happens when you sit back and pay attention to the things that happen. One thing leads to another. The circumstances of my life have brought me to a place where I'm driven to really pay attention to those repeated patterns, try to unravel what they might mean for me.
For these past few weeks, months even, I've been hearing the message of honesty. Authenticity. Connection. Support. Compassion. Love. These are the things that matter. These are things that matter to me, and they're swirling all around me.
And when I'm spending all of my time envying those perfect lives that everyone else gets to live online, I'm going to try harder to remember the bigger picture, which is so much more than that little screen.