Tuesday, June 18, 2013

KEEP Instagramming Your Perfect Life

Not too long ago I read an awesome article by one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, called "Instagram's Envy Effect."  I loudly amen-ed the whole article, and I highly encourage reading it.  Shauna wrote about the way people often look at all these perfect moments snap-shotted all over the internet and think that, in comparison, their own lives stink.  It's a topic that's been on my heart for a long time and one I wrote about a few times, one that I realized a long time ago I had to work through personally.

Part of the article's URL says, "Stop instagramming your perfect life," which wasn't the point Shauna made but could be taken as good one anyway.  Except with that, I disagree.

I've come to fall in love all over again with technology recently, and in large part it's due to Instagram.  The irony here is that initially I hated Instagram.  Passionately.  I thought iphones and Instagram were single-handedly destroyed the quality of photography and memory-capturing worldwide.  And while I still think that to some extent (for the love of decent photographs, people, carry a good camera in addition to your phone sometimes!) I've found that Instagram is a pretty special spot to record some pretty precious stuff.

Let me back up a little.  I've always been something of a list-maker.  I've often journaled in my life and my journal ramblings, prayers and other thoughts tend to become lists of little moments that I don't want to forget or that make me thankful.  Moments that wouldn't matter to or be noticed by someone else but that, to me, are precious enough to be tucked away in my heart and gloried over.  I think that's mainly why photography has become so precious to me, because it's a visual way to chronicle the glory-list of my heart.  I like recording moments and Instagram became a natural place for a list-er to, well, list.  Visually.  Artsily.  With mini-accolades in the form of hearts!  Score!

Except it's deeper than that.

Here's what Shauna said at the end of her (again, awesome) article:
"...remember that life isn’t about the story you tell about yourself on the Internet. It’s about a million more beautiful and complex things than that, like love and faith and really listening. It’s about using what you’ve been given to craft a life of gratitude and passion and grace.
Remember that the very best things in life can’t be captured in status updates." Shauna Niequist
Again, AMEN, sistah.
I once had a Facebook friend compliment a pretty little photo I posted and comment that I make this mama-life-thing look so glamorous.  Glamorous? (??!!?!)  I was flattered, but I admit that I laughed out loud and felt a little ashamed.  She hasn't seen me bleaching vomit off my floor or yelling at my husband in the middle of the night in a half-panicky voice that I just CAN'T get up again and soothe the crying baby.  She hasn't seen me shaking poop out of cloth diapers into the toilet or searching my mess of a car for whatISthatsmell.  What about the same pile of dirty dishes day after day or the mildewed laundry in the machine that I forgot to switch to the dryer again or the melted crayons in my car's cup holder?  Oh girl, I'm SO sorry if the story I told about myself on the Internet looks glamorous because it's just anything, anything but.    
Except wait just one second.
Is it?
I happen to be currently reading Ann Voskamp's lovely One Thousand Gifts with a group of very special girlfriends.  Ann's book, in the simplest sense, is about finding genuine joy in life through grace and thanksgiving in all things.  She memoirs her journey to joy that began by setting out to create a list of one thousand gifts; one thousand bits and pieces of life that make her heart soar with gratitude.  Not necessarily things like food on the table or a roof over her head, but things like wiggly new baby toes and the way light dances through the window on sink suds and how warm wood floors feel under feet.  Those little things that we so often forget to stop and notice in the midst of a life that, no matter how perfect on the outside, gets really tricky on the inside.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we happen to have been in one of the most...how do you say it...strangest seasons of our lives.  The past three months have been a constant barrage of what I guess you'd call (in a very first world sense) loss.  Nothing utterly earth-shattering; I think I count that as losing a family member or your home in a tornado or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.  But in a short space of time we've faced a lot of grown-up junk including dreams deferred; unexpected money owed; a job lost; not one, not two, but three deeply loved pets passed; stress overwhelmed; days worked long and nights worked late; pregnancy illness run rampant; a hormone/medication induced depression dug deep;  a sweet little marriage punched in the gut by the tired and the sick and the hurt and the stress.  Oh and by the way?  Today all of my camera equipment was stolen.  (I didn't cry.  I just kind of nodded expectantly.)
I have not told that story about us on the Internet.  I've mentioned some of it in Facebook statuses, because, well, let's face it; it's kind of nice to get your boo-boos kissed with a dozen (or more) "Oh no!"'s and "I'm so sorry!"'s and "That totally sucks!"'s.  But like Shauna said, the real life conversations about these things happened hunched over teacups late with my mama or staring teary-eyed at the floor with precious friends I trust or (here comes technology) texted long to special far-away friends when throats were closed too tight to speak.  
Real community and real relationships won't (in most cases) happen over Facebook.  No one will ever see all of my real life on Instagram or Facebook.  (You think I'm going to post a photo of myself being mean to my husband or losing patience with my kid or crying myself to sleep?  Nope!)  We must, must, MUST remember to ask in real life about real life.  But something else pretty special and precious can happen through our silly little Internet.  
You know why I love Instagram?  Because my Instagram is my 1,000 (our 1,000,000,000....) gifts.  

