A couple weeks ago, I went to see a woman comedian at a local church with some friends. I had no idea what to expect, but I was up for a girls' night out, and I'm always up for a good laugh, so I figured it would be fun. This woman was beyond hilarious. She spit out one (clean!) joke after another and had us laughing so hard I was sure my side was going to split. She even did a few dances on stage which only caused the audience to erupt in laughter again. As she slowed down and began to share her story, her more serious side came out. She shared how she had grown up in an especially conservative home and had always felt she had to live up to a certain standard that she felt she could never attain. She felt different in church, as she just wanted to break out of those ugly choir robes and start doing the Macarena up and down the aisles! She finally came to realize that God had made her the way she was for a purpose, and instead of trying to fit into a mold that didn't fit, she embraced herself as she was. She joked about being the antithesis of the Proverbs 31 woman, whom she found quite intimidating becuase the woman woke early, went to bed late, always kept her candle burning and gathered her food from afar. "That food, ladies, I'm sure, was take -out," she joked. As she came to a close, I felt tears prick my eyes, for I felt as though her story could have been mine.
I'm not a famous comedian, nor do I think I'm super witty, but I have always felt that God made me, well, a little different. Growing up, I never quite felt like I fit into the typical mold. My mother tried teaching me to sew, but it turned out terribly disastrous. I nearly flunked home Ec, which is nearly impossible to do. I got the worst grade in the class on an atrocious crocheted reindeer I sewed; the teacher did not find the Scotch tape I used to piece it together amusing. My mother tried numerous times to teach me to sew, but I had an aversion to reading directions, following directions, or doing anything with the word "directions" for that matter. I got upset that the scissors were too small and the pattern was too flimsy and nicked myself with the stupid needle a hundred times before I even got it threaded. I finally wound up with a pair of elastic waist pants for a genie costume I wore to a Halloween dance in junior high, but I had to hold them up all night as I made them way too lose. Needless to say, that was the end of the sewing for me. I've since found a wonderful Vietnamese dry cleaner that sews buttons and hems pants for next to nothing. They dont speak English, but I don't care. We are lifelong friends.
Next, my mother tried teaching me to bake, but that didnt go over particularly well either. I didnt much like using recipes and preferred to concoct my own "creations" in the kitchen. This often resulted in a huge mess of melted chocolate and various dry cereals stuck to the bottom of a mixing bowl that I never got around to washing out, but I didn't care. To this day, I rarely use a recipe and if I do, I feel compelled to change it up a bit. Just to be rebellious, I suppose. Sometimes, this works out, but other times, not so much. These are the days we have a lot of leftovers in the fridge.
And then there were the athletics. I never aspired to be a stare athlete, but I thought that perhaps trying some sport might be good for my self esteem. I should have known when I got picked last for kickball year after year in grade school that I wasnt meant to participate in anything that involved a ball. Or a bat. Or, well, you get the point. I tried tennis lessons, but didnt have much luck with them. A season of girls softball didnt prove to be any more successful. I was more interested in the cute boy sitting in the stands and the sour candy at the snack bar than I was in playing outfield. When high school rolled around, I worked up the guts to try out for cheerleading. That didnt work out so well either. I forgot the routine halfway through and proceeded to do a bunch of impressive looking kicks that obviously didnt wow the judges. The result was a pulled muscle and wounded pride. Those were the end of my athletic days. I didnt really mind, to be honest, but I really thought it would be cool to have a picture in the yearbook of me doing something. Yearbook club, chess club, drama club, surely, I could have picked something! Instead, when one flipped to my name at the back of the yearbook, there was only one sad little page number next to it. And if one turned to that page, they would see a sad mug of a girl with a bad perm who would be forgotten by most the day we graduated.
And then there was the music. I started piano lessons at age seven and (shocker!) I actually took quite well to playing. So well, in fact, my teacher insisted I would be a concert pianist in no time. But I didnt really want to be a concert pianist. I just wanted to make up my own songs and play in my living room for an invisible audience. But I did play, sometimes in front of hundreds of people while my heart thumped wildly in my chest and my face turned beet red. And one time, I did forget my song and walked off the stage with my head held high. But that didnt keep me from playing. I was born to play, and nothing would stop me.
Since the piano was going so well, my mom suggested I try the violin, but that wasn't such a great idea. My mother, who happened to be a violin teacher, painstakingly tried showing me over and over how to hold the instrument in my arms and stand in proper position. I then remembered why I'd never tried violin in the first place: it was too much work! Why stand till your feet ached when you could sit at a piano bench? It was a no brainer!
