My girl Sadie has been an octopus all week.
She just has two plain old human legs, so to be an octopus she had to invent six more out of play silks. It’s a hardship, but what can you do. (Her tentacles are entirely imaginary.)
Eli made himself a costume, too, but ended up with only six legs.
You can’t be an octopus with six legs.
We thought he might be a squid, but squid, it turns out, have TEN legs. Insects have six legs. This does not bode well for Eli.
These are the things you learn in an afternoon with the four-year-old, the six-year-old, and all the animals.
You learn who they are, and who they might want to be. With tentacles.
There’s lots of talk online lately about being authentic, about being who we are.
We’re all attracted to this idea of being more of our “real” selves in our lives and in our relationships. We want assurance that our deepest selves — the selves WE know we are inside — are seen and known and liked. Maybe even seen and known and loved anyway.
We all want to know and to be known.
And I think that’s God’s job, really — to know us and to be known by us — but we people like to help. (Sometimes I worry that we help the way my toddler “helps.” I picture God scratching God’s head and saying, ‘Yeah, about all that help…’)
We still try, because that is what we toddlers-I-mean-humans do. We “help” and we learn and we practice. We try to be known, as ourselves.
We try to listen well and see one another and be know-ers.
But it’s still so much easier to hide behind an avatar or a status update or a filtered instagram photo. A post, a line, a picture: they never tell the whole story, never share the whole self. But that’s easier, because we know we aren’t perfect.
We’re broken. We’re missing parts. There are places in our lives where we’re weak or small or fearful.
It’s so tempting to try to prettify our lives, whether we’re hiding behind our words and photos, or our great shoes or our tidy kitchens or our casually messy hair. We don’t want to have to explain, or to risk being known and unloved.
We all wear masks sometimes, online and off.
Even if we don’t have anything to hide, sometimes it’s just easier to offer up the tidy version of ourselves instead of the real one.
But. If everyone is Insta-pretty, then everyone is the same. Filters — the internet kind, and the relationship kind — flatten us all out. They take away the jagged edges and the rough patches and the blemishes.
When you show up as yourself, you have texture and depth.
You have nuance and history that are all your own. You have weaknesses, but you also have strength.
That doesn’t mean you have to share every detail of your life with every person you meet. You can choose your own boundaries.
But when YOU know who you are and what you need, you can make choices that are right for you — squid, octopus, or insect. (Or human. I’m sticking with human.)
You were made to be yourself, imperfections and all.
We were all made for that. Let’s live like it today.