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We’ve All Got Bruises…

…some of us more than others. I’ve been battling a bit of a B-12 deficiency so my bruises are quite numerous at the moment. Those of you who can’t eat dairy, do yourself  favor: take B-12!

All from a little plastic grocery bag…B-12 has just become a dear friend in my life

The rest of you, keep reading too; I’m not just talking about physical bruises. Listen to my friend Train here if you need a little background theme song as you read: Bruises

If you’ve found your way to reading this, I know without a doubt that you have embraced the world of technology. Obviously I have too. However, I’ve been living without internet at my house now for almost 3 weeks and my goodness, has it given me quite a bit to ponder. Granted, it’s also given me the gift of time in which to do that pondering. I mean I knew I loved pinterest, but it’s not until you’re without internet that you realize just how much time you spend pinning, scrolling through facebook, catching up on pop culture “news”, etc. I’ve been so much more productive at home, I’ve spent more time reading (actual books…with paper and everything!), I don’t get distracted by news stories on my way to the ND prayer site and then forget to actually pray, and best of all: I’ve been asleep by 10 almost every night…no more, “Oh I’ll just peruse pinterest for 5 minutes before I go to sleep”. That’s OK, you can say it: “Yeah right, Katie. Famous last words”. I have to say this whole internet drought has been one of the biggest unexpected blessings…and just when I needed it most.

