Thursday, June 14, 2012

Misleading Reflections and Measuring Up

We have one tiny, hazy mirror in our house at the moment. It's pretty dark in there. So while I know I haven't exactly been looking awesome, I thought it was passable for now. 

In the absence of a shower, I've been taking bird baths in the morning for about three months now, and hoping that basic hygiene was covered. While I don't wash my hair, I try to wet it occasionally. I used Eug as my other reflection: he's doing the same, and if he looks ok I'm probably ok, right? Wrong. I caught a glimpse of myself in a different mirror and found that my neck was just really, really dirty. Who would have thought that necks are a very important thing to wash? Without a mirror, and with my hair covering my neck most of the time, I just didn't know that I hadn't washed my neck in several months! 

The bathroom before we started to demolish and rebuild
Wanting to find a lesson from this, I thought about the ways in which I've been freed from comparisons, and the places where I still try so hard to measure up. Misleading bathroom reflections have taken away my need to look a certain way to fit in (though I'm pro-clean-necks), but misleading reflections of what a home should look like can suck up our lives and our joy: Our bathroom had issues, but it was largely functional. Ultimately we would have had to do something, but we probably wouldn't have gone all out if not for both internal and external expectations. 

I felt embarrassed to have people over, because bathrooms everywhere are much nicer than this one. We bought a fixer-upper house, which means we actually have to fix it up, right? I felt very fearful of judgement, that Eug's family would not be comfortable with our lives here in Cape Town if they saw this bathroom. 

So we (Eug) pulled apart the bathroom and started to rebuild when I was 7.5 months pregnant. We thought 1.5 months would be plenty of time to rebuild, but 3 months later the bathroom has taken time away from Noah and Eli, from our marriage, from our respective works, from making new friends and being available to our family. (I guess the obvious lesson here is that renovations never go as planned)

So lately we've been actively praying against the power a bathroom- a totally inanimate room- has had over our lives. When we named it and prayed for more grace from God, some of that power over us was broken.

I've found lessons here: I think a non-picture-perfect home is just right. Pinterest and NYTimes and the rest of the internet be damned, our lives can be beautiful wherever we live. The work we put into learning how to be compassionate and empathic and good neighbors has to be more important than whether our silverware matches and we have just the right ambience (though I'll probably still post thousands of before and after pictures of our house).

I want to live more gently and consciously, and I want to be able to explain that and convey that to those who ask or are concerned for us- by the very fact that we're available and can chat and have visitors when many of our peers cannot due to work and other commitments. I'm not there yet, but I want to advocate for minimalism that doesn't require everything to look zen. Minimalism that maybe looks a little more like poverty and less like the LifeEdited apartment. [I am married to a designer so I respect the need to balance this a little-we love taking pictures that make us grateful for our lives].

The flip side of this is that I don't want to judge people by their houses. I don't want to judge people, period, and not judging their houses is a good place to start. We miss some of the beauty of this moment in our lives because of fear of judgement:

Eli keeps getting fatter, and the necklace Angie made for me (and my AC roommates) reminds me of our time together in Milano

Pomegranates are coming into season, and I keep converting rands to dollars to make myself feel like I'm getting a great deal on fruit. We buy 7kg bags of oranges for $2, pomegranates for $1, 1kg bags of kiwis and guavas for $1. Our standard of eating has never been higher. 

My mom gave me one of her dishes so I can make stuff like banana brownies. I love that this is the same dish I've seen since birth.

1 comment:

Tiff said...

Your experience with your dirty neck actually reminds me of the books I've read (I've forgotten which ones) where a character will be spoken of or chided for having a dirty neck and ears. ('Ring around the collar' being the result.) And I always wondered how that was possible. But for those of us who don't have showers, bathtubs, or rivers, or lakes for frequent bathing, perhaps it is an issue after all: one has to conscientiously make the effort to clean in those areas!