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The Pure and Simple Truth is Rarely Pure and Never Simple

“I was having this conversation the other day with a friend about Instagram and how everyone thinks everyone else’s life looks perfect all the time, when in reality it’s not.

I’ve written about this before, but I think it bears repeating.

None of us can truly tell the whole story. It’s just not possible. We pick the best moments, sometimes the most real ones, and we put them out here, in the ether. But they don’t tell the whole story. They never do.

Maybe they tell the version we most want to see. What we hope for, what we cling to, what we want to be real.

But we can’t pretend to think that what we see here, online, is the whole truth. It never is.

The other day I took this photo of Vera having a tea party on top of her bed.

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It’s a sweet photo. And it gives the impression that perhaps I’m sitting around in my life having tea parties with my kids (and going to the beach and drinking wine with my friends, and all the other stuff I post photos of all the time). And I really am doing all of those things.

But those photos don’t tell the whole story.

What you don’t see in this photo is Greg lying on the carpet, sick with the stomach flu, just home from a business trip, annoyed with me for letting Vera sit on her bed like this. You don’t see Jules with snot running down her face because she has a cold and is teething. You don’t see my messed up hair, the bags under my eyes from four nights of sleep interruptions.

You don’t see me walk away from this scene and into the kitchen where I made dinner and felt tired and stressed and sick, as little instagram likes streamed by on the screen on my phone.

But this photo captures the very best moment of all of that. This photo is me trying desperately to hold onto what is good, what is pure, to hold it to my bones as if my life depended upon it.

Because it does.

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde

21 comments

20 Comments

  • Posted February 28, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this. It’s so true, and yet we forget that these same things are going on in the background of these pictures of other’s “perfect” lives too ;) it’s so easy to just believe the grass is always greener on the other side.
    Have a great day;)
    Kaara

  • nicolette
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    no, we never want to look back on our days, our weeks, our months and relive our trying moments. and not focusing on the negative does not mean there are not hard times, it just means your way of dealing is to let go and have a tea party on top of your bed for a second and snap a photo and carry on. it’s so nice to have a nice reel of life’s teeny victories!
    love your writing :)

  • Stacy
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Oh, Claire. I love this post. And I love you.

  • Kristen
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Hi Claire- I started following you after your guest post at “Enjoying the Small Things”. I love your writing and I love this post. Sometimes I get caught up in others blogs, facebook posts and instagram. I think to myself I should be doing more as a mom, wife, ect. Or I think they must have it all. I enjoy blogs like this that keep it real! BTW I plan to purchase your book. I have an extremely close relationship with my mom and in reading some of your posts I started to cry. I can’t even imagine my life without her! Thank you!

  • Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    A very nice reminder, indeed. I’m addicted to IG, and I follow people (like you and Kelle Hamptom) that I have never met in real life. I look at the pictures and read the comments, and I sometimes get caught up in it all. It’s not always easy to see the distinction between what we’re glimpsing through a censored hand and what is actually the big picture of real life. Although it’s fun living vicariously through people’s pictures, it is in a sense just a picture book, a fairy tale. One never really knows what happens after the click of the camera that captured that one still moment and what is happening out of the scope of the camera lens. Thanks for reminding us all to appreciate these photos for what they are–a single moment in a person’s day, hand-picked to be shared for all to see, and there are other unshared moments that might not be as pretty.

  • Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Oh my yes. I posted the sweetest self-portrait of me, my husband and my kid on Valentine’s Day. We’re all happily grinning away, clearly full of love. No one knows that my kid backed himself into a corner yelling “no no no!” at me moments earlier when I tried to take a picture of him in his “prince charming” shirt. And the only reason he’s smiling in the self-portrait with us is because my husband is tickling him. Such a cheap trick (and yet, so handy).

    Still, I love that darn photo. And I love your bed tea party.

  • Lauren
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I love your posts- you capture motherhood and life so beautifully and truthfully. I often thought about this as I posted beautiful pictures of my son on facebook… As my life was crumbling around me… I posted pictures of him sleeping, drooling, on swingsets, sitting up… To hold onto the only good thing I had- which was my beautiful baby. It came as such a surprise to everyone that my husband had left me when my baby was only 3 months old… They had no idea I was a single parent for so long…. Because the pictures I posted captured the essence of love in my life… Not my shattered marriage.

    Thank you, Claire.

