I likely don’t have to explain the feeling that many of us—probably we women, and particularly we mothers—may face when it comes to others’ judgments of us. Our fear of being criticized, talked about, belittled, or—God forbid—rebuked, typically is the fuel for why we over-worry, over-work and over-stress.
A few weeks ago—while anxious that, 1, my house wasn’t clean enough (I deep clean—even mop!—for 3 hours every Friday), 2, my daughters wouldn’t be well behaved on the next day’s outing (Ariel is 2 and Eva, 7 months), and 3, my blog wasn’t getting as much traffic that week as the one before (because after having gotten 400 page views in four years, I was disappointed by as many visitors that week)—I discovered this secret: if anyone judges me, the judgment doesn’t land on me. It stays with her.
My life changed that easily.
The next day, as I got the girls and myself ready for an afternoon in Denver (an hour-each-way drive), I said to the Lord: “I don’t care if things aren’t perfect. I just want us to enjoy the day.”
That day, neither daughter got temperamental; neither had a diaper blow-out; and nothing caused me to wonder who was judging me. When Ariel cried because she couldn’t go into the bathroom with Greg, I didn’t worry about the table of hipsters staring at us. My clear-mindedness observed this: they weren’t even looking at me, the mom with the crying toddler; they were admiring Ariel because she’s beautiful. It was a perfect day. I drove home feeling satisfied and refreshed and thankful in this assurance: by not expecting the impossible out of myself or my children, everything turns out well (even if there are yelps and spills).
I had already learned this lesson on my wedding day, but those big catastrophic events can sometimes be lost on us. In the days leading up to my wedding—late December in Phoenix—I wanted everyone to be happy (which they were) and I wanted everything to come together (which it didn’t). That was the year, 2006, of the big Denver blizzard; the airports across country got shut down and my in-laws—all of whom were members of the wedding—didn’t arrive until a few hours before the ceremony. Things, in effect, weren’t as organized as I usually prefer, and I could feel that panic settling in as a migraine. So I prayed: “Lord, I don’t want to be that girl. I don’t want to ruin my own wedding.”
I heard the voice of God say, “Enjoy.”
On my wedding day, after the weather had been in the high-seventies, the temperature dipped to below 40 degrees. It rained for the first time in six months. It was an outdoor wedding. What’s more, Phoenicians don’t navigate inclement weather well. If there are three raindrops, people run for the malls to take cover. Forty guests who had RSVP’d “yes”—and whom we paid for—didn’t show. The DJ got two songs wrong: we actually had to start part of the ceremony over (by this, I mean we walked out of the room and back in again). The venue hosting the event had evidently never heard of rain; the coordinator, three months earlier, after I had asked what they would do in case of rain, looked at me and said: “It’s not going to rain.” She couldn’t figure out how to avoid my standing in a puddle of water. All the heaters were broken. Most of the wedding guests didn’t take off their jackets. People danced to avoid having frostbite on their toes.
My friend Mala wrote this in our guest album: “Rain is auspicious at Indian weddings!” A few months later, my then-single friend Angela called me and said, “When I get married, I want to look as happy as you did. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”
I’m real. I don’t hide things (as you’ve likely noted by these essays); I don’t offer pretenses (ever); I can even admit to having hated myself for about 33 years (turns out, this is very common of victims of sexual abuse). This past year, however, I don’t hate anything—especially myself. Even if I have trouble spots in my appearance, or if my children cry in public, or if people don’t like the words I write, I enjoy every bit of the process—adventuring, conversing with my husband, loving my daughters, writing my heart, seeking and finding my God. If and when people judge me, I remind myself that their words are a reflection of their own insecurities. My compassion for them builds. Some people have asked where this rush of confidence and creativity came from. I tell them it’s in not seeking to be perfect.