We went on a family vacation. We took this doll along with us in honor of our daughter that is not here. But, it still super sucks. Just because we have this doll and we are all smiling, doesn’t mean that we haven’t just cried. It doesn’t mean that my oldest isn’t squeezing my hand so tight because she has already learned that people are watching. She doesn’t want to make a scene, but she wants me to know she’s struggling. It doesn’t mean that my heart isn’t aching for what it is and what it is not. It’s hard to do the things we wouldn’t be able to do if she were here. It’s hard to do the things she would be old enough to do. It’s hard to picture what existed for only a moment, in every moment after that.
What could have been? What would have been? The perfect family pictures. The perfect family memories. The perfect time together with everyone where they should be. But, instead, we have this doll. A doll in our pictures, in our memories, and where our daughter should be. All of us are smiling, and don’t get me wrong, we have fought for those smiles. We have fought for the good memories we’ve made – for the celebrations and glitter and confetti.
But, things are far from perfect. I think that is the most important thing to take from this. Things are so far from being perfect and what we imagined. It reminds me of the family picture where Sayge was crying, just about to spew milk from her nose. Both her sisters gone wild – one chewing blue bubblegum as a bribe and Shawn and I laughing. I told the photographer to take this picture here, of us now. This is the reality that I want to remember. And that’s the picture I bought and hung in our living room. It is so very far from perfect. But, you know what? Who told us things had to be perfect? Who said to us that real life wasn’t worthy of a picture? Who gave us the guideline of being a certain way to be happy and to celebrate?
Life isn’t always going to go as planned or, more so, will rarely go as planned. As the saying goes, “things happen.” You end up with expensive ice cream on the ground, the box being the favorite toy, yelling more than you anticipated on the road trip, poop in the middle of the grocery aisle, tantrums for not letting them eat a marble… or a doll in your pictures. Hard things are going to happen. All the planning and all the books and all the gadgets in the world can’t save you from the way it feels to get the wind knocked right out of your sails. For hard to hit you right in the face.
There is no such thing as perfect. But there are such things as relaxing and accepting the crazy. You can find happiness in the chaos. You can learn to roll with the punches and do the best you can, with what you’ve got – letting the rest fall by the wayside. Not taking yourself too seriously or not holding yourself to the highest of insanely crazy standards of what it looks like on Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram. You can keep the picture your daughter took when you weren’t at all prepared. Keep all that is going on right now, full of imperfections, and still find it beautiful. Do the imperfect things, anyway. Yes, even the things that may come with a side of super suck. Posing for family pictures on a boat with a doll, instead of with your youngest. And having the audacity to smile – to laugh, even. Maybe just to keep from crying, but laughing anyway.
I don’t think life is about finding the perfect. It’s not about plans going our way or everything falling into place. Maybe, just maybe, life is about falling apart and falling down and slipping on the dog poop. Then realizing we are strong enough to get back up, making that trip a part of our dance, and just washing that poop off gracefully. Life continues as imperfect as it may be. We can choose to sit on the sidelines and sulk about it not going the way we like, nursing our wounds for as long as the time keeps ticking, or we can get back out there in the mess of it all. Sweaty and in pain, and maybe even while holding a freaking doll. But, still in the arena. (Sorry, I just watched a girl’s soccer game…all the sports analogies!) Living life in all it’s glory and horribleness and imperfections and winning moments and memories that you will carry with you for the rest of your days. Ragged doll and all.
So, if you find yourself in the middle of things going entirely wrong, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t sit on the bench, because it didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Don’t count yourself out, just yet. This is simply where things get interesting. This is where you rise to the occasion. With your maxi dress and doll in hand. This is where you show those looking on that strength is built through imperfections. Strength is finding the things that are still worth smiling about. Life is about finding the things that are still worth living for and finding beauty, in spite of the imperfections. Life is about going on vacation, anyways. And not worrying about things being picture-perfect, but maybe just about relaxing and having fun. Being real. Whether that’s with a doll, or crutches and a cast, tears streaming down anyone’s or everyone’s face. It’s okay. Be a mess every now and then. Let loose and go fancy-free. If we never let anyone see us fall, how are we going to show people how to get back up?