These months have been hard.  But I look through my photo reel and I see nothing extraordinary except all of it is. Moonlight on a pony's back and a gift from a friend and a funny girl dancing and a friend I love and sweetness sleeping and new life's toes forming and sneakers splashing and imaginations running and I see that life is beautiful no matter what.  These splatterings of moments captured make me look back on the past three months and know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I've said so many times that we need to view blogs, Instagram, and Facebook the way we flipped through each other's scrapbooks when they were so en vogue a few years back.  Scrapbooks are meant to showcase the perfect, the special, the precious; the moments all captured so and made more so because our hearts chronicled the valleys we crossed to get there.  We tossed the shots with eyes closed and heads accidentally cropped off and brought out the cameras for the celebrations, because who was going to spend film money on messes?  But we knew those moments were behind the perfect ones.  A photo of a teenager in a cap and gown is pretty much run-of-the-mill in June, but not to the mama who snapped it.  She sees that image and it's precious to her because she remembers the late-night runs to CVS for poster board for the kid who forgot the project that was due tomorrow and the tears shed when she got the call from the teacher that her son failed the test because he cheated and the hours she spent carting him back and forth to the chemistry tutor and how she loved him so desperately every step of the way.    
See the Instagram snap in the upper left of the photo above?  It was a bear to carry that kayak to the beach.  See the second shot in on the very bottom?  The girls were making hippo soup from backyard gatherings and the hose and it was adorable but I was so nauseous I couldn't stand.  Those are the details that are tucked in my heart but that I don't necessarily want to proclaim for all the world.  I don't know that everyone needs those downer details all the time, mostly because I think if you stop and think about it for just one second, you know they are there anyway
Ever seen an image of a solider coming home from war into the arms of his family and cried over it?  Images of daddies coming home from war are so blessedly precious because they left for and faced war in the first place.  That smiling, hugging, joy-filled moment is so glorious because of all the hardship faced before that moment happened.  If we can all just take a deep breath and know that real, good, perfect life takes good and bad, then I think it would be a lot easier for our hearts to enjoy celebrating with our social media friends instead of expecting them to spill all the "life-is-hard" beans.
I love opening Instagram because what blinks onto the screen before me are the life-is-precious moments of people I know and care about.  I smile.  I glory with them.  My heart is encouraged.  A lot of this stuff is glamorous.  Not the pretty-hair and perfect-makeup and high-heels and making-millions kind of glamorous, but the this-is-so-hard-it-can't-be-anything-but-beautiful kind of glamorous.  I think those images could be found anywhere, from a smile exchanged in a chemo treatment room to the way a mama lovingly pats her belly housing a child who won't live.  My heart is thankful for what Ann Voskamp calls "ugly-beautiful" and thankful leads to joyful.          
So I'm going to keep Instagramming my perfect life, because it's perfectly real.  Snap it all up.


1 comment:

  1. I love you. And this. And the way you live real life in all of it's messiness and beauty.


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