After reading a beautiful essay on wedding photography and capturing fleeting moments, I pulled out my own wedding album and flipped it open to the photo of my flower girls. In 2006, both of my nieces - "mine" and "Will's", now both "ours" - were six and seven. Enamored with all things princess, they twirled in their pink dresses and sat patiently through the hair arranging and curling, and smiled as bright as the afternoon sun.
My sister's oldest child had just lost her first tooth, and there, in the photo, was that gap-toothed grin for all the world to see. Not airbrushed. Not whitened. Not camouflaged.
She's real and she's imperfectly perfect. Just like the rest of my life.
When I was a teenager, I had a vision of the life I wanted to have: a lasting, happy marriage like my parents had; a house in a nice neighborhood; a thriving career as a journalist or photojournalist; and two perfectly wonderful kids. I had no real experience with disappointment and struggle.
In my 20s, things took a turn when I found that I was leaving college not quite sure what I wanted to do, since being the kind of journalist I wanted to be required more experience and probably an address in New York City, living a The-Devil-Wears-Prada kind of life. By that time, I had met someone and moved in with him, and love often veers us off into directions we never expected. I let my career follow a trajectory into marketing and sales, and I kept on writing what I wanted to write, burying my confused early-adulthood ramblings in journals I hid under the bed.
In my 30s, I experienced divorce and reinvented myself; I had the best summer of my life with friends, traveling around the country and starting to date again. I regained the confidence I had lost after too many years invested in a relationship destined to fail. Writing down my goals, dreams, and hopes for love, I set forth on a path toward the future that I wanted. And then I met Will, married him, and we found out we were having a baby.
Pregnancy wasn't perfect either, by any means: I struggled with severe morning sickness, and my husband brought me Pop-Tarts and Toaster Strudel all day while I tried my best to work through the all-consuming nausea. He held me while I cried when we got the gestational diabetes diagnosis, and he walked with me every night after dinner to keep my sugar levels down. He slept on the couch next to our son in the swing while I battled postpartum anxiety.
In the process of having and caring for our son, our relationship strengthened. There was no other way to find that out than trial by fire. No amount of I-wish-I-hads would have improved the outcome.
This. Now. Perfect imperfection.
I have a friend who writes about parenting, and focusing on the good things in life, and she is one of the sweetest women I have ever met. Her life is not perfect, but her words are always uplifting and positive and inspiring. And yet, there are detractors who regularly comment on her blog that she is a b$%^#, that she needs to be on medication, or that she is fake.
I asked her how she deals with that kind of criticism as her following has grown to more than 20,000 people, and she said, "I just delete and think how hard it must be to live that person's life. If I can tell
something is going to be hurtful with no merit whatsoever, I don't even
finish it. I don't need those words in my head or my heart." She's content to be who she is without any reservations. Hateful people still hurt her feelings, but she doesn't let them change who she knows herself to be.
Why is she so damn happy? (I just put a dollar in the
no-swearing-for-Lent box.) She's not perfect. She doesn't pretend to be perfect. And people will hate her either way; she's OK with that. Only she knows the dark places she
visited on the way to her happy place.
As do I. Looking back at the photos of my husband and I on our wedding day, I can see the blurry edges of imperfection in the things that weren't exactly the way they were supposed to be, or even the disagreements we had on our way to the altar. I see the smile on my niece's face with a tooth missing, right in the middle of the picture.