They've been staring me in the face all week: the dishes. Slowly piling up until my shelves reach bowl-extinction status, they're a mark of something more than a lazy jess; they're the 'tell' that I've gone and done the over-plan, over-schedule, over-DO thing.....again.
While that's the reality at Chez Robson, chances are that from the good-vibes-only things I've chosen to show and share through a little photo-sharing app called Instagram, you wouldn't know. You would have no idea that the yummy side of freelance life (mid-week pottery lessons - sweet right?!?!) sure does come with it's piles of dirty plates and crusty coffee mugs.
It's been a conversation that I've been having with myself (happens more regularly than I would like to admit) on the regular these days: why is it that I jump to share the high points of my Jess-life and not the whole picture? I pride myself on openness and honesty and giving a clear and complete story of who I am, so why is it that my top knot's the messiest thing on my photo feed?
YES, the moments at events, snaps of waiting rooms at clients' offices, midday pottery classes and wall-spanning art projects are what I live for. They're my favorite moments that I am flippin' fortunate to have because i'm on my own schedule and pretty much my own boss.
AND. it's a snapshot of a way bigger picture.
That picture looks like super late nights and sometimes really (heinously) early mornings to make deadlines. It also looks like driving across the city, sometimes more than twice in a day, and often in a short window of time, to get to multiple meetings. It's also lonely: working from home, in an apartment I live in by myself has made me office-sick and missing having thought partners to turn to when writer's block happens. It sometimes (read: often) feels uncomfortable and a lot of the time I feel like I don't have a clue what I am doing, if I'm doing things 'right' or if I am doing the right things.
And, it looks like a messy-ass kitchen, sky-high piles of laundry and the most embarrassingly empty 'bachelorette' fridge that's all condiments and zero nutrients (other than peanut butter, of course) because in my little freelance world, time is money and if it's a deadline or the dishes, you're dang straight those bowls get put on hold.
Maybe it's for fear of looking bad, or sounding like I am complaining that I don't share some of the more ugly or messy bits of life. Maybe it's felt too 'airing your dirty laundry' and I'm battling my inner propriety. And maybe it's just because I straight up can't take a photo of the feeling of being exhausted, uncreative, uninspired and straight up drained.
Gillian Stevens - a photographer local to Vancouver - got real on her Instagram profile and shared the mess behind her recent move - and how life's not always what we see in her (very beautiful) photos. Her share was inspired by Kate Arends of Wit & Delight (@witanddelight) who fessed up to her mess, commented on life's funny contradictions and spoke to the reality of ugly at a recent Creative Mornings MSP event.
What I love is that there's a conversation emerging about the reality that is life - and how little of it shows up in our social feeds (aside from the occasional rant or two, on my part). The question that I keep bumping up against is how much is too much - on either side of the coin? How much sharing of the good stuff makes life unrealistic and almost unattainable, and how much sharing the real and raw makes for debbie-downer status, frought with complaint?
I reckon it's not a question of volume at all - but of intent and energy. Intent behind WHY we share what we share and the energy we choose to attach to it. For example, if I'm being shitty and complaining about ANOTHER late night and another HOUR of dish-doing because my life is so painfully busy, then that's what's going to come across.
YET, on the flip side, if I'm honest that night time—when the city goes quiet and it's just me and the moon—is my most creative and productive time and that my 2am bedtime is a product of insane amounts of creative energy flowing into the wee hours, then you can't help but revel in the sense of life-stokedness that's in that message.
The good comes with the bad. The sweet with the sour. In my case, the freedom and juicy-ness that is freelance with a helluva lot of dirty dishes once in a while and a little less sleep than some humans. Would I trade those stacks of plates and late nights for a more structured schedule and designated dish-doing time? Hell no.
Sometimes it takes a bit of a mess to make something beautiful. The thing to remember is that there's beauty in that process, and to find a way to work with the mess and let it not define you but refine you. If it's honest, and it's true to you, it's worth being real about and putting your voice behind. Because we're all in this wacky and wonderful thing called life together - why not make it's wild and weird moments something to connect over?
Seriously though - go watch Kate's CM talk -- you can get it here