My Dirty Laundry

by Amber DeBarr

My Dirty Laundry

“Make good choices.” We’ve all heard that phrase, haven’t we? My mom has been telling me that since I was a kid. And now I tell my toddlers the same thing. There will always be choices. There will always be temptation. You have options. You can make a good choice. You can make a bad choice. Which is it going to be?

I know all about temptation. I know what it’s like to be lured into choices that promise more.

I know what it’s like to regret.

But I never really knew what it was like to have dirty laundry. You know, socks. Underwear. Gym shorts.

That’s right. Dirty laundry. I know where your head went. You thought I was going to relive my college years in this blog post, didn’t you?! Not quite.

But what I am going to do is recount the lesson I learned about dirty laundry. And there is one word at the root of it all. Just one word.

Perfection.

To be the best student in grade school and high school.

To be the most likely to succeed.

To be the perfect friend. Daughter. Sister.

To have the nicest home.

To have the most friends.

To be the best employee.

To be the best wife. Mother. Neighbor.

To be the best leader.

Perfection.

I grew up learning that I could do anything I put my mind to. I could have it all if I worked hard enough.

Do you know where that gets you? Well, honestly, it can get you really far. Perseverance and drive have given me a million things to be thankful for. But this concept of perfection – it has not. It has caused heartache. Let downs. Expectations of others that cannot be fulfilled. Ideal date nights that go flat. Family outings that result in tears for at least three out of four of us.

This was my life. And it still is at times. But more often than not, I am able to redefine perfection in my mind. To realize it’s not a thing I’m trying to achieve, but instead that it is little glimmers of joy that shine through the moments of each day. I’m living in it. And it doesn’t look anything like the movies. I’ve recognized that within the four little walls of my home, perfection shows up on the face of my toddler after she’s sneaked some chocolate. Or my son telling me from the back seat of the car that he loves me. Or my husband telling me I “did good” when I remembered superhero day at school. Or my boss telling me I taught her something. Or my colleague sharing how valued I made her feel by asking her opinion. And listening to it.

And then there’s dirty laundry. Probably one of my biggest learning moments of all. When my mentor and friend walked in my house and there was dirty laundry on the floor and folded laundry on my kitchen table. She said she needed to tell me something. And in a moment where I was hoping she might recall what a great job I did at work that day, she said, “I’ve never been more proud of you. You really have grown, Amber. You let me see your dirty laundry.”

What?

I didn’t get it.

Until now.

When she saw my dirty laundry, she didn’t see what I failed to do. She saw what I did do. I played with my kids. I experienced life with my family. I chose to appreciate the life that was going on around me rather than trying to achieve perfection in areas that weren’t as important. I made good choices. No perfect house. Lots of laundry to be done. Time with my family. Giggles with the kids.

What I used to label as imperfection is now where others see the most growth in me. Where my team members see a leader they can relate to. Where my colleagues see someone who thinks differently about the work, our interactions together and our accomplishments. Where my family sees me struggle with every choice I have to make, but is the first to benefit when I get it right. Where my boss or mentor see my success with a new definition. Where I realize that dirty laundry is a good thing.

Imperfection.

Perfection.

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