So, then. Here’s what you want:
- Some kind of entrepreneurial business that’s thriving, running the gamut from Etsy shops to becoming a life coach–the type of thing you can run part-time, while making six figures, and still be home with the kids.
- “Eating well,” which really means a “clean” diet, which probably means going vegan and juicing.
- A regular yoga and meditation practice.
- A wardrobe full of flowy dresses, cowboy boots, scarves from Etsy.
- A pre-fab house with an infinity pool, decked out with a psuedo-Japanese minimalist style. Oh, and everything’s white.
Am I getting in the vicinity? It is possible that an elegant tattoo would also make this list. Possibly, dreadlocks or at least wild, flowy “beach hair.” That effortlessly tousled look.
If you look around the internet, at the blog posts and tinted Instagram pictures and Pinterest boards, there’s a ubiquity to what women seem to desire.
The ubiquitousness of the desires is actually not what worries me the most.
What worries me the most is the way I see women treating themselves to get “over there,” where the stuff is. What worries me is seeing how people beat up on themselves because they don’t measure up to an external standard. What worries me is that I see this as a new breed of perfectionism, one that looks “messier” but that ultimately ends up being the same thing.
What worries me is that we’ve traded in Stepford Wife perfectionism for what I term “boho perfectionism.”
The new standard to live up to involves proclaiming that you’re “messy” as you “live your dreams,” start a blog, and photograph your clean food. It’s not the quaint pressed aprons of the 1950’s housewife–that’s been traded in for the look that has a few “rough edges” to it.
It’s the “I’m trying really hard to not look like I’m trying hard” thing.
But I sense an undercurrent. Two, actually.
Undercurrent #1 is that the pink-tinted Instagram pics and the Anthropologie wardrobe and the green smoothies are just a new set of rules. Just because it’s a less rigid vision than the image of the perfect housewife who gets the perfect pot roast on the table by 5:00, doesn’t mean that anyone trying to fit the new, “messy” mold, is any happier.
Undercurrent #2 is that there is an epidemic of silent shame, largely fueled by the easy environment for comparisons that is the internet, that is felt by women everywhere who don’t have this life.
Women who actually have really good lives are looking right past what’s already there, thinking that the vision “out there” is what they want. They’re hustling to make it happen, and the fact that the vision is so ubiquitous is exactly what has me question whether or not it’s really what they all want, in the first place. It simply can’t be possible that everyone wants the same general thing, can it?
The Reality Check
Now, here’s a little piece that I’ll add in: I have some of these things. I’m not knocking having them. But I am going to pull back the curtain on them, to show the total truth of what “having them” looks like, for me. Here we go.
I have a thriving business. And guess what? It’s a full-time job. It is no four-hour workweek.
My home office is gorgeous and full of white-on-white design. A black and white photograph of Angelina Jolie’s back is on the wall.
But who cares how it looks, on nights when I’m burning the midnight oil, tired of sitting in that chair, tired of typing, tired of answering emails, tired of the low-grade guilt because I don’t have the mental bandwidth to promote the work of someone who has promoted mine?
I could show you an Instagram picture, tint the light, and you’d never know the entire picture: that running a business is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Another snapshot: I’m dairy and gluten-free. Such diets are touted these days as models of “great discipline” and health.
But let me also pull back the curtain on: the auto-immune condition that lead me to change my diet, the blood draws, the test results, the years of literal, physical exhaustion.
Let me pull back the curtain on being diagnosed with infertility and feeling like the dream of having a family is high stakes, riding on me and my “discipline” to eat in a way that will be conducive to my body not going into an inflammatory state, and killing off the few eggs I have remaining. * * See note at bottom
That’s the entire truth behind being gluten and dairy-free. Not so glamorous, is it?
I go to vinyasa yoga, two times a week. And I’ve been practicing yoga for years, but–I can’t do all the poses.
Even after several months of going to yoga, I don’t even have the arm strength to do a full chaturanga. When I tried going to yoga more often to build arm strength, my wrists swelled up.
Sexy, eh? So now I’m back to only twice a week.
Nope, Not Doom and Gloom
Let me be crystal clear: this is not “that post.” This is not the “I’m exposing how really, deep down, I’m miserable; woe is me; look at how I pay the price; yadda yadda yadda” post.
The examples I’ve given above are bringing transparency to the whole picture, rather than only showing the sides that look so great from an outsider’s perspective.
It’s not so dualistic as “good-bad.” Truth? I love running a business. I’d rather do that than anything else. Running a business, most days, feels like “home,” like the job I always wanted in my 20s and never knew it was possible to have.
I’m grateful that changing my diet has drastically improved my health. Such dietary changes don’t actually help everyone; some people with my same condition do everything they can, and their efforts make no difference in their health.
I love vinyasa flow and am pretty ecstatic about my small, simple studio. Going twice a week is actually enough, for me.
I’m just pointing out that since the entire picture of life is so rarely fully explained on the internet, perhaps it’s worth checking yourself, internally: are you pursuing things because you see what everyone else is doing, and think that’s where it’s at?
I’ve taken the time to cultivate that which is “uniquely Kate”: Obsessively watching videos from the Ironman Youtube channel and reading about heart-rate monitors and carbon-fiber bike frames. Or watching Animal Cops on my lunch hour, feeling the swell of “Justice was served!” when someone who abused an animal gets taken to court. Conjugating Italian verbs. Listening to Dr. Dre’s album, The Chronic, and wondering what he would say or do in a gestalt therapy session.
The other day, the completed works of Chopin arrived via Amazon; this summer I’ll be tickling the ivories again after a long hiatus. And did you know that I’m a classically-trained musician who got into college with music scholarships for playing…flute?
I know. My “cool factor” just went down several notches, I’m sure.
So What is it that YOU want?
So what is it that you uniquely want? Do you really and truly want the business? The yoga practice? Does drinking green smoothies and going gluten-free really lighten you up, really making you feel alive?
It’s important to decide before you use up the one thing that you’ll never get back (your time, your days weeks months years) whether or not the pursuit of those things is really going to be worth it.
It’s important to notice whether or not the pursuit of those things is grounded in what YOU actually want, or if it’s…what you’ve been sold. what you think you should want. what you imagine the happy people with the happy lives have.
If you’re hustling to get this life and it’s not pleasant, stop to ask yourself: Where am I trying to get, so very very fast?
If you’re envying this life, and noticing that those comparisons are crushing, stop to ask yourself: What’s available to me already, right here and now, that is uniquely mine?
Then, do me a solid: whenever you find whatever is uniquely yours, take a photograph of it, and Instagram the shit out of it.
** As loving as I’m sure someone’s intentions would be, I do not wish to receive email, suggestions, help, advice, etc., regarding infertility, parenthood, adoption, etc., etc.