As I creep up on 30, I'm finding that I can't hide my weaknesses like I used to. And I'm kind of mad about it.
I never liked exercise... but I didn't have to because I had a lean, athletic figure. Now I have a borderline-dumpy mom bod that I can't shake. A year and a half after Baby #2, my Fat Pants are just my Pants Pants. Because I don't exercise. Because it requires getting so many humans fully dressed... I just... so many...
I never liked tidying up... but I didn't have to. I would set everything PRECISELY RIGHT... staged... and then not mess it up. One area would be allocated to mess (bedroom). Clean zones stayed clean. Messy zone was hidden behind a door. Boom. Perfect system for the person who hates to tidy and also hates mess. Take that KonMari! But now. Small children. That's all. Small children. Everything is a wreck. And I still dislike constant tidying. So... you see where I'm going with this...
I've always managed stress by losing myself in work... good work that I love. There is no greater peace than getting utterly swept away in a project, a hunt, a quest, a story. There is purpose, clarity, intention, focus, excitement, possibility. All the perfect things. There's nothing more secure than blocking everything out except the chess-like mental chain of "what is the next move in this?" Everything is crystalline in that brain space. I used to be able to hide the oddness of this obsessive tendency by blaming school. I could say no to everything else because I had to study, write, read. That made me a good student. What kind of an adult does it make me? Frustrated. Because Small Children. And weird. Because Social Life.
I'm a bit of an obsessive eater... I can either Not Eat. Or I can Eat. And I mean EAT. Once I put the first bit in my mouth... I keep putting bits in. Pre-Kids I controlled this tendency with a very severe food schedule (and by loosing myself in work... you see a pattern, yes?). Now I serve three meals a day + snack + extra meal for picky eater + emergency park snacks stuffed in my purse + late night meal for nigh-shift husband + shoveling my food into my mouth standing over the trash can so I can't remember if I ate at all... Or, in other words, Small Children.
Small Children. They stripped away my carefully constructed defenses against my own weak and weird self.
And all my friends are going through the same thing by degrees.... which is scary.
The closer we get to 30, the more it becomes clear: We can't hide our weaknesses any more. We're admitting we're alcoholics, sex addicts, hoarders, misers, depressive, anxious, angry, fat, food-obsessed, drug-dependent, moody, or neurotic. All around me! The perfection screen is dropping. Our foibles are no longer the charming personality quirks of the bright and the beautiful. They are morphing into the ugly scars and limps of yet another failure to grow up to be perfect. Yet another disappointing outcome, a little over a decade after a glowingly hopeful high school graduation speech. We are becoming our Fathers and Mothers. We are becoming their friends. We are the older and more inglorious.
And we can't hide our weaknesses any more. To ourselves or others.
And when I'm honest, I don't want to.
Honesty is where true growth happens.
Honesty is where true grace lives.
Honesty is where real relationships begin to sink roots.
Honesty is the tender ground where we deal with our own infections and tenderly knit our hearts together where they've been bleeding for too long.
Honesty is ugly. But it's not lying. It's not hiding. It's not smiling away shame.
So, honestly, Thank You Small Children... You were what it took for me to face myself.
Thank you for showing me what really matters. People.
Thank you for telling me that my "big squishy jiggly belly is so soft and cozy"... You are teaching me what true beauty is. And it's not a size 2.
Thank you for frustrating my best intentions to create a perfect exterior. You have taken down my sneaky walls of fear and shame and invited all kinds of grace and connection in.
Thank you for pushing me to my limits and way past them. You've let me say "I am weak. And I am strong." and really know what that means.
Thank you for making me see myself clearly and know myself better. It's not always pretty, but it's mine... and I'm going to live it. 25 lbs over my ideal weight. But thankful.