Years ago I worked pretty hard to build the smoke and mirrors that would make me look as if I had things together—that I was calm and collected and easy and fine.
I put on the funny and added the witty and offered to carpool and volunteer and listen and give good advice and is there anything else I can do—why of course I can do it all. And if I were to be seen as the super mom—the look-she-can-do-it-so-I-should-be-able-to-also gal, then so be it.
I lunched with the girls who were putting on the same show—no nothing’s wrong life is good and let’s throw a summer soiree we’ll invite all the smoke-and-mirror ladies and they will come because they will have to come. And of course, they did and we all bought new handbags for the occasion and had our hair blown out and acted as though we were being photographed.
There is, as always, a price to pay for living this lie, this endless trap that is too easy to fall into in our modern-day isolated put-on-the-show-and never-let-them-see-you-sweat motherhood society.
Sooner or later—it is ineveitable—the smoke will begin to fade and the mirror will crack and we will be seen for exactly what we are without our makeup and shiny hair and the Marc Jacobs bag at our side for protection. It will be revealed that we are all the same.
We are all the same.
If your dust happens to clear before one of the lunching ladies’ does, it will be painful. If you happen to get fat or depressed or to yell at your kids in public even a moment before they do, it will sting. And they will judge. And they will remember. And the moment will sit with you just as it did when you were 13 and shunned by the cool kids in front of the lockers before the class bell rung.
But, rest assurred, their smoke will fade, too.
As adults, we may, at times, feel more mature, more confident, better knowing we’ll go home to our spouse and our kids who will forgive us our dorky ways, but when it comes down to it, when the moment hits and we are vulnerable, we all share raw adolescent self-doubt.
I gave up the smoke and mirror lifestyle years ago, and though it may not be seamless or pretty or clean, I now go about my life openly showing my faults.
As Don Miguel Ruiz points out in “The Four Agreements”, most compliments are given by someone who’s senses are hightened to that topic. For example, if someone comments on the fact that it seems you have it all figured out, they are probably sensitive to the fact that they don’t.
So now, if someone tells me they think I am put together, I want them to see the safety pins that are holding up my pants and the new age spot on my cheek over which I have plastered several layers of makeup.
I want the person chatting me up at the cocktail party—the one who thinks I’m cool—to know that I tripped and fell on my face on the way in.
I want to let the new mother who thinks I’m an expert because I have three kids know that one time I thought I was in labor because I threw up and my water broke and when I went to the hospital the handsome intern told me I had only peed my pants.
He said it was quite common—which is exactly my point. You may not have peed your pants and been sent home from the hospital without a baby, but you’ve done something just as embarrassing, and so has she and so has he.
It’s time for us to let it all hang out, to put the cards on the table. To be okay with being who we are—the good and the bad—and love the fact that we all share our own ups and downs and gifts and burdens. Our faults make us who we are. They make us better people.
They make us just like everyone else.