Octolilly the art of the everyday

chasing perfection

In the dentist chair this morning, my hygienist joyfully spread the good news of how much she was planning on getting done on her day off. More power to her, honestly, but the more she cleaned my teeth and the more I heard her list, I felt my own list frantically growing by the second.

This particular year hasn’t been kind to me physically and my housework habits are all over the place. Sometimes I hobble to the mailbox and make it back inside and flomp to the couch in despair. There are socks all over the floor? So? Maybe that’s a new home decor style I’m trying. 

Am I doing enough? Am I ever? 

I know the piano needs to be dusted but before being dusted it needs to have the stack of card games, box of miscellaneous play-dough, the yardstick from last weeks school project, the extra paintbrushes we bought, the one weird Victorian mask that won’t go away, and a jar of marbles put away. 

Multiply that by a million. There are Things to Do and then there are Things to Do Before Doing the Other Things. 

My husband is great about jumping in to help and my kids are too (when asked, and that’s on me) but being the primary caregiver of my kids and of the home, I have felt the haphazard mess around me growing by leaps and bounds. If not tangibly, mentally. 

That particular bookcase might be neat and orderly but I should SORT THOSE BOOKS because I am pretty sure that I saw a couple fiction on the shelf that very clearly states NON FICTION. And also maybe there are multiple caches of LEGO behind some books.

I’m yearning to put our Halloween decor up but the living room is literally half-way painted (and has been, for awhile…ahem) and even though Daniel pointed out that it adds to the spooky charm, I’ve been resisting putting anything up. It’s hard to enjoy it because I’m stressing about it not being done the Right Way.

Some of this stress is leaking into our meal planning or lack thereof and dinner out has become more common than dinner at home. Is this good for our budget or waistline? No. No it is not. Is it tasty? It’s not even that sometimes! Ha! But it’s where we are. 

And when I feel a surge of energy to tackle some things on my list in hopes of getting back to an even keel, I am suddenly hobbling and in pain again. Is my mind playing tricks on me? IS MY BODY TURNING ON ME? Yes. Yes, it is. My dear body, I will give you an Oreo later in supplication for an energy filled tomorrow. Oreos are great energy-providers, right?

But I think what hurts me the most is when I let the mortification of where I am spread into the joy of the now. It’s as though I can’t smile and relish the laughter around me because I’m thinking about the laundry baskets stacked in the hallway. I can’t rest on the couch and hear the stories of their day because all I can focus on is that there are one billion socks in the basket beside me and our Great Pyrenees is licking his chops and looking at the purple one. 

I close my eyes and dream of a minimalist house with bare wood floors without a speck of dust. And then open them and try not to flail. 

But my children are watching. And I don’t want them to grow up feeling like I was always chasing perfection and never content for “pretty good.”

Of course, it doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to make lists, figure out our meals, and hopefully gain some progress in our home. I’m just going to stop feeling such embarrassment for sitting in the mess, and laughing with those I love. Maybe we can all put a little more elbow grease into our day-to-day but also give each other some room to breathe. 

But first I need to put that Victorian mask away. 

unexpected glory in the mirror

With the first stretch of newborn arms, we exclaim over the beauty and awe of the magic of human bodies. 

Now I’m barely pushing my chair back from the table before I have to complement that round tummy RIGHT NOW because she ate so much! And even if it’s full of mac n’ cheese and not a vegetable in sight, well, she will stand straining to produce the Roundest of Tummies. When you’re four, you try to impress as best as you can.

He is growing taller each day. Will he tower over me soon like his dad and uncles? It’s a daily declaration as he gallops through the house. At twelve, he is wildly confident one moment and whispers of nerves the next. 

From the first day my children entered the world, I’ve been celebrating their bodies. One day she’s stronger and one day he lifts more. Their arms and legs and tangled horseplay are wild evidence that even the act of changing bodies is beauty in itself.

We talk about how bodies can be broken and bodies can be different, but most importantly, bodies are just bodies. With them, we are alive. With them, we can experience beauty. With them, we *are* beauty. 

And yet somewhere after gangly growth spurts, that life-giving, comforting, and familiar home of lines and light becomes a battle ground. Hiding changes, fearing judgement, uncertain of what to cover and how much. 

Whether you think our bodies are woven with holy hands, or made from stardust, or both, I think we can all agree that most of us march from appreciation to shame in but a few steps.

I’ve stood in awe gazing at the work of the old European masters. The stories they tell make me feel more human. And yet when I stand in front of the mirror, it’s easy to forget that the story my body tells is just as important. 

Little by little, I unpack the lies, smother the shame, and celebrate my own beauty. 

I doodle the nudes from my art books, I smile as I bump into beauty on the sidewalk, my husband and I wink at each other when we see unexpected glory on the corner. Seeing it all through a new lens is powerful. 

The lines, the shapes, – their all stories and what a dream to be able to observe. 

tired of throwing salt

It’s not in the late night hours when I can’t find sleep and I lay and listen to the house breathe. Or in the hard-to-focus minutes when my chest is tight and I feel my lungs ache for relief.

Those times are quite familiar. They have a place at my table and a bottle in my medicine cabinet.

Instead, it’s in the brief seconds between the ordinary. 

When we’re bumping elbows at breakfast and the sun is spilling through the kitchen window. When we’re arguing about how many miles it is to the moon. He’s spewing facts about how chartreuse is not a Real Color and she’s waggling her eyebrows and listing the words that are Not Polite but that are perfectly acceptable to say in the bathroom. 

The ordinary is real, and mundane. And it’s full of reminders that I have got this. I do not need that which continues to pull me down. 

~

The first time around, it left me. I was broken, desperately clinging to what I had always known. And as the foundation of everything I had believed crumbled, I mourned my faith. 

But time is tricky. And when your heart is open and hopeful, it’s easy to feel like you can simply try again. Not to go back to the way things were, but to attempt to do it the right way this time. 

Yet these ordinary moments where I feel I am all I need are interwoven with dark memories and harsh reminders of how it all went wrong before.

I’m still surrounded by voices who know the jargon, wear the t-shirts, and have the bumper stickers to prove it. But at the same time they sing a song of faith, they rage against the broken. They argue about the hopeless. Their lack of mercy for the weakest among us is not even their worst trait.

I listen to the daily drumbeat of support for separation. And I remember when we used that same language to defend our own border of faith. No one who looks different than us should be here. No one who thinks differently than us is allowed. No one who doesn’t respect the list of rules we’ve arbitrarily chosen will be on our team.

~

It’s been more than a year around the sun. And try as I may, I can no longer swallow a single drop of faith without the pain and horror from before lingering with the taste. 

I tried dipping my toes in the water. Turning the lights back on in an empty house. But the ghosts are real and I’m tired of throwing salt.

So I will walk to the edge of the sea, set the good and bad upon the raft, and set fire to it all. 

You aren’t leaving me, I am leaving you.