At my parent's house in Cle Elum, there are boxes of old photos from the last 40 years of our lives, waiting to be sifted and sorted. My prom pictures from 1996 are piled next to my parents wedding photos from 1975.
Last weekend we were there for a birthday and I came across this little gem sitting near the top of one of those boxes.
I picked it up, and had a quick laugh before being taken over by a wave of shame and generalized embarrassment that had been a signature of most days between the ages of 11 and 16.
I felt an urgency to burn the photo.
Being averse to drama, I instead tossed it back into the pile, shook it off, and resumed what I was doing.
The next day, as my husband and I were packing the car to go home my big sister came spilling out of the house toward my car, nearly peeing her pants with laughter. She had just found the offending photo and was clearly enjoying it more than I had.
Before long, my whole family had gathered around and we were all laughing with tears as my sister pointed out the comedic perfection of our deeply mis-guided style. (Thanks, Mom.)
The matching striped bunny shirts, the pleated acid washed denim, the popped collars, the loving sisters pose, and yes, THE HAIR. Perms gone bad...oh so bad.
Suddenly I was so grateful I had not acted on my instinct to incinerate the picture.
I realized that on the day of this particular photo we were still young enough that we actually believed our mom when she exclaimed in her overly enthusiastic mom voice "Girls. You. Look. SOOO Gorgeous!!"
You are seeing pure confidence here people. No shame.
Now when I look at this photo I feel nothing but love for my naive little self. I want to tell her rock the heck out of that bunny shirt. I feel grateful for my big sis, whose hairstyle is arguably way worse than mine, and yet she is beaming. And thankful for my mom, who took the time to feather our bangs and put blush on our cheeks because she loved us.
One of the concepts that has been coming up repeatedly in my life and in sessions with clients is what Melissa Joy Jonsson calls "Perfectly Imperfect". This is the ability to embrace and appreciate the parts of ourselves that make us cringe a little. Bad decisions, mistakes, shameful habits, insecurities, fears, regrettable hair-do's.
It’s the ability to understand that we didn’t come here to be perfect. We came here to have this messy, hair-sprayed, sometimes awkward, sometimes painful, sometimes confusing and often amazing human experience.
Glennon Doyle Melton, author of "Carry On Warrior - The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life" says that it is our imperfections not our perfections that connect us to each other.
From battles with multiple addictions, serious depression, and many, many drug-fueled bad decisions, “Carry on Warrior” contains the most honest, hilarious, heart opening stories about things most people would save for a very trusted therapist.
The result is that you want to be Glennon’s friend. You actually like her MORE than if she had lived a perfect life. You also see how our worst mistakes and shortcomings are actually a gold mine of wisdom, perspective and humor.
It’s up to us to dig that gold out of the dirt. Sift it, sort it, and make it shine
So go ahead and mine for gold in your own life. Do you have your own version of my bad perm picture that you've been hiding? Bring it out. Love it. Hug it. Kiss it, and make it breakfast. Then share it with the people you know will also love it. Have a good laugh.
Even bad perms can turn out to be good.