  • Michelle
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    There’s a quote that I will try to find that says something like “I love photographs because it shows that for that brief moment in time everything was perfect”. We know nothing’s perfect….but the thought of snips of perfection, or even snips of happy – is enough for me.
    Thanks for your honesty.

  • Annie
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Claire, you remain one of my very favorites! I love reading your words. And I just sent your book to one of my friends for her birthday :) I know this isn’t super relevant to your post but I mostly wanted to say hi and let you know that I appreciate you and your honesty. Thank you, thank you. xoxo

  • Brian
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Kids scare me. I will never understand. No-one resents it ever I know that. I can barely maintain my house as it is with the work and stuff.

    Kids are like this super motivated thing that I think I would fail at. Props for seeing to it. I envy the drive required.

    I have heard it comes naturally. Is that true?

    Brian

  • Karen
    Posted February 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    A great take on our current social media phenomena. For me, posting about the happy stuff in my day helps snuff out some of the negativity may have occurred that day. I guess it’s my way of finding a silver lining in each day and knowing that tomorrow is a new day with new challenges and rewards. How we react to them is key. Great post!

  • Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. The pretty parts are the fun parts. The reality is everything else. Life is all of those things. Thanks for the reminder to not forget that.

    I wish I could get down to the beach as often as you do. :) Maybe soon I can handle it but just not quite yet. It seems like just a liiiiitle too much for me to be able to juggle right now.

    xo

  • Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    i struggle with this. if i choose to think of the best parts of our days and document those, well then all the more power to get up tomorrow and do it all again. i shouldn’t feel compelled to post stomach flu pics for commonality. i’ve never made homemade playdoh, and when my kids are playing with it it’s the fresh, chemical smell we breathe in. i don’t know what makes me feel the need to say, “hey. this isn’t homemade playdoh, but I totally plan to make it..”
    thanks for writing this. it’s a juggle as we move through our days what we choose to take in and freeze.

  • Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    Response to Brian, comment 10. You are completely justified in being scared of kids. If you are barely managing with your present lifestyle, then kids would entirely fu*k you about. They are such a long term commitment you should be totally freaked out. Being ‘super motivated’ is just the start. Can you keep up ‘super motivated’ for a few decades?

    No, it does not come naturally. You actually have to work at it. Babies make demands in the middle of the night when you are least prepared for it. You have to get up like a zombie and give the kindest attention to the object of your torment. I am not sure you are quite ready for fatherhood.

  • Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this post—it’s such a good reminder.

    When I first started using Instagram however long ago, I was going through a tough time, battling with mild depression, and I used it to capture the moments in the day that I was grateful for. At that stage, for me, it wasn’t a sharing thing, it was just for me, and there were so many things I didn’t take photos of because I didn’t need to remind myself of the hard things (they did that on their own).

    It was a surprisingly successful exercise. And while I don’t always use it this way anymore, it’s good to remember that every now and then. It’s funny, isn’t it, that social media of any description can be both such a wonderful source of connection and a potential source of anxiety? Fascinating.

  • Lisa
    Posted March 2, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Was that our conversation? Love the post. You should have posted that pic of V crying her eyes out poor stinker.

  • Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    So, so true! And it’s funny that most of us know this is true in our own lives, we post the good stuff as much as possible, yet we forget that others do the same. I have definitely had moments of the grass is always greener over on someone else’s blog or IG feed, and have had to step back and give myself a talking to!

  • Posted March 7, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Hi Claire! Thanks for posting this. It’s so true. I stumbled upon your blog via Kelle Hampton (love her!), and love your blog too now!

    I just wrote about something similar here: http://reemfaruqi.com/2013/02/25/rainbows-and-butterflies-and-the-lack-of-them/ . Basically photos of my behind-the-scenes/behind-the-camera-lens messy house!!

    Thanks for being honest! We can get so caught up in the blog-envy/facebook-envy world!

    Please do stop and visit my blog : http://www.reemfaruqi.com for a visit if you’d like :).

  • Kyra
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    This is such a genuine and much needed post. While I love social media, I do believe it has the power to give a false sense of “everyone elses’ lives are so perfect…” I could not agree more with the need to focus on the positive while at the same time acknowledge that life is made up of so many challenging moments.

    I am so grateful for you, Claire, as well as Kelle Hampton, Glennon Melton and Tre Miller Rodriguez. You four are absolutely the embodiment of what is so amazing and nurturing/nourishing in the realm of social media.

    Thank you for this and for being you.

  • Posted May 3, 2013 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Magnificent site. Lots of helpful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks in your sweat!

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