General ramblings

Perfectly Imperfect

November 5, 2015

This post, well maybe not this post, but the content, has been on my mind pretty much since I started blogging.
But a recent ‘real-life’ conversation, and a more recent thread on Instagram have got me thinking about it more and more, and I feel the need to ‘blog it out’. So bear with.

When I first became aware of blogs, and started reading them, and spending hours and hours looking at Pinterest for ideas and inspiration, I never in a million years felt like I could start a blog.
My life, my projects, my pictures, couldn’t even begin to measure up to what I was seeing on my computer screen.
The perfection of the lives; the neat and tidy, carefully curated homes; the gorgeous photogenic kids (not a snotty nose in sight); the beautiful images of the wonderful DIY projects that these bloggers were apparently seamlessly fitting into their lives, at the same time as homeschooling 6 children, making their own bread, and running some kind of awesome creative business on the side.
My life by comparison was, and is, a mess.
My house is a mish-mash of random things, some bought with more thought and consideration than others, and no real coherent sense of style.
My kids are gorgeous (I am duty bound as their mother to think that), but most of the time, I fail to catch that gorgeousness, and my attempts at photographing them are met with goofy grins, or gurning faces, and certainly in years gone by, snot.
My DIY projects are usually done in a rush, often in the evening when the kids are in bed, but when there is no natural light to take decent photos. And I’m an impatient crafter, so more often than not, I just want to get it done. I don’t feel like I have the time to stop and carefully stage photos of every part of the process, and in fact, I often even completely forget to take pictures at all.
And I didn’t think that the world would want to see that.

When I came up with the idea of spending a year Buying Nothing New, I started to think that maybe I could start a blog after all. It wouldn’t have to be this perfect ‘mummy blog’ (apologies, I know that term offends some people) because it would be about a very real journey, and I wanted to document it warts and all. I wanted it to show the reality of our lives, and to a certain extent I used this as an excuse for not investing more time and effort in my photography.

I have no idea how to make pictures of the contents of my bin look beautiful when discussing Zero Waste Week...

I have no idea how to make pictures of the contents of my bin look beautiful when discussing Zero Waste Week…

In the last couple of years, Instagram has just exploded.
I avoided it for ages, after reading a blog post someone had written about closing their account as they found it was just another pressure, and another tool for comparison.
And as we all know, “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

But I’ve slowly come to concede that as a blogger, and a writer, and someone hoping to inspire people to make positive changes in their lives, that there is a whole new audience out there on Instagram that I could reach out to. The message I’m trying to get out there, the conservation of resources, and in fact the planet, through Making Do and Mending is, I think, hugely important. And it needs to get out there. To reach as many people as possible, if we are to stand a chance of leaving our kids a halfway habitable planet (I’m not saying that Making Do and Mending is going to save the world, but it’s a start…)
So I started an account, and have lurked in the shadows, feeling intimidated by the beautiful feeds, and if I am brutally honest, sometimes feeling resentful of these beautiful people and their beautiful lives. To some extent, it can feel like being back at school, and watching all the ‘cool kids’ and knowing that you will never be one of them (I may have just over-shared there…). Hanging around on the edges of the circle of the chosen ones, and hoping for a nod of acknowledgement, of approval, of belonging. And maybe that is actually more a reflection on me, on my insecurities and my own set of issues, that I need to deal with. If I were more content and confident in myself, I wouldn’t be so intimidated and feel somehow inferior by comparison.
I know, that in reality these people can’t possibly be wafting through their days, wicker baskets on their arms, picking beautiful flowers, or homegrown veg, to arrange pleasingly next to their latest vintage find. I know that by the time they get to eat their carefully styled breakfast, it will probably be cold. I know that their kids, wearing intricate handknits, or handmade dresses, will scream and shout and cry (and yes, get snotty).
But I see these images, and I look up from the beautiful world of Instagram, to see my reality, my world, and these images sometimes make me feel like my world is somehow lacking.
And my world isn’t lacking. My world is full, and amazing, and I am so incredibly blessed to have the life that I have, the family, the friends, a roof over my head, and plenty of good food to eat.

