Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Show me your wrinkled sheets!

We all have a space of our life in which we feel the *need* to have things neat and square and fluffed and smoothed.  A place where you can find some calm and comfort in the midst of the chaos of life; a space where you can look to or gravitate towards or settle upon when you need a moment to take in a wink and nod of peace.

I'm a sucker for a neatly made bed.  Soft cotton sheets with taut hospital corners, a smoothed and even duvet, lots of puffy pillows piled at the head of the bed, and a minky, plush throw blanket adorning the foot in a purposefully-made-to-look-haphazard way.  The kind of bed where dreams are made extra sweet.

And that's just where that kind of bed lives.  In my dreams.  

The real-life beds in my house are wrinkly and random, sheets and blankets are askew, nine hundred stuffed animals and blankets that are anything but minky and plush {more like well-loved, worn, and smelling like sweaty kids}.  The pillows were once puffy, but have been flattened over time as they're squished and folded and manipulated in origami-esque ways to accommodate whatever baby needs nursed, sick child needs cuddled, DVR-ed show needs watched, or sibling needs walloped into next Tuesday.  The beds in our house are a source of comfort and rest, a space for laundry folding, a place to jump and giggle with your sibling until mom puts a halt to your source of fun.  Our beds are where we read and where we pray.  Where we begin and end each day, where we rest our weary heads. 

The kids' beds aren't made on a daily basis, and when they are, it's because my selective OCD has kicked in, sending me on a rampage of cleaning and tossing and tsking over the lack of organization and care they show their toys and personal space.  Even then, when I make their beds, I find myself doing my very best to smooth and re-tuck and adjust and fluff, but usually wind up pulling up their comforters to a state of 'good enough' because I simply lack the energy to do the work of starting from bare-mattress-scratch each morning, as their topsy-turvy method of sleeping would require of me.

When I make our bed each day, it's because I have an inherent *need* to have that space neat and square and fluffed and smoothed.  Knowing the bed stands unmade in my pocket of the house I rely upon for rest and rejuvenation feels like having a tag in the back of my shirt that continually irks me throughout the day as I move through the tasks of life.  Over the course of our marriage, I've become more lenient in my desires for a Good Housekeeping-worthy bed in exchange for something both Randy and I can agree upon.  Soft cotton sheets that are never tucked in, a neat and for-the-most-part even comforter {he despises duvets despite my deep-rooted desire for one}, a reasonable amount of pillows that have the possibility of remaining puffy {so long as the kids stay off them}, and a deliciously inviting cashmere throw blanket {hanging neatly in the closet}.  Despite my wishes for something a bit different, I'd become content and happy with it and began accept the slight catawampus way in which the sheets lay beneath the smoothed top cover as my new 'normal'.  

Because really.  Isn't that what life is?  What seems to be the only acceptable way to live it?  We spend time and money and energy with the smoothing and the tucking and the fluffing and the squaring so that our own cover masks the tangled mess we are beneath the surface.  The twisted mess of nerves or worry.  The shattered splinters of brokenness.  The stain of shame and self-loathing.  The pangs of guilt or shreds of insecurity that weave themselves into a knotted mess that seems impossible to disentangle.

These quirks, these truths we spend so much time covering and fluffing and smoothing are what makes us who we are.  The wrinkled sheets beneath a perfectly smooth duvet {or comforter...whichever suits your fancy} are the reminder of a restful night's sleep.  The flattened, misshapen pillow holds the memories of dozens of late night conversations, movies watched together, or snuggle sessions with a sad little squishy baby.  The comforter in lieu of a puffy duvet and the lack of a perfectly minky soft throw blanket adorning the edge of the bed {which, let's be honest, would really be meant specifically for aesthetic appeal, rather than practical use} keeps you humble.  It reminds you that your blessings are already abundant, that your worth and beauty are not defined by what you possess but rather who you are.  {Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold jewelry or find clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.  1 Peter 3:3-4}

The hard part of peeling back the covers, exposing your wrinkled sheets or lumpy pillows, showing your tears and fears and worries, and revealing your shame and inner sufferings is that you've got to invite vulnerability to the party.  You've got to expose your weaknesses while simultaneously wearing a shield of protection against scrutiny and judgement and disapproval.  You've got to get up the gusto to say to the world, "Here I am, world!  It's me.  This beautiful, tangled, lumpy, ordinary mess.  It's me.  A work in progress.  An unmade bed with un-tucked sheets.  I'm worn and have milk stains from babies and ink stains from toddlers and dents in the foot board from kids driving toy trucks into me.  It's me."

The sad truth is there will always be someone who passes judgement.  Gives an opinion.  Offers a thought for how you can better tackle the stains and the dings and the dents and the wrinkles.  And you can go ahead and take that in; let their negativity and arrogant-laced sentiments affect you.  You can wither and wrinkle and twist into deeper and darker spaces of shame, closing in upon yourself and becoming a shell of who you are meant to be.  

Or, you can take a leap.  Break free from the chains.  Stand tall and proud and shout from the hills, "It's me!".  

My "it's me" moment came in the fall of this past year.  The leap of faith I took in sharing my battle with depression and anxiety was nerve-wracking for me, but has become an eye-opening experience.  I've been blessed to become friends with some wonderful people with whom I've found solace and comfort in sharing stories.  I've deepened some relationships while recognizing the season of others has since passed.  People with whom I reside in the 'acquaintance/Facebook friend status' have reached out to me, and through those kind words have strengthened the connection using threads coated in compassion, empathy, and mutual admiration for the daily battles which we face.  

In order to move forward and fully embrace my "it's me", I had to forfeit my mask of shame and cast aside my shield of vulnerability in a quasi-public forum {yeah, it's the internet.  Anyone and everyone can see it.  But honestly, I pretty much never hear from readers with the exception of a few, so either I've got an awesome but little posse, or an awesome but primarily rogue posse.  Either way, it's all good.  I'm not in it for the money [ha!]}.  I'm sure there are people who place judgement.  Have opinions.  Share thoughts on why I should not have chosen to go about sharing my dings and dents and wrinkles in such a way.  And that's fine.  They're entitled, and they also have the choice to read or not read my words.

But for me, I need words.  I crave them and seek them to cover my wrinkled sheets, but I also use them to help show my wrinkled sheets.  My neat and square and fluffed and smoothed life is about as real as the possibility of having my dream Southern Living/Good Housekeeping/Martha Stewart-approved bed.  

Now, when I see a neatly made bed, I now look past the perfect hospital corners and puffy pillows and minky throw.  I seek out the wrinkled sheets.  The askew bedding and dents and stains and lumpy stuff that shows a beautiful life.  A life of messes and haphazardness and sleepless nights and pain and tears and discontentment.  

I love the stories that are intertwined with these truths.  Not because I love when human kind struggles, but it's because of that struggle that human kind can thrive.  We can support and reach out and connect with one another.  When we are humbled by the sheer humanity of human kind, we even out the levels; we relieve ourselves from the negativity of judgement and opinions, and begin to recognize that everyone, no matter who, no matter where, no matter how...everyone is in need of a comfortable place where things are *just so* and they feel at ease enough to share and be seen and be heard and be real.  They need a place where they can pull back the covers, let the world see the disarray beneath the square and smoothed duvet, and be fearless enough to snuggle in and work in the space that gives them peace.

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