Julia sipped from the cup of tea in her left hand while she swiped and double-stamped Instagram posts on the phone in her right hand. She didn’t even look at the images, just “liked” them because her friends posted them. Friends with interesting lives and exotic vacations. Friends with fantastic husbands. An Old Navy advertisement: she paused, scrolled back a little, and tapped the now-red heart to un-like that one. She kept scrolling. Friends who always found the coolest coffee shops. Friends with beautiful tables already set for Easter dinner which was still four—no wait, two—days away.
Julia propped her feet on the basket of laundry in the floor but immediately lifted them off again. At least take off your shoes first, Julia! Those clothes are clean. She slipped her feet out of six-year-old tennis shoes and stretched them atop the laundry basket. Both the basket and her feet blurred until she blinked her eyes like windshield wipers to clear the tears.
What would happen if she posted a photo of the full laundry basket? She took the picture and wrote a caption.
Wanted: Honest pictures of everyday life because I can’t be the only one who doesn’t have it all together.
Her fingers hesitated. Did she have the nerve? What would everyone think? She added,
Then she tapped “share” before she could change her mind. It was the biggest risk she had taken in months.
. . . . .
Julia was draining the after-dinner dish water and didn’t hear the ding on her phone. When she picked it up later, she had two DMs from @flowergirlrdu [not a real Instagram account]. Where do I know her from? Julia clicked on her profile: ah, yes, the girl with two little kids who always posted memes of flowers with Bible verses. They’d met by the coffee counter at church one time. Just one time. She tapped over to direct messages.
Today 6:45 PM
You are so BRAVE to post that photo. At least your laundry was clean! Mine would have been dirty. LOL. Wanna get together some time?
Today 8:14 PM
In case you don’t remember, we met at church one time. I totally understand if you don’t have time or whatever. I’m sure you’re really busy, but check out what I posted this evening. I used #thisismylife.
Julia clicked back to @flowergirlrdu’s feed while she tried to remember her actual name.
Flower girl’s latest image was one of those in-the-mirror selfies. She held her 8-month-old in her arms, showing his entire back—neck to ankles—colored brown, and most of her heather-grey college t-shirt stained the same color. The photo didn’t need explanation for anyone who had ever had a baby that age. She captioned it,
Julia replied to the DM through embarrassed laughter:
How about tomorrow?
Lord? What is her name? Please remind me!
As she climbed into bed, it came to mind. Her name is Heather.
. . . . .
I am not alone!
Her eyes widened and her
shoulders settled as she
Julia opened Instagram as she finished her morning cup of tea. I wonder if anyone else thought about posting #thisismylife. She searched it. In the previous eighteen hours, thirty-one people had used her hashtag. Thirty of them were honest, messy images of everyday life. Twenty-four of those were her friends/followers. I am not alone! Her eyes widened and her shoulders settled as she audibly exhaled.
When Julia caught up with Heather at the walking path later, they saw over forty #thisismylife posts.
“I can’t believe this, Heather! I thought I was failing at everything because my life isn’t beautiful and perfect like everyone else’s.”
Heather walked a few paces before she answered. “We’re all broken, Julia. We’re all falling apart. If it wasn’t for my morning quiet time with the Lord, I would crumble into a million pieces. And then my two-year-old would start putting all the pieces in her mouth!”
“You know what I mean. It’s just that I have to constantly stay ahead of her.” Heather took a few more steps and picked up a toy ejected from the stroller, but Julia could tell she wasn’t finished. “Do you know why I always post pictures of flowers? It’s not because I like flowers so much. Those images are like my curtains. I pull them over the windows, and nobody can see what’s going on inside. I put those pretty flowers out there, and then no one knows what’s really happening in my life.
“When you posted a picture of your laundry basket yesterday, I was so relieved someone was finally being honest. That’s the only reason I could ever post the ‘poop pic.’ That’s what my husband and I call it.”
Julia laughed. “I think we could have made a few pictures like that, back in the day. Has anyone reused your hashtag?”
“Ha! No. But I’m following it to see if anyone does.”
They walked in silence for a few minutes.
“Listen, Julia.” Heather stopped walking and looked straight at Julia. “I don’t want to keep my curtains pulled anymore. I want people to know me for the real me—poop stained t-shirts and all.
“I’m glad you didn’t wear that t-shirt today, Heather.” They resumed walking.
“Oh, I threw it away…cried a little because so many memories were attached to it, but there was no salvaging that stinky mess! I threw away the baby’s clothes, too.”
I need someone to ‘do life’
with. Not someone to put on
a good show for.
“I don’t blame you.” Julia opened her mouth to speak three times before the words tumbled out. Finally, “I need a friend, Heather. I need someone to ‘do life’ with. Not someone to put on a good show for. Do you think we could text each other when things are rough?”
“Yeah! I need that, too. And maybe y’all can come over for dinner this weekend.” Heather blurted out the words with her hair falling in front of her face as she searched for a tissue.
Stand firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. –1 Peter 5:9
Have you taken a risk and been authentic on social media?
Do you have a friend with whom you can authentically ‘do life’? Or do you resonate with the women in this story? Maybe you’ve known both.
I’d love to hear your stories (but please not 1000 words) in the comments below.