At a recent blogging evening with lovely Kate from A Playful Day (who incidentally has a very beautiful Instagram feed!) I asked the question about how you blog, and share on social media, and not be living (or blogging) a lie. Kate has blogged about it here, and I think her answers are starting to make sense to me.
Kate was very clear that when we blog, or post on social media, we are telling our own stories. It is only us that can tell these stories, they are our, and ours alone to tell, and we can choose which bits to include. We can choose to edit out the mess, and the arguments, and the spilt milk (and the snot). But we can also include them if we choose to. It’s all about balance.
And I think I get it.
I hold my hands up and admit, that I follow people on Instagram with beautiful feeds. Because it’s inspiring, and reminds me of the things I want to try (like natural dyeing, or knitting, or even growing more veg). And sometimes just because it’s beautiful and the images make me smile, and lift my day a little.
I can see that pictures of the reality of someone’s life, the pictures left on the cutting room floor (or the camera roll) are probably not hugely aspirational. I doubt that I would want my feed filled up with other people’s mess, and tantrumming kids, and DIYs that didn’t quite work.

The Instagram thread I referred to at the beginning of this post started off with a beautiful image:

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 10.29.07

but the words told the real story behind the image.
Ellie (aka petalplum) was having what is probably a fairly typical day for lots of mums and creative types out there, but she made the point that amongst the mess, and the washing pile, and the overwhelm, that there was still time to stop and take notice of the beauty of confetti of petals. And that it was just one moment. In a day of school runs, and clearing up, and mountains of washing, it was a moment of beauty. And it was that moment that she chose to share.
She wrote this, and it really spoke to me:
“I’ve been seeing,hearing, thinking, talking about the reality of IG and how these ‘stylised pretty’ images aren’t real. You know what–this is not a show off of how good my life is, this is 2 minutes in my day of noticing seeing enjoying and sharing the small beauty. Of encouraging you to look through and know that it is still there even if it’s under a pile of washing. I have washing of my own, I don’t need to see yours. I want to see your beauty your petal-fetti. Can we connect over the beauty and realise that’s reality as well?”

And I think I am starting to get that.
Where I have been going wrong is seeing the snapshots and not seeing them as just that, snapshots. Moments in a day. A day filled with thousands of other snapshots, that maybe weren’t so aesthetically pleasing.
And I am then so busy comparing the whole of my life, washing piles and all, to these moments, these 1 in a 1000 snapshots, that I fail to see the moments of beauty in my life.
My life may not be perfect, and beautiful, and styled to within an inch. Nobody’s is.
But there is still beauty within that.
And I think that’s what I’ve been missing.
What it’s all about is not having a beautiful Instagram feed. It’s about being vigilant for those moments. Those snapshots.
Seeking them out, recognising that there is beauty in every single day, if I slow down long enough to see it.
Recognising that my life is, warts and all, Perfectly Imperfect.

And happy boys...!

Rosehips

Kite flying

 

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6 Comments

  • Reply Eline@PastaPatchwork November 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Yay! Just really yay. I’ve gone through the exact same thought process over the course of the last year. It really is important to remember that IG offers snapshots, not the whole view. You make it what you want it to be, and I’ve found it to be both supportive as a community as well as effective in getting your message across. So yes, I think in the end what matters is your own attitude, and your ability to accept craft messes at midnight as normal. And to keep laughing at the manicured American blogs! My life just isn’t like that either, but I don’t think I care x

    • Reply Jen November 11, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks Eline!
      Your IG and your pics always look beautiful 🙂

  • Reply Liz Gibson November 5, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks for this. I’ve not ventured onto Instagram as I already don’t do enough with the internet places I do use. But the insights you’ve just shared are very helpful. I’ve not been following you as much as I did in the earlier days, partly for similar reasons – not that I think it’s easy for you but you seem to have your act together so much! Please keep being perfectly imperfect, and even imperfectly perfect! and sharing your snapshots. All the best.

    • Reply Jen November 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Hi Liz
      Thanks so much for your comment. That’s really interesting to hear that-so do you feel that my message resonates less with you now?
      I can guarantee the imperfection will continue!

  • Reply Claire Holgate November 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    A wholehearted whoop of joy from me, Jen, because I completely agree with all that you’ve written. I admire your honesty and I think your posts and pictures are wonderful. Keep doing what you do xx

    • Reply Jen November 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks so much Claire. The admiration is mutual!

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