I recently had a conversation with a friend about this “fake it til ya make it” phenomenon. Over the years I have had this phrase handed to me an extensive amount of times. When I was thrust into, what would be, the beautiful world of special education, but had no knowledge of what I was doing…”Fake it til ya make it”. When I entered into full-time ministry …”Fake it til ya make it.” When I had my first baby girl and was terrified…”Fake it til ya make it”. The cliché seemed to follow me around like it was my shadow, only it was one I learned I did not care to play with.
For me, every time those words were spoken to me, they always left me feeling a little bit like I was walking around in a pair of corduroy pants (where my 80’s kids at?!). It was stiff and made confusing noises every step of the way. It made me feel as if I was being forced to choose “I’m not good enough as I am so I will pretend to be a person I am not until I become someone else’s idealized version of me.” and “I don’t know what I am doing so I’ll pretend I do until I figure it out on my own instead of asking for help and risk looking weak.”
I am sad to say I tried on those pants for a while. Although they confused me, the allure of falsely being cool enough to look like my life was a perfect Michelangelo when really it was a chaotic Picasso made me think, “Maybe there’s something to these trousers.”
I rocked those pants so hard they wore those fashionable holes in the knees. They looked real cute. I looked real cute too. Like a boho runway model sport’n a Farah Fawcett clothing line. Except those pants made me crumble. Those “Choose me because I make you look like you’ve got your whole life figured out AND make you look like you’re waayyy awesome” pants made me almost lose my life. Ignoring the fact that I couldn’t cope with the stresses in my life on my own gave me total fake power; power that lied and stole away my joy.
The simplicity of a rhyme somehow always lends itself to the perception of truth.
Now, let me say, I am positive the people in my life who ever handed me that phrase, or ones that implied the same, only meant to help. They could see there was a struggle brewing and the simplicity of a rhyme somehow always lends itself to the perception of truth. But, as my dear friend Janet Newbery asks, “Do you always take everything that is handed to you?” And the truth is, I choose to put them on day after day.
Fortunately for me, my eyes were opened to that ridiculous fashion faux pas long before our sweet baby girl Charlotte Grace was born with Down syndrome. I had time to heal from the detrimental wounds created when I made those super cute holes in my jeans. I am so very thankful for those years I had to stitch myself back together. I am even more thankful for the people who chose (and choose) to see me every day as my true self and still love me in my ugly pants.
If not for the seasons of “learning to struggle well” I am quite certain I’d still be trying to squeeze my post-pregnancy self into those tricky cords. The world of Down syndrome can often be one of striving for us moms. The temptation to be a “perfect parent” can be even greater for those who have a child with a special need. My life is not “harder” but my life does look a lot different than it would otherwise. It’s more schedules and planning than I am accustomed to. Anyone who knows me knows I am fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (pun intended) kinda gal. I like the adventure of the unknown. I like being able to say, ” Let’s go on an adventure because it’s ‘Mediocre Monday’ and who knows where the day will take us.” However, life with a child with special needs often carries preconceived…well…everything. The doctor’s visits, therapy, the planning for the future. Those things are hard for me and so it’s all very tempting for me to share only the best of all life has handed us. If I do that, I look like I’ve got it all figured out, right?
The truth is, my very best today is not the same as my very best yesterday, and that’s ok with me.
The truth is, this journey is scary sometimes. There are fears about health complications, financial worries about the future, how to balance our time so our older daughter never feels underappreciated, how to care for our marriage during all these stressors. The truth is, I often haven’t a clue what I’m doing or who’s advise I should take. The truth is, my very best today is not the same as my very best yesterday, and that’s ok with me.
This journey is also beautiful; not just in the way that we have this amazing baby girl with Down syndrome, or in the way that we get to see our older daughter become this awesome big sister and not just how we all get to learn how to have more compassion and patience. Rather also, in the way that we all get to learn to love and care for each other just a little bit harder. We get to invite others into our lives and be a part of a really cool community. We get to ask others for help.
As my friend and I shared in this conversation, we agreed; vulnerability and being genuine would be the antonym of the “fake it til ya make it” mantra. Being vulnerable means sharing myself because “I need and trust your help“. And so we share. We share our stories with others in hopes they help “even just one person” as Josh and I say. We share to encourage and inspire those in our community who may be still wearing those scratchy pants and need someone to give them permission to put those joggers back on (man, they sure are way more comfy).
So, go ahead friends, pull your hair back into that messy bun you haven’t washed with real shampoo in a week, get those stretchy pants ready and move on from that 80’s-style fashion of “fake it til ya make it”. We give you permission.