Life has often felt a bit like a competition sport. Of course there is the stereotypical high school and college competitiveness to get ahead, and challenges in the work force to get the next job or the promotion. but then there is the daily competition to fit in, be accepted, let your flaws be unseen. I struggled with this when I first married into my husband's family and acquired two exceptionally pretty and thin sister-in-laws, both of whom, were perfectionists and had particular standards of what they felt was worthy of their time, money and energy. This meant I often stretched family finances that weren't there to fit in. It meant I wouldn't speak up about activities, events, even hobbies if I felt there was a negative connotation. Fortunately, by the time child number two came and we were in our now house, I literally just let any hang ups I might have had about what stores I was supposed to shop at, how to dress, and how to entertain, go from my life. It was too exhausting.
More important things have happened in the thirty years I have been part of his family that make creating an illusion of an image absurd. Illness and deaths, more births, job layoffs, relocation's, and mental health issues have all factored in the fabric of each of our lives. And yet, from time to time, I allow myself to feel my family choices are less than theirs. I still get nudges of self doubt. As much as I love the holiday season, I still have to brace myself for the reality that I am going to have pangs of anxiety and possibly a full on attack when I am with the in-laws. I don't get these with my family , even though in numbers it is three times the people. Perhaps it is because I grew up with all the differences and they know all my imperfections intimately. I never tried to squelch a personality trait or a preference for something cheesy, or something only of interest to me, in order to not look odd, or feel excluded. I never worried that I was being judged for my parenting or domestic abilities. Of course, the judging I have felt, wasn't necessarily present in my husbands family-it was my perception.
All humans are imperfect. We have that fleeting moment at birth before we are exposed to the world and start reacting to it. From then on, we all develop uniquely to our own being. that includes the flaws, the differences, the idiosyncrasies that make me who I am, and what makes others who they are. Accepting that imperfection is actually a gift, is hard to do. We want to hide that gift like the ugly sweater from my aunt, in the back of the closet. We want to hide the fact that our gingerbread boys look like the blob, and leave them behind when bringing a cookie tray to a party. I don't want to admit to my sister-in-law, who claims to abhor television and eats no junk food, that on a cold snowy day, I might be found binge watching six straight episodes of Jessica Jones while eating a full bag of kettle chips. This year though, I might. Those binge watches refuel me. Yes, I could be doing much more productive things like working out, could be repainting a room, or organizing a closet. I could be hosting a book club, complete with putting forth a lovely spread of food and drinks. Occasionally, that is me, and I might want to do those things. I gladly accept that I don't have to.