Now, before you get too nervous or start thinking I’m a hypocrite (because clearly if I posted this then I haven’t totally abandoned the world of information technology), I am not one of those people who shuns modern advances and will spend the rest of this post criticizing anyone who does for all the world’s problems (I mean clearly the government shutdown must have some correlation to the exponential growth of twitter right??). I love technology. I love how it has transformed my classroom. I love how easily my kids can access information about the great minds of math and locate Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on the rosary (seriously, I was alive in 2002 and I never read it until 2 weeks ago). I love that GoogleEarth can take us from Towson to Rome and back…all before lunchtime. I love what technology can do in my own life too. I love that I can pay all my bills without the treachery of envelopes (remember envelope glue = gluten = 1 very sick Katie), I love that I can find recipes at a moment’s notice, and of course that I can stay in touch with amazing friends who have decided to scatter themselves all across this great country. (I promise this isn’t some plug for Google, but in all seriousness: Google Hangout = BEST thing ever. It’s like being back in our dorm room all together again even though we’re miles and miles apart.)
In a nutshell, I think technology is great. However, I do think it has been accompanied by a whole host of unintended consequences. That list alone could probably fill a novel but I’m particularly focused on one aspect at the moment. Please bear with me while I try to explain. I think back to when I was a kid. When we went on a family vacation, we always had a camera in tow. We would do our best to capture the memories and hold onto those family moments, ones which became increasingly meaningful as my dad’s health declined. We had some amazing trips…but of course no matter how wonderful HersheyPark , or a beach weekend on Long Island, or a family adventure through NYC turned out to be, it was the car ride home which inevitably did us in. Someone was singing too loud, someone was taking pleasure in antagonizing someone else, someone was getting carsick, and someone was usually having a silent anxiety-induced meltdown about traffic, the amount of gas remaining in the tank, and the likelihood of breaking down on the side of the road in 90 degree weather, among other things. (I won’t even make you guess…that last one was me.) They were less than perfect drives for sure….but still the ones I now remember and look back on fondly. Of course, we would get home and what did we do? Send the film off in those little canisters to be developed (I know, I’d almost forgotten about those days too). The pictures came back a week or so later and by then all the bad memories of the trip had already faded from our minds and only the highlights were discussed at dinner or written about in school journal entries. Then as we sifted through the newly arrived photos, the inevitable “messy” ones would surface: you know the kinds: someone looks angry, someone is crying, someone’s finger is covering the lens cap, etc. and for a brief moment we remembered some of the “less than perfect” moments…and we laughed about them. Of course when the pictures were then compiled into an album, those “less than stellar” ones usually found their way to the trash…or at least to the “assorted photos we never really look at” box. When the photo album was shared at the next family gathering, all anyone saw was smiling faces, brotherly/sisterly love, picturesque sunsets…the perfect family vacation.
Am I saying there is anything wrong with that? Absolutely not! The point of albums and scrapbooks is to highlight our good memories, not the ones we’d much rather forget. The problem is that in today’s world, it’s not just an occasional album that gets censored; it’s an everyday occurrence. First of all, the “less than perfect” pictures don’t even make it past 2 minutes of existence. I saw it at least a dozen times when I lived in DC. During an afternoon walk around the mall, “Ma’am can you please take our picture?” turned into a 10 minute process. Each picture was immediately available for view, critiqued, and deleted within moments until the “perfect” picture was the only one left on the camera. And now so few people have cameras that it’s on a cameraphone. Well then you know as well as I do what’s about to happen….in moments it will be off in cyperspace. Those perfect smiling faces in a picturesque sunset beneath the cherry blossoms will be filling up Faceboook newsfeeds, Twitter, and Instagram within moments. No one will ever know that just minutes earlier Mom had been crying, Dad was chasing their son and narrowly saved him from slipping off the ledge into the Tidal Basin as he was trying to feed a mallard, and their little daughter had made them all red in the face when she loudly commented on a rather robust woman who was walking past. But honestly, those are the moments I bet they’ll be laughing about in 2 years when they reminisce about their DC vacation.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of this during my weeks without internet and about the current state of affairs in our world…and something really struck me. I’m not saying that this alone is the source of our increased anxiety level as a society (goodness knows there are innumerable contributing factors for that) but think about it for a moment. Family photo albums and stories used to be shared on sporadic occasions throughout the year: holidays, annual summer visits, etc. Now those photos and “memories” are shared constantly- often in realtime before they’ve had a chance to even qualify as memories. That means all of us are bombarded multiple times a day with seemingly perfect pictures, status updates, tweets, etc. that make it seem like everyone we know is living the perfect life. Someone has a new job they love, someone else has a significant other who has become serious enough to earn a place in their profile picture, there’s another new engagement ring that could put the Hope Diamond to shame, a new handful of engaged couples have updated their statuses to married each weekend and their gorgeous bridal party photos look like something out of a magazine, everyone’s children seem to be impossibly cute and well-behaved as their smiles beam off the computer screen. Every time we log on, it’s easy to feel as if our seemingly mundane, and certainly very flawed, existence can’t possibly measure up to the fairy tale lives these pictures depict. Well, you know as well as I do that it isn’t true. Those pictures and statuses don’t reveal the 13 failed job interviews, the 6-month separation that preceded the reunion and engagement, the weeks spent arguing over bridesmaid attire, or the endless hours of crying and tantrums that preceded that adorable baby picture.
The reality is that none of us have a life that could fit the dictionary definition of perfect. If we did, we wouldn’t be human. It’s just that these days the pressure, not even to be perfect, but just to APPEAR perfect is greater than ever. Does technology deserve all the blame? Well, that I don’t know. What I do know is that we’re heading down a dangerous path. I for one don’t want to live in a world where everyone is afraid of making mistakes and being true to who they are. And if you could see my apartment right now, you’d see just how imperfect I am. It’s been almost a month here and my living room is still full of boxes I haven’t unpacked! Am I posting pictures of my unfinished abode, complete with empty boxes and milk crate furniture? Nope. Why not? That’s a great question. It’s the reality of moving for sure and everyone knows it so why do we choose not to share that…but then to share the polished photos of furnished apartments, which everyone also knows? I think the answer to that question is simple. At least for me it is. I long ago gave up on trying to be perfect; I know that I am flawed all the time, and that sometimes I’m even completely broken. However, I don’t share that brokenness with just anyone. I am blessed to have people in my life with whom I can share that brokenness…but the cyberworld of facebook friends is not one of them.
That’s the hole I made in my otherwise beautiful-looking bookshelf…
So if I’m not comfortable sharing my brokenness with these people, why do I care to share my joy and accomplishments? Another great question. That answer I really just don’t know. Maybe it’s because I am so excited I need to share my joy and it’s so easy to share with social media? Maybe it’s because I feel a subconscious need to share the same successes I’ve seen others share? I don’t know…but what I DO know is that in these weeks that I’ve been disconnected from the internet, I’ve been much better at picking up the phone and sharing things with people one-on-one. I’ve even been better at face-to-face conversation. Now I’m not saying everyone should stop sharing posts, pictures, and news via social media. Goodness knows I’d count that as another perk of technology. I LOVE poring over wedding photos of couples I watched come together but haven’t seen since college. I LOVE seeing that the proposal we’ve all been waiting and hoping for has finally come to fruition, I LOVE smiling at the antics of adorable children in those quickly-snapped iPhone shots. I WANT to share in the joy of other people’s big moments and successes; in fact I NEED to. I’m one of those people who draws true joy and excitement from witnessing the joy of those around me. However, what I think we all need is a reminder. So this is me reminding you: No, you are not perfect. But neither is anyone else.If they were, they wouldn’t be human and that creates another whole host of issues. We all make mistakes .We are all flawed. We are all broken. Sometimes we’re the ones smiling beautifully in a picturesque sunset; other times we’re the one yelling and desperately diving to keep a son from diving into the Tidal Basin.
As proof of my point, I want to share some imperfect moments with you. I’ve read many a blog with delicious-sounding recipes and pictures of succulent dishes that would make your mouth water. I’m willing to bet that was not the first time that person had attempted the particular recipe. So prepare to feast your eyes on my instances of imperfection…
My first attempt at “Katie-safe” creamer…

My first (terrible) batch of gluten-free/dairy-free/egg-free pancakes…
Those were supposed to be brownies. Though they did still taste pretty good!

So those of you struggling with new food restrictions and failing in your attempts at new foods: fear not. You’re completely normal. Don’t give up, keep experimenting….and you never know what deliciousness you may end up with!

My first successful batch of pumpkin bread in my new allergen-free kitchen. Totally worth the failed batches 🙂

So regardless of where you are in the ebb and flow of life, or the pendulum of penalty as some like to say, there is nothing wrong with imperfection. Love it, embrace it, and let it shape you into the person you’re meant to become.  No closet is empty of skeletons and even the purest of human hearts isn’t void of blemish. We’ve all been wounded and we’ve all hurt someone else. Regardless of your age, you’re on a journey so embrace your imperfection as a catalyst for growth. Really, it’s all in how you handle your imperfections and flaws. As one of my favorite quotes says,

Thanks to Emily Ley for her words of wisdom. And to another co-worker for passing it along. We’ll call her the Ebullient English Educator. Seriously…what a staff 🙂
 And don’t worry about the “perfection” you sometimes feel is everywhere. Trust me, it’s not. As Train so eloquently puts it, “We’ve all got bruises” So go face the day and strive, not for perfection, but for grace.

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