That wasn't exactly what I was expecting to hear two miles up a high-mountain Colorado trail on a late-August backpacking trip. I had seen this group of four children and a woman in the parking lot and the littlest guy, perhaps 4 years old, was a bit whiney. I thought they'd be back before I had my pack on.
But two miles up the trail at a spot offering a beautiful view of the Larimer River valley, I finally caught up with them. The woman was attempting to arrange these four children, the oldest of which appeared to be about 10, into a grouping for a photograph with the valley in the background. I could hear the little guy crying from a few hundred yards down the trail and as I rounded the bend, I heard her entreating the kids to stand still and smile so she could "get a good photograph for Facebook."
I will admit that I failed to offer to take that photo for them and quickly scooted by into my week of solitude. But I thought about that incident a few times during my hike.
How do we curate our lives on the internet for other people to see? If the reality is that the kids are hot and tired and don't care one bit about their mom's Facebook photo, is posting such a photo really the best thing? Frankly, I'd far rather see the photo of the three content kids smiling and the little guy screaming in the foreground. That is real life.
How good are we at hiding the reality of our lives behind slick photos and carefully crafted event reporting? I think we've become so good at it that we don't even think twice about the way this changes our world. There are more and more moments where I feel like everyone is pretending to have the perfect life and it makes all of us feel inadequate. I have to consciously remind myself that everyone burns the rice sometimes or lets the pots of used dye bath sit in the garage until they are growing water lilies of mold. We all have moments that we feel like we're far off the rails.
I certainly felt that way last week. I finished a five-month stint of workshop teaching and traveling for tapestry*, and I really thought that suddenly everything would be calm and I would spend every day at the loom weaving contentedly on the next project. But of course all the things I didn't do in those five months came back to haunt me in mid-August and I very suddenly felt like that four-year-old who was throwing his water bottle at the truck as his mom was trying to get him to walk up the trail: very very frustrated.
Fortunately I have a very wise spouse who has been suggesting I go backpacking for months. So I did it and it was amazing. I saw moose and a bald eagle and listened to birds and saw the sunset and sunrise from my sleeping bag every night. And I felt creative again. I wrote down ideas for new pieces in lazy moments while watching the streams burble by. Time off was what I needed.
I curate my social media feeds to promote tapestry because that is what I love, but the images of me whining and throwing my water bottle do not appear on Instagram. Maybe they should. Maybe if we were all a little more honest, we'd feel more like we were in this thing called life together.
* That should be my new band name, right? Traveling for Tapestry.