William Orpen 1901

A friend often posts the most beautiful paintings on his social media accounts. I really enjoy that he does this. I am not a fine arts fellow but as I’ve grown older I now enjoy the exposure to these paintings.

However, also being a die hard, smart ass, I sometimes view these paintings in ways certainly not meant to be. The above painting is really gorgeous and serene and I love the colors and the softness of it. But….

I started to wonder, if we were able to pull back our perspective some, what might else we see in that room? Maybe chaos? Perhaps, she just killed her lover and his dead body lies on the bed with a butcher knife through his heart. Or, maybe the room is filled with a hundred cats. You get the idea, no need to continue to demonstrate my warped imagination.

Here is the funny thing though about that little deviant imagination I shared, it reminds me how I struggle a bit with people who constantly present themselves on social media – and in the air that we breathe – as above the mess. Sort of a lie of omission thing, I guess.

I am not suggesting people divulge personal details of their lives. But, on the other hand, I find it hard when people throw out words of wisdom like car bumper stickers or try to “brand” themselves in some fashion of perfection.

Our lives are messy. Beyond the images of self control and serenity are a hundred “cats” wandering through our lives. ( I do have two real cats and love them very much.) Of my one hundred other “cats” I must deal with feelings of unworthiness, an over concern of what others think of what I say or do, which probably has near addiction status. I am addicted to food and thinking about the past and fearing the future while ignoring the present moment. Oh God, How I could go on.

When I worked in higher education, my department had implemented a ridiculous policy for students enrolling in their classes. Trust me, just because the decision-makers have a Ph.D doesn’t mean they know diddly squat about enrollment management.

Outside my office door stood a couple hundred angry students trying to navigate the newly created line and processes to enroll in their upper division business courses. I decided I would take a photo of the angry and frustrated students – not a smile to be found…that is until I began to document with the camera their pain. Yep, as soon as I began taking pictures, everyone began smiling for me. Some of the female students even did that little head tilt and arm bent upon their hips pose. If you looked at my photos, all you saw were young, healthy looking, attractive, and apparently quite happy college students- standing in a stupid line for a couple of hours. Apparently, the need to present ourselves in a positive light is very important to our egos.

Now here though is something else I find interesting. You know the serenity represented by the way the woman in the above beautiful painting is looking out the window? I actually feel more like that when I admit to myself, and to important others, that I am messy. I am a walking, talking, writing contradiction. I am anger, I am joy. I am selfish, I am generous. I am smart, dumb, introverted, extroverted, chicken shit and brave. I am heaven and I am hell. I have demons and my angels too. Perhaps the strangest contradiction is that I like cinnamon on my oatmeal but not in my applesauce. Yes, I have a hundred cats running about in a room that I often present as serene and clean and above all else, neat. As I get older though I am not as fearful to admit my truths. And, I would much rather hang out with the imperfect souls of here and beyond.

(By the way, if I have followed your own blog, it is because I am inspired by your honesty, your humanity, regardless of how you choose to present it… photos, education, advocacy, creative writing, life sharing and support. Thank you!)