So I realize that I am a little bit vain. Not vain in an, “Oh aren’t I beautiful?” sort of way, but vain in the sense that I don’t want to be seen at less than what I think is my personal best. In college, I could never wear sweatpants to class, and even after being a mom of young kids without much time to call my own, I’ve always (well almost always) found time shower and do my makeup. I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror without it so why should anyone else have to? I wish I could say that I was more like Mary Poppins, you know … “practically perfect in every way”. But life just doesn’t happen like that. Sadly, I think that regardless of my effort, my standards may be slipping somewhat.
I will never forget when I was 21 years old and student teaching in a first grade classroom. My cooperating teacher was quite a bit older than me and in the senior parts of her career. It was snack time, and one of the snacks had spilled all over the floor. When I stooped to help her pick up the spill, I noticed that she would pop the occasional goldfish cracker into her mouth smiling. When I quirked an eyebrow, she grinned and said, “You’re too young and pretty to eat off the floor but I’m not.” Well, I’d like to tell her now that eight years later as a middle school teacher and mother of two, I have definitely eaten my fair share of spilled snacks. Not only that, but I have wiped my nose with a sock that I found on the floor because tissues were too far away. More often than not you will see my hair up on top of my head because there is no way I would sacrifice an extra hour of sleep to do my hair for real. And sometimes, favorite jeans and sweatshirts are worn multiple times before they find their way to the wash.
The other day after a long day out and about, I noticed that I had my shirt on inside out. Then a few days after that, I was horror struck to find out (after scratching a mosquito bite) that I must’ve been lost in my thoughts in the shower and had only shaved one leg! Can you say hot mess?
I haven’t let myself go, but sometimes I think I’ve begun to give myself a little break. A break to be a bit more human, and it’s not something I’m always proud of. I like being neat and orderly with fresh makeup and a cute outfit. But sometimes, it’s not in the cards. It was on a day like this, where I felt windblown and disheveled that I waltzed into Walmart. I saw an older gentleman with a kind smile and decided to return one back to him. He sweetly sauntered up to me and said, “I don’t mean to be fresh, but you sure are pretty.” While I didn’t believe him for a minute, can I tell you how much that complement meant to me? I smiled broadly and said, “You’re too kind, I really needed to hear that today.” It made me wonder how many of us are just one complement away from an exponentially better day.
Amy Bloom, in her coming-of-age novel wisdom, once said, “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” Why can’t we believe this? Why can’t we accept that mess and masterpiece are not really all that far apart. If you don’t believe me just go to a museum of modern art and you’ll realize that there is sometimes the most beauty in seemingly scattered mediums on canvas or clay.
D. Baker once said, “Make an impact not an impression.” I guarantee that the man in Walmart did not complement me for my haphazard appearance, but for the smile I chose to give him. What we’ve got going on in the inside translates into the beauty or lack there of we see on the outside.
So true, my standards may have slipped in terms of the labels I wear or the styles I try or the delicacies I now eat off the floor, but I will say that I am trying to live beautifully from the inside out. I hope you do the same.