When band time rolled around in fifth grade, I opted for the drums. Why? I simply didnt want to have to blow into anything. Again, too much work. I wanted to save my lungs for more important things, like gossiping. So I took up the drums. The bass drum, to be exact. All was going well until the day the mallet slipped out of my hand and hit the drum teacher square in the forehead. He wasn't so pleased, to say the least. Many said drums were for boys, but I chose to disagree. Plus, we had all the fun in the back of the room. While the rest of the band members had to sit in stiff chairs and squeak out parade tunes, we could take turns sticking our gum to the cupboards in the back of the room and eat potato chips when no one was looking.
When I gradutated and got married, I figured all the pressures were gone. I didnt have to impress anyone with my skills, my sports, my abilities. Wrong! Now came a whole new set of expectations as I dove into motherhood and became a homemaker. Homemakers, I learned, are called just that for a reason. They make a home. They cook gourmet meals, they decorate Martha Stewart style, they host fancy parties, they dust on a weekly basis, they have clean toilets and perfectly folded laundry, and of course, they are crafty. For years, I tried to keep up. I threw the fancy parties, slaved away at dishes I could hardly pronounce, and tried keeping a clean house, all to no avail. Humbling to me was the day a woman came to visit my new baby and offered to mop my kitchen floor! Granted, there were sticky things wedged under the chairs that had been lying dormant for weeks now, but still! I was so embarrassed. And then there was my lack of, shall we say, crafting ability. I spent five years in MOPS, where I enjoyed wonderful speakers, a brunch and new friends. What I did NOT enjoy was the craft. Inevitibly, we'd have to make some stupid popsicle stick picture frame or, heaven forbid, something involving paint, and that always turned out disastrous. Most of my projects ended up in the garbage when I got home, or, if they were halfway decent, I'd claim my kindergartener made it and say "We are just so proud of him!" On one occasion, I was actually quite proud of my hand painted apron I'd created. But by the time I got it to the car, a huge gust of wind kicked up and blew the darned apron straight into my face. Paint everywhere. You get the picture. Another one for the trash.
For years, this went on. Me trying to be the Proverbs 31 woman, wondering why on earth God hadnt made me a morning person, wondering if I'd ever "get my act together" and have a clean, well organized house like my next door neighbor. I attended seminars on organization, but I fell asleep in the middle of them. To organize things, you had to be organized, and that just wasnt me. It's like being pregnant. You either are or you aren't. And I'm not.
And then there was the church thing. The super "good" church ladies prayed elegant prayers and made the best croissants for the brunches and volunteered at all the functions and said just the right thing at the right time. And then there was me, with my sincere but sort of embarrassing prayers, always sticking my foot in my mouth. As for the croissants? Mine were usually store bought, or if they were homemade, I'd usually forget an ingredient or two, and then wonder why a whole plate of them was left after the function. Always a day too late and a dollar too short, as my grandmother would say. I just couldnt get it "right."
But over these last two years (the most difficult of my life) I've learned to give myself grace. I've come to learn who I truly am, and I'm finally okay with that. Someone once said that growing up is about learning not just who you are, but who you arent. I finally understand who I'm not. I'm not a prim and proper gourmet Martha Stewart cook whose house could be pictured in Sunset magazine. I'm not a seamstress, I'm not a crafter, I'm not an athlete. For years, I've thought it would be cool to run a marathon, but I've finally resigned to this idea. For me, running is, well, pure torture. While others find it exhiliarating, I find it excruciating. I wonder why anyone would want to purposely inflict pain on themselves. I mean, I get it, the cute shoes, the medals, the adrenaline rush..I just cant do it. But guess what? I love to kickbox. I love lifting weights, I love walking, and I love sleeping (which I've deemed a new sport for all those new mommies out there!)
Other things I'm not? Super clean, super disciplined, super smart. But you know what? I'm okay with that. Why? Because I know who I am. I'm fun (at least I've been told that on occasion), I'm a writer, I'm a musician (even though I flunked violin and cant hold a tune to save my life!) I'm a good friend, I'm a decent mom, I'm a semi good cook (semi because the recipes only turn out good some of the time..but when they do, they're really good!) I'm deep but not super serious, I'm sarcastic and absent minded, I'm sensitive and compassionate. I dont need to be my mother, your mother, or anyone else's mother. I dont need to be Martha Stewart (who by the way I never wanted to be anyway!) and I'm not Beethoven or Serena Williams. I'm probably not the person you'd want heading up your bake sale or organizing your prayer meeting, but I do make a pretty mean potato casserole. If you come to my house, you might find things stuck the floor, the pillows might not be fluffed and the kids might be runing around half naked. But I can gurantee a good conversation and a nice shoulder to cry on.
I wish I'd figured this all out before, but alas, it's taken me 33 years to just sort of scratch the surface. Still, I must say, I feel more free than I have in my life. I'll never forget that comedian, for she helped me to see that we dont all have to fit into a nice, pretty box, that we dont have to be who "they" (whoever they is, anyway!) say we have to be. God's made us all different, all unique, and if I'm going to keep telling my kids that I'm going to have to start believing it too!