Creativity is piercing the mundane to find something marvelous.
I've been playing around for a while with the idea of writing something along the lines of this series. The idea originated with an entire brand concept, with a brand name, blog name, themes, ideas, dreamed-up and fantasized book deals, the works. I wanted to live a curated life; a life we set out and establish for ourselves, not one we complacently mosey through and I wanted to share that experience with others. It was an idea of creating a beautiful life by surrounding ourselves with beauty that we create, establish and curate. I don't mean the "beauty" that has a price tag attached to it and a tag line of keeping up with the most common of American surnames; the perfect family with 2.5 kids and money to roll around in. I also don't mean the Pinterest "beauty" or same beauty as everyone else. I mean an appreciation for the beauty we walk through every day without so much as a notice - that type of beauty manifests differently for all of us. Going further than that, I wanted to strive to see that beauty where others aren't able to and by learning and growing in this, I wanted to be able to create a more balanced life not only as a woman and individual, but as a business owner and entrepreneur.
It was a great idea and concept that I felt very passionately about. There were notions of living every day creatively, rather that just the pinterest Sunday where you created a less than stellar holiday wreath (#nailedit) and your creative bone dissolves before the hot glue was even dry. I'm not talking about that type of creativity. I'm referring to the creativity that makes us yearn for more; crave it, even. It comes in different forms, can't be picked up at Michael's, and should be different for each of us. This type of creativity and beauty contains the power to fulfill us in ways we didn't even realize we were missing out on.
However, the other huge part of this brilliant world view of mine was not only to live a life of purpose, but more importantly, living one of imperfections. This is a strange concept for most of us because the Stepford Brainwashing Association disagrees. Today's blog post is more for us as women that necessarily business owners and is about finding that balance between striving for the unattainable perfection with the relief we will find when we realize that we won't reach it as well as learning to appreciate the more simple beauties in our world and allowing that appreciation fulfill the gaps that are left by our own imperfections.
Let's step back and think about this for a moment:
Our generation is the first of its kind. We see the struggles our mothers endured, we saw what our grandmothers' definition of perfection was, and we want our own. We want to have ALL of it. Not just the career, education, family, and husband, but we want the perfect picket fence as well. We are perfect mothers, clean and tidy, we bake cookies for bake sales, our kids are clean and healthy, our husbands are well rested and perky, our homes are well appointed and welcoming, we are educated, successful, you could eat off every flat surface in our house, our Halloween costumes are amazing and always handmade, our dinners are all from scratch, and on top of all that, our hair is perfect and there isn't a wrinkle in sight on our firm and porcelain skin.
Those are all the things we are supposed to be. They are all imposed on us by us, which makes it even worse! Our houses are always a little messy, kids are never totally clean until teenage girls reach about 10 and they start to care (boys are NEVER clean, no matter how old they are), sometimes sandwiches make for a great dinner option, and homemade Halloween costumes?? Isn't that what Target is for?
We have collectively managed to create this goal of perfection that is beyond attainability. No one is that perfect, and if they are, they're big fat liars. You know how I know that? I was one of them. Perfect house, perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect marriage, two BMWs in the drive way, and a fake smile plastered on my face for so long I forgot what a real smile was or what to do with it. When my marriage and essentially my life fell apart, about 90% of the people in my life were SHOCKED!! I got a lot of, "waaait, whaaaaa, whoooooo, huuuuuu??? buuuuttt???!!" just utter confusion. I had perfected this outward appearance of always maintaining the illusion of perfection that no one would have guessed what was going on behind the curtain. I wanted that perfect life - to appear to always have it all together, always know how to behave, what to wear, and so on. Going through a divorce (even typing that word is still difficult), I felt like a hypocrite. I had all these ideas of living a life of beauty and I felt that after separating from my husband and my "perfect" life, moving across the country and starting over, I had no right to speak of such things. I had no place encouraging others to maintain their relationships when I wasn't able to save my own (good lord this is difficult to write about). One day it dawned on me - my idea of imperfections also applied to myself. I'm allowed to not be perfect. (this is going to deviate a tad for just a sec - I feel like you need to know a little background, but more importantly, I need to say it)
Behind the scenes, I had been miserable and incredibly lonely. It lead to me developing this life theory of living a curated life - not a perfect life, a curated one. A life that I carefully selected, chose each ingredient, and even reveled in the imperfections. In many ways, I walked what I preached, but I realized when staring at the crowd of very confused faces upon the dissolution of my marriage, that I was living that curated life all by myself. I forgot to share it with anyone else and forgot to live it in public. I lived my entire life very much entirely alone. It was like I was conducing dress rehearsals that I wasn't ready to share yet, because I wasn't ready to admit yet how imperfect I really was. Even now as I write this, it makes me very uncomfortable.
