There never seems to be enough time. We spend most of our days taking care of all the things we have to, like work and family, leaving little opportunity to connect with all of the other important people in our lives. And so yesterday when a very good friend of mine decided it had been far too long and we should meet to catch up, I was determined to make it happen.
Our itinerary included meeting on a patio somewhere — basking in the last bit of summer while we chatted about our lives and sipped our glasses of wine. And then life happened as it often does and we were left with only one viable option: a quick visit in my car en route to collect my teenage daughter from work. I only offered it because I really wanted to keep our date, but I was horrified as soon as the suggestion came out of my mouth. My car was a disaster.
The last few weeks have been busy. Actually, it’s been a couple of busy months, so my car is spilling over with leftover carnage from one too many summer day trips, football practices, and all of the necessary places teenagers “need” to go. But it isn’t entirely them. I need to take full responsibility for all of the empty coffee cups and granola bar wrappers which I estimate account for at least 10% of the mess.
And as much as driving in chaos does cause me stress, cleaning it remains low on my priority list. When I arrive home, I exit my vehicle and don’t worry about it again until I have to re-enter the vortex. I have decided that there are more important things that await me inside, things like making meals to keep my children alive…and laundry.
And so this is life, so many things to do in a day but only so many hours to do them. It makes sense that we have to prioritize because we can’t possibly do it all. Yet we somehow believe we are failing in life when we don’t. And now my friend was about to witness just that — that I was failing.
When she arrived, I right away began with the apologies and excuses: “I am so sorry my car is such a mess. I have just been so busy.” I needed to explain to her how this could have happened, how I could let everything fall apart. I quickly jumped in the car ahead of her to sweep the crumbs off her seat and clear some clutter from the floor. She told me, smiling, “Don’t worry about it. My car is messy, too, just like this.” I half-believed her sitting there in her beautiful flowing dress, with her meticulously arranged hair — an ad for what a professional woman with her shit together might look like.
I envisioned her car as having one empty coffee cup from yesterday’s commute and some unopened mail left on the seat. I bit my tongue. I appreciated her gesture of trying to make me feel like less of a slob, and it reminded me of why I regarded her as such a dear friend.
We spent the ride chatting about kids and work and life and love. When we returned she gracefully exited, barely missing the half-eaten muffin that had slid out from under her seat. We said our goodbyes and promised each other we would get together much sooner this time as it had been far too long.
And as I sat at my desk this morning, frazzled from the early morning rush, I received this text from her:
And this did make me smile — really big in fact. The woman who I was certain had every area of her life far more together than I did was just like me. Why do we think that everyone else is doing a much better job than we are? In that moment, I felt like less of a failure and more like a normal mom working hard trying to keep it all together perfectly, which isn’t realistic.
Somewhere along the way, we have learned that every area of our life must be perfect in order for it to be considered a success, so we try to hide these parts of ourselves. The parts of our lives that are messy and hard because we are afraid that if we share them then we will be considered a failure.
Maybe we need to do more of this, be more vulnerable. Let’s open up and share our stories, the great ones and the hard ones. There is comfort to be found in knowing that we are not alone. So thank you to my dear friend for reminding me today that we are all in this together, and that this poster girl for having all of her shit together is someone just like me.