Many years ago I was struck by a story of a woman featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show who was in college, had 5 kids in college, her house burned down and she held 3 jobs. For all you fact checkers out there I am probably adding to this story’s resume, maybe not though, she was pretty awesome. The story was impressive even if not to the extent of my recollection. It was extraordinary. She was extraordinary. SO much so that her story made me question my own ability to finally go to college. I was 32 years old, I was raising 5 kids (ages 4-17), I worked from home, my husband was injured on the job and recovering, my mom was diagnosis with Lupus and given 10 years to live, our house was falling apart, literally, I was depressed, my finances were in the negative, but if she could do it then by golly so could I! I lasted one and a half semesters.
It wasn’t a pretty resignation either. I felt horrible. I felt like a failure. I had given up. Why couldn’t I be EXTRAORDINARY?! I wanted to be hailed as a victorious super hero of female accomplishment, I wanted a cape and trophy with #1 Mom engraved on it, I wanted to sit on “THE COUCH” and be praised by Oprah herself and given a “brand new caaaaaaaarrrrr” (do it in the Oprah voice, it’s fun!). Why couldn’t I be HER? Then I had an epiphany that saved me. I realized that she was on The Oprah Winfrey Show, on T.V., being lauded for her accomplishments, she was in fact “EXTRA” ordinary. The Super “Role” Model?
Certainly aspirations to greatness are not negative or wrong. But in this day and age where images of “perfection” inundate our daily consumption of information we are faced with a need to be more than what is real. The battle is on and women are standing up against those crazy ideologies. NO MORE PHOTOSHOP!
In this fight for a more realistic perspective what we need to start with is our own personal reality checks.
First let’s examine the physical self: our bodies. I have been a bunch of sizes; from a size 16 to a size 2. I have lost 75 pounds and gained all the #s in between, I have stretch marks that look like tire treads, I have cellulite, I have scars, I have thinning graying hair, I have sagging skin and wrinkles. I am quite lovely. My point is that I am not going to be in the Victoria Secret fashion show anytime soon (thankfully, that stage looks sketchy as hell in high heels) because I am not a Super Model. And substantially more important is my spiritual self, the ME of who I am. I have made mistakes, I have been rude, judgmental, impatient, irritable, quick tempered, and gossipy. I have lost perspective and gained insight in between. I am quite lovely. My point is that I am no Mother Teresa and I won’t be sainted anytime soon (those shoes seem even more intimidating to walk in) because I am also not a Super “Role” Model.
The do-it-all mom with a smile to spare. Oh, how I have wanted to be her. As I sit here with my crocs on, my baby-hair in the shape of gray devil horns sticking out of a crooked bun, a huge sweat-shirt, and some very stretchy pant; what I really want is to be me.
The person that never gives up, who tries everyday to be better, who falls and gets back up, and also reaches out when others have slipped, the diligent, persistent, and sometimes relentless advocate for my children and others, the student, the teacher, the best friend, the sister, the money maker, the bill payer, the grocery getter, the daughter, the servant…
Unrealistic and unacceptable images of our bodies has to end, but so does this idealized version of what we are supposed to be as people. We need to Netflix and chill with ourselves and love who we are. Acknowledge our stuff that we know isn’t serving us and accept it. Then we can move forward. We need to also stop casting that same expectation onto other women and men! It is nothing more than a trap! We stretch ourselves to such extraordinary lengths that all we have left is a thin rope that is going to break. It is time we know that all the roles we have to fill are enough. That extra is not necessarily good if it takes away from who we really are.
I didn’t finish my degree then. I am now in my 4th year of college and loving it. When I allowed her to be extraordinary and just focus on my ordinary I fulfilled my roles my way. I am still really proud of the women out there that overcome great odds and accomplish amazing feats of motherhood and womanhood. It inspires me. What I am not willing to do is hold myself up next to them either. Rather I will hold my life up to yesterday and reconcile all the blessings and gratitude I can.
The woman on Oprah gave me something. She helped me realize that whatever role I have chosen for myself I will make it work. I will do my damnedest to try and when I need to, I will let it go and move on. She gave me a reality check, one that is worth way more than any Oprah could have written me (no, really I promise).