Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm basically a mess, but hopefully a delightful one.

By:  Guest blogger, Melissa Ashby
Although I’m an avid collector of quotes and mantras, this one in particular has been nagging at me lately:  Live imperfectly with great delight.  I read it somewhere, scribbled it on a post-it, and stuck it on my cabinets where I see it every day.  I’m trying to practice it.   I’ve got the live imperfectly down to an art;  it’s the much delight part that proves to be a struggle.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m pretty laid back, mostly optimistic, and genuinely happy. But I have to admit, I do my share of mentally beating myself up over my shortcomings, and I often fall into the slump of what my mom calls “carrying the weight of the world” on my shoulders.  I know it’s not healthy or practical or even logical to worry and wallow in your own failings, so I’m on a mission to make sure the delight in my life (and it’s already there, for sure) gets to the surface every single day.

For quite some time now, I’ve been old enough to know that life is not like it is in the movies.  I know that the media feeds us ridiculous expectations for career achievement, parenthood, body image, time management, diets, home decorating, and even the necessity of “finding ourselves.”   I can laugh at the Pinterest boards that pair cheesy tater tot casseroles and rock hard bodies (these can’t coexist!) and illustrate perfectly organized home offices and designer living rooms that no one could possibly maintain in real life (where are the electrical cords, tufts of cat hair, and piles of mail?).   I KNOW I can’t live up to these standards—surely no one can—but, if I’m not careful, I still let the feelings of incompetence creep in.  My house is so cluttered!  My clothes look like I haven’t shopped since the eighties!  I haven’t exercised this week!  How did I get this far behind at work? Everyone who just saw my kid’s tantrum thinks I’m the worst parent ever! We’re eating popcorn for supper again! 
I’m ashamed to admit that I actually take pleasure in seeing signs of others’ imperfection, not because of some sick schadenfreude, but because the cracks in other people’s lives mean that they must be a little like me—flawed, horribly imperfect me-- and I love them more for it.  If, in your gorgeous Facebook photo of your gorgeous kids baking gorgeous cookies, I notice a bit of laundry strewn on your kitchen floor, some gunk behind your faucet, or a dog eating out of the trash in the background,  I am not judging you;  I am actually thrilled to find that you are—like me-- living imperfectly, and you are showing me that it’s possible to just let the joy roll right over it.

The muddy trail through my kitchen, the school bag of ungraded papers, the mother-in-law’s birthday remembered three weeks late, the gray roots I haven’t covered, the photos I haven’t printed , the insane amount of hair that accumulates in my bathroom each day, the winter clothes still in my closet in May . . .   I vow that these things will not diminish my joy and my self-worth.   I will, instead, delight in my new honeysuckle handsoap, the brightness of the sky today, my daughter asking to borrow my earrings, my son’s fierce hugs,  real butter on my waffle, a belly laugh shared with my husband, a profound moment with my students. 

To show my absolute commitment to this pursuit of joy in the midst of chaos, our family jumped off the ultimate cliff of insanity:  we got a new puppy.  The absurdity of this move is clearer if you know that our kitchen is currently gutted for renovations (possibly the real source of my current feelings of pandemonium), we live in town with no fenced yard, and we have so much “running” to do that I cry on most days.  However, we are embracing little Beatrice—“Bea” most of the time—into our wild, imperfect lives with hilarious, giddy, romping puppy delight.  Although I groaned at taking her out for 3 a.m. potty trips, it hasn’t been that bad.  In fact, when we’re out there, I take a few minutes to listen to the spring wind in the leaves and the cool newness of the predawn hours.  I’m finding delight.  It’s right there in the midst of everything.

Some of my most recent delights:
...and here's the current, highly imperfect state of my kitchen, and the reason there's no recipe from me today:

This video has been making the rounds, so you may have already seen it.  If not, take the time.  It’s worth it.  This couple has restored my faith in humanity with their unabashed willingness to just go with it:

Have a highly imperfect and delightful day!


  1. Wonderful piece, Melissa! You and your family exude warmth and joy.

  2. Just so you know...I have a calf-length crimson wool coat and an assortment of bathing suits that probably haven't been worn in five years happily lounging beside one another in my closet.

    I love your "voice" Melissa. You somehow manage to make me love my little life a bit more every time I read your writing. Thank you for consistently reminding me to see the joy.

  3. I think your life is absolutely "perfect"!