Somewhere in the middle of the day, I thought it.
I’m pretty sure I was climbing the 12,327 steps up from my garage to my kitchen.
I’m pretty sure my arms were loaded down with reusable grocery bags.
I’m pretty sure my hair was unwashed, I had a school lunch in ten minutes, and the smell of the raw chicken juice I threw in the trash last night hit me in the face when I opened the door.
I thought it.
“My life doesn’t look much like I thought it would.”
When I was in middle school, I remember planning it all. The plan was somewhere between being a nurse and a special education teacher. I would have gone to Auburn University, gotten my Masters, and had a house, husband, career, and 3.5 children by the age of 30. We would be swoonishly happy, and every day, I would reflect on my wedding pictures. My $10,000 dress that I chose at age 13 in a Bridal Magazine would be carefully preserved in a sealed, airtight box in storage.
Fast forward to the Chicken Smell Day. I said yes to ministry instead of that nursing career. I said yes to being an early bride, married at 19. I was 40, driving a Camry with at LEAST three significant dents on it, the seats of my car were stained forever by milk spills, I was on a limited grocery budget, and I was sure I was eternally behind on laundry. I was class mom for one kid and feeling like I was poorly navigating the other kid through puberty. I had zero idea where my house key was, was pretty sure the gray in my hair was making me look like Cruella Deville meets Gandolf the Gray, and thanks for infertility, I was parenting my kindergartener next to moms I was pretty sure I was old enough to mother myself.
That’s when it hit me.
I was right that life didn’t look much like my 13 year old self thought it would look.
It looked like so much more.
One of the worst enemies of our mom emotions is the Filter Society we live in. We take a picture of our kitchens, throw a filter on it, and crop the dirty dishes out of the sink. No one can smell the Chicken Smell if I doctor the picture up enough. No one can see the dump truck under my feet, and no one can hear me yelling at my kids to be quiet while I snap the pic.
And it’s the illusion that everyone else has it together that made me create the unrealistic expectations I had of my adulthood to begin with.
I wasn’t prepared for the solid two years of arguing and yelling my husband and I went through during those honeymoon years. I wasn’t prepared for how his habits from being a bachelor 31 years before I married him would make me look like the angry face emoji all the time. I wasn’t prepared for how loudly he breathes while he sleeps.
Nor was I prepared for how beautiful our love would be some 22 years later and how worth it the work would be to get here.
I wasn’t prepared for seven years of infertility with each baby I would conceive and carry. How many sobs my pillows would safeguard for me. How many baby showers I would sit through for friends only to swallow bitterness the entire time.
Nor was I prepared for how worth it those years of waiting and meds and tests would be once I heard my babies shout triumphantly with their first breaths.
I wasn’t prepared for how messy a tiny human can make your house– the legos and Barbies and laundry and vomit and sticky floors and missing socks. I had no idea there would be so many times you’d say, “WHAT IS THAT?” And so many nights I would fall into bed behind on oh-so-many things I couldn’t accomplish with a toddler under my feet.
But I also wasn’t prepared for how precious those tiny handprints would be on my backdoor windows once those little hands were at school holding a crayon and my house was silent for seven hours at a time.
I wasn’t prepared for how much sleep you lose when you become a parent. Not just from fevers and colic and middle-of-the-night vomit spells, but also from worry and last minute class cupcakes and making Halloween costumes and straight up insomnia.
But my heart had no idea how many times I would feel the privilege of standing over their beds and watching them sleep, in awe of their freckles and kissing that one spot on their cheek that I kiss every single night.
No one wins the comparison game.
You’re comparing your imperfect life to someone else’s imperfect life, and let me tell you, nobody wins.
Even worse, we compare our FUTURE to the filtered, cropped, and doctored images of just a snapshot of someone else’s NOW and we convince ourselves that what’s in real life in front of us isn’t worthy. Isn’t as good. Isn’t as filled with wonder as an image I am holding on my phone from a person I’ll never meet.
Your life deserves you in it NOW.
One of the best things I have ever done for myself is give myself the authority to embrace the mess of my life. My heart woke up the day I realized that mess, whether emotional or physical, is a beautiful a sign of life. That memories, mistakes, and miracles are being made right under our noses. You won’t find mess in filtered pictures and cropped out sinks.
You find them by taking it all in and thanking God for all of this human experience.
My life doesn’t look much like I thought it would.
But oh, what I would have painfully missed if I had gotten my middle school dreams fulfilled.
This is so much messier. And so much better.