I have been really good about reveling in the imperfections personally and within my own character for a while, so now it's time to do them openly. A few years ago, I found myself getting overly excited about weird things (like "bad" weather). I would swoon over road side flowers that were actually weeds and big gusts of wind. I know now that it was a compensation for how unhappy I was, but I love the habit it created. I learned to love what most people view as "inconveniences." It's the idea of, "can't beat em, join em." If something can't be helped, changed or in any other way made better without ripping out ones own perfect locks, they why fight it?? If the weather is going to be horrible, buy a pretty scarf, or better yet, knit one yourself (not a perfect knit, or a difficult one. Heck, forget the pearls altogether and just knit the whole darn thing. Why? Because it's cutting a corner and you're allowed to do that). It's the imperfections in life that build who we are, define our character and make us individuals. Our lives, literally, without these would be Stepford. So why do we fight them? In learning how to balance my life, my happiness, my business and my own character, I learned a few things and have been able to revive these good habits even through a rather rocky last few years. These are a few things I have embraced so that even on a really bad day, I can take a slightly Pollyanna approach and actually mean it.
This is a two-pronged idea:
1. if you can't change it, might as well join it rather than spending the energy you could be using to perfect your blowout talents on something that you will never achieve (or you could just go to the dry bar and they'll blow out your hair for you. $50 is still cheaper than getting your hair tangled around a round hair brush. Admit it, we've all done it). Here are some examples:
bad weather: I own 8 umbrellas, four pairs of rain boots, two trench coats, and more scarves than any one person needs. I owned them before I moved to the east coast. Remember people, I lived in San Diego. These items got used twice a year, tops. When i first moved here, I didn't have to buy anything clothing wise for the chilly winter weather (except maybe the vintage fur coat I found and bought) to keep warm in the nasty winter we had last year. I loved foul weather because I got to wear different outfits, so I was totally prepared. Cant beat em, join em. If your hair looks terrible when it rains, find a super cute cloche hat that everyone lusts over (or learn some really awesome french braiding skills or a super basic chignon). We somehow wear the badge of misery and complaint like one of honor. "ahhhhh, my hair frizzes so bad in this weather!!" or "oh, this rain is ruining my good shoes!" Our culture has made it easier to complain than enjoy. I know it's a little Pollyanna, but try it! Pick up those super cute rain boots at Target!
traffic: first of all, leave earlier. You know there is going to be traffic, so stop fighting it and leave earlier. Secondly, enjoy the ride. You're stuck there anyhow, so you might as well. Load you iTunes up with the songs you would love to sing at the top of your lungs in the shower, but resist because you know you sound like a turkey being throttled and not only can your husband hear you, but so can all your neighbors. Well, not in your car they can't!! Learn a new language, listen to a good book, sing at the top of your lungs...the possibilities of things to do while stuck in inevitable traffic is as endless as the 405 in rush hour. Can't beat em, join em.
