The Illuminated Life: Cracks, Crevices, and Imperfections
Some people are hard to get to know.
Christi, however, is not one of them. I find this post so fascinating, because what she’s written below is not my experience with Christi at all. I think, in fact, we met virtually on Twitter or something, and We. Just. Clicked.
Who knew you could meet your bestie online?!
Christi is delightful. I know I keep saying the same thing every week about these guest posters BUT THEY REALLY ARE!
It was never my intent to be “perfect.”
At least not consciously. But I suppose my childhood had fooled me into the belief that my appearance, how others saw me, what they thought of me, had to always be near perfection. So that there would be no criticism, no insults, no snide remarks. No faulting me for being “less than” something or someone.
Stand up straight.
Always curl your hair.
Never leave the house without a bit of blush and lipstick.
Smile. But not too much.
Don’t get dirty.
No running around.
I was in my 30s with two kids before I realized this facade I had kept up for decades. Especially at church. Oh yes, the most important place to look like you have it all together. Like you are super spiritual, the picture of perfection of a woman, wife, mom.
Then one day I accepted a play date invitation from a woman I was beginning to become friends with. I was excited because it was the first invite we’d received since coming to this particular church. Even thought the other women intimidated me a bit, Carla seemed outgoing, funny, and down to earth. I really wanted to be her friend.
The kids, my two and her two, had a great time together. But Carla seemed a big reserved. We were still being somewhat formal and too polite with one another. I couldn’t quite break through the surface with her.
I didn’t get it. What was wrong with me? Did she not like me?
I chatted more, my nervousness taking over. I mentioned how I lost my temper that morning with my youngest (and most difficult) daughter.
I could have picked up Carla’s mouth from the floor. “You get angry?” she asked.
“Of course I do!” I replied.
“But when I get angry and lose my temper with my kids, my husband tells that I need to be more like you because you never lose your temper. He actually says, ‘You need to be more like Christi McGuire. I bet Christi McGuire never loses her temper!’ ”
I starred at her, then I burst out laughing. A deep belly laugh, have-to-wipe-the-tears kind of laugh.
“Are you kidding me?!?” I gasped between laughs. By now I was holding my side. “I lose my temper ALL the time!”
She was wide-eyed, either at my ridiculous reaction or at learning the fact of my hot temper. “You do?”
“Of course I do!”
I asked her what in the world made her think I didn’t lose my temper. She said because I seem perfect at church. I never raise my voice. My kids always follow along obediently, their dresses pressed and perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect!
That’s when I realized it. I wasn’t aware of how I portrayed myself. But truly, if I’m honest, deep down I did want people to think I’m perfect.
But look where it got me. With few friends. Surface relationships. Because I gave the impression that I was too perfect, too good for anybody else. Totally fine on my own.
Truth is, I’m not fine on my own. I need friendships, relationships. We all do.
I told Carla that it appears like that on Sundays, because it’s the only hour during the week where she (and others) observes me. I’m dressed up in my best clothes with my hair and makeup done (not in my sweatpants, unshowered, with greasy hair and smelling of baby poop like during the week). My kids were in their Sunday best and in-between naps when they were the happiest. And they were well taken care of in the nursery. So I was extremely happy to have an entire two hours all to myself, even if it meant sitting through a Sunday School lesson and sermon!
What people don’t see during that small window of time on Sundays is real life—the tantrums, the lost tempers, the arguments, the nagging, the extreme exhaustion, the microwave dinners, the dirty dishes, the unfolded laundry, the three-day worn yoga pants. What people see on Sunday is nothing—and I mean nothing –like every day, ordinary life.
But because of this, I put up a barrier, a wall so thick that others couldn’t see inside or attempt to get in. The result may have appeared like perfection, but it really was loneliness. Once I gave Carla a glimpse of my “real” life, she breathed a sigh of relief. “We’re so much alike,” she said.
Yes. Yes, we are. But we never would have known that if I had kept up the façade. If I hadn’t let her see my cracks and crevices. My … gulp … imperfections.
Once I chipped away at my perfection, I could let my light shine through. And that light attracted others. Friends. Genuine, real relationships that I was missing when I tightened up my cracks so nobody could see my imperfections. The real me. Because, let’s face it, the real me is not perfect.
And that’s okay.
With 12 years of experience as a writer and editor, Christi has published hundreds of parenting articles and dozens of curriculum units. She also enjoys assisting aspiring writers through the writing, editing, and publishing process. A self-admitted “grammar geek,” Christi will edit anything with words—from business materials to church newsletters to book manuscripts.
Christi lives with her husband (her high school sweetheart) and two daughters on the Gulf Coast in Florida where she is nursing a brand-new addiction to Trader Joe’s PowerBerries (thanks to me, bahahaha). You can read her stuff in places like LifeWay’s ParentLife magazine, or on her blog Witty Words.