Last week I put together a slide show for a good friend who is leaving Copenhagen. I watched it with my husband, smiling and getting a little teary. As the music faded and the presentation ended with a slick little slide reading “The End”, he looked at me and said:
“Wow, anyone would think we had loads of friends and an amazing life.”
Putting aside for the moment that compared to 99% of the global population we do live an amazing life, he’s right.
Most of us don’t document the shittier aspects of our day-to-day life. I don’t whip out my handy little point and click to take pictures when I’m playing Old Mother Hubbard and my cupboards are bare and so the poor husband got none. I don’t fill my twitter feed tweeting pictures of myself in sweatpants and leg warmers. (Yes, I wear leg warmers and you will never convince me they are not awesome. Take your leg-warmer hatred elsewhere, haters.)
The pictures we post may not be photoshopped but they are the glossy, edited versions of our life. At certain times my Facebook feed looks like I go to parties night after night. Glitter and sequins and dress up. Champagne and toasts and friends and ha ha ha, la di da. It’s probably even more evident if you’re an expat. Albums of parties and vacations, it must seem that day after day is nothing but fun and frolic and friends.
There is a subtext to those pictures of course. Those parties? Lots of them are to say goodbye to dear friends. Those holiday meals? They’re in lieu of the ones we can’t spend with family. Exotic vacations? They’re often cheaper than a flight to Florida from the east coast of the US or the cost of a week at Center Parks. Most of us don’t add that stuff in.
Just as I don’t generally post pictures of myself in the supermarket going up and down the aisles looking for peanut butter because it’s not where I would expect it to be. Or me trying to figure out exactly what cut of pork that is on sale (fyi, pork neck is gross, even when it’s on sale). I don’t post pictures of what I look like after dropping the kids off at school in the Danish rain. Don’t be fooled. The rain does not fall mainly on the plains of Spain. It falls incessantly in Denmark.
We all want to present a glossed up, soup-ed up version of ourselves. Filtered and angled and cropped so we look our best.
But the truth is life is not like Instagram. You can post inspirational quotes until the organic, grass-fed cows come home. You can pledge your allegiance to the flag, to yoga, to cross-fit or to antidepressants. Life it still not going to be like an Instagram feed. Even a sardonic, satirical, sarcastic version of it.
We all have days like Alexander. Terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days.
I’m having one today.
In two weeks a very dear friend is leaving Copenhagen. Christmas is coming and the goose isn’t getting fat, but…let’s just say my jeans are tight. The bank account is getting the opposite of fat. Danish winter, despite the cheerleading exportation of hygge, sucks ass. It’s gray and wet and miserable and really DARK. The entire floor of one room is covered in Lego. I’ve been neglecting my kids, my husband and my friends in order to finish the final draft of the novel, which I did. Only to realize that I’m not really done. Not even close. Last night, staring at yet another round of edits, I gave up. Maybe I’m just not cut out to write a book.
Yup. I’m having a horrible, terrible, no-good, very-bad feeling mighty sorry for myself kind of day.
No one wants to hear about the day-to-day crap. Doing the school run on bikes in the rain, or doubting yourself or realizing you’re shouting at the people you love because you’re frustrated. No one wants to see or hear how long it takes you to get through to the electrician because you can’t understand the language telling you which button to press or the frustration of feeling like you’re doing something wrong whenever you step out of the door because you don’t know the rules. No one wants to see pictures of the ratty sweats and the leg warmers or the puddles or the unplucked eyebrows and unbrushed teeth. So we show them the dolled up versions. Not only of ourselves, but our lives.
So, just in case you think I lead a life of glamor, I assure you I don’t.
I am blessed. I am lucky. I work hard at the things that are important to me. Sometimes. Sometimes, despite all that, I feel sorry for myself.
I just don’t generally post about it. But maybe I should, because we all have no good, terrible, very bad days.