In all things moderation. Jealousy in moderation, particularly.
A study (link: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069841) shows us we’re less happy when see people’s picture perfect lives on facebook. We can probably generalize those findings to other forms of social media as well. I see the home she bought with her banker-husband all set up. I don’t see the toys lurking behind the couch in the current favored hiding spot of her three-year old toddler. I see the new hairstyle, the fancy dinner, and I think, oh, they have money or they have time and freedom to either make or cook such a meal. Ah, to be a newlywed! And I feel a little bit less joyful about the life I’m living.
And then what happens?
I either defend my lifestyle by defending my undone hair, baggy clothes, laundry mountain, my tired expression and say all that matters is my children are not starving and are loved. Or perhaps I internalize the messages sent to me via facebook and multimillion or billion dollar marketing strategies to make me believe that truly, my life should be spotless, my face should be spotless (then painted with make up), my wardrobe complete and my cooking completed with the ease and flavor of Rachel Ray’s 30-minute meals. Then I will put endless amounts of pressure on myself and hate myself when my life does not measure up, when I don’t sleep well enough, when pregnancy prevents me from doing anything other than holding a horizontal position. Is there some middle way?
According to Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, Book II) vice lies on either side of the virtue. It is the extreme, the excess or deficiency. Virtue lies in “the golden mean.” In the Summa (Question 64) Aquinas says this is consistent with Christian morality. In medio stat virtus.
Why should I dismiss the idea of a life well ordered, presenting myself as put together and working on a house maintained, just because it can’t be perfect? Why is it I hear that message so often from women on social media? “Don’t be my friend if you can’t handle a messy house.” Comments then follow about how clean her house looks in the photograph.
My guess is it may be a response to guilt. But is it guilt over not fulfilling one’s vocation or guilt over not meetings one’s standards of perfectionism. In medio stat virtus.
We have to find the middle way. We have to allow ourselves to have an ideal that is realistic. I can dust, but I should not expect the toys to be carefully concealed in a toy box for the duration of the day. I can vacuum, but should expect to see crumbs, pasta sauce and yogurt on the floor beneath the highchair one hour later. I should expect that I will clean again. I can shower, do make up, and dress very chic, but I should expect to see my tired face again in the morning after spending a few hours up with the baby. And I need to know that this is okay.
Where is the lie? We go can go on social media every moment of the day. I go just when my life is look the most bleak in my ill-fitted pajamas, gray robe, stuffed nose and messy hair. At that moment I see that everyone else’s life looks put together and perfect? Of course that is only the moment he or she chose to photograph.
Perhaps it is not that people only post attractive pictures of themselves, but that the time I am most likely to access those photographs is not during a coffee date but at 5am after the baby just went back to sleep and I can’t sleep because my nose is overrun by allergies. So the fault is with me.
Should I then dismiss any aspirations towards beauty and order?
I should not!
I should rather take stock of my position in life, find ways to make the most of the situation, make a realistic plan and implement it accordingly. In my plan I should include consideration that things will not go according to plan, but expectation that I will not chuck the plan when that occurs.
We’re called to know our weaknesses and our strengths. We aren’t called to be the wife of Proverbs 31 literally. But we aren’t called to dismiss her either. In medio stat virtus. We’re called to find the middle way, the golden mean, and live our lives to the full.
I won’t claim and special insight here. I would like at add the conviction I found in this weblog: http://www.organizinglifewithlittles.com/2014/01/26/for-the-unappreciated-mom/
What’s really happening, whether I obsess or dismiss perfection and the call the perfection, is the focus on myself deepens. I lose sight of the love I am called to give those in our lives.