messy home: first of all, stop thinking that your home has to be clean. It doesn't. It's an urban myth. I know when you go over to your girlfriend so-and-so's house and her kitchen is all spotless and shinny, it probably wasn't like that two hours before you walked in the door (and if it was and always is, she spends 90% of her free time cleaning while you go have wine with the girls after work and has an unbalanced life, which is not what we're all about here). Homes are meant to be lived in! The homes I find the most welcoming are the homes that feel loved. That doesn't mean organization isn't a must, but if you have young kids, it's always going to be a little nuts. Get organized, not spotless. Is your entryway always a complete cluster? Then create a solution. Let your home be lived in because it is, in fact, where you live. These days, there usually isn't someone at home full time to cook and clean and if there is someone home all the time, it's because we work from home! (ugh, working from home and the guilt of a messy house is a totally different topic). This is where we all need to learn to cut some serious corners. Decide what hills to die on, and die on only those. The whole house doesn't need to be spotless at once, make better habits of putting things away as you use them, do dishes when the meal is over (rather than three days later). Between cutting some corners (think dryer rather than iron), knowing what hills to die on (think clean toilets rather than spotless baseboards), and creating good habits (putting things away as we go), we will eventually release the idea of the "perfect" clean house. That "perfect" is defined differently by everyone, decide what your OWN definition of that is.
Overall idea: If it's already guaranteed to suck, let's make it suck less. Create your own definition of "perfect" and combine it can't beat em, join em.
Step two of this two pronged approach: enjoy the processes/chores/habits you already have in place. Not only should we all accept the imperfections a little bit more, but we should actually try and enjoy the things we do obligatorily or habitually anyhow. Why? Because we can.
you drink coffee every morning: you simply have to. can not function without. may actually die without (I've been watching too much Gilmore Girls #nosuchthing). Ok, well then rather than chugging your 32oz of black coffee as you hop out the door on one foot, struggling to get the other shoe on, while balancing your handbag, coat, mug and sanity, how about you get up 15 minutes earlier, spend some quite time and make yourself a french press latte. Enjoy the process, it's already there, so you might as well revel in it. Why? Because you deserve it.
shower time: again, you already have to do it, so you might as well enjoy it. Pick up a new bottle of body wash, light 5 or 6 candles and take a shower in the near dark. Trust me, it's amazing. It will be your favorite part of the day. Or even better, bring that latte into the shower with you! I mean, what do you think those little shower shelves are for?? It even counts as knocking out two items in the morning routine at the same time! Then, if you have children, immediately go to amazon and order this book and read it to your children repeatedly. That way, when mommy says she just needs five minutes peace, your kids know exactly what you mean. It's like secret mommy/daughter code (or it was in my family when my wise mother read that book to us as kids). Smart woman, my mother.
bedtime routine: J and I were just talking about this the other night - we don't really like our nighttime routine. We do the whole bathroom/brush teeth/get bed ready thing, and then we both get on our phones/laptops. No TV, no phones, no laptops before bed (not to mention all the studies about blue light affecting our sleeping patterns). Read a book if you have to, but just enjoy some quite time especially if you're laying next to another human that you're supposed to love (go on, roll over to them...remember them? they don't have an apple symbol stamped on their forehead so you may have forgotten). If you're tucked into that cozy bed by yourself, do something nice for yourself and spend some quite time doing something you enjoy. In the crazy worlds we have created for ourselves, there is very little quite time. Revisit and use this quite time more wisely, you're email will be there in the morning, I promise. Get in the habit of adding this new idea to your nighttime routine - a new perfume or a specific scent - check out Anthro's candles like this one or a room spray like this one - and use it before bed every night. The human brain is an amazing thing, and associating scent with an action is an amazing tool. Light that candle, go about your nightly routine, hop into bed, talk about your day a bit, read for a few minutes, blow out the candle and go to sleep. That scent alone will start to calm you down, slow down your brain, and make something wonderful out of the mundane task of going to bed.
This is a touchy topic for those of us in a relationship with a work-a-holic (or someone that is self employed; those things are pretty much the same thing). We will talk so much about this later, but just as a nice reminder now, work doesn't belong in bed. Ever. Put the email down.
Stop the Glorification of Busy is also an idea about balance. Yes, our lives are crazy, we have a million things going on at once, but it is our own responsibility to figure out that balance. Let's not just go through our daily routines with blinders on, let's stop and take a look and how and what we're doing. Is there a more enjoyable way of doing it? Can we make it suck less? Is it really even necessary? Let's make a little bit more effort to enjoy the habits we do have as well.
Can't beat em, join em. Create your own definition of "perfect." Make something special out of the mundane.