You don’t have to be awesome.
You aren’t being asked for that.
You don’t have to be flawless.
You don’t have to hide your imperfections.
You don’t have to do a better job than anyone else.
You don’t have to solve every problem.
You don’t have to win all the time.
You don’t have to get 100% on your next test.
You don’t have to be beautiful.
You don’t have to be productive all the time.
You just have to try. And try again.
And then rest sometimes.
And let others help you.
And leave the rest up to God.
He-lloo? What do you mean “I don’t have to…”? Are you telling me that I have just spent my whole life being wrong? I mean, just like that: 50+++++ years in the wrong? He…llooooo? I mean just take number three, for example: ‘You don’t have to be flawless’. Oh yeah? So … what? It was ok to be chubby, it was ok to have small tits when tits counted and then grow big ones when I didn’t need them anymore? You want me to believe that? What about not having eyelashes because they were so light no one could see them until I was past sixteen and could wear mascara? What about getting pregnant when I didn’t want to and then not getting pregnant when I did? Let’s just say that not having any waistline until I was past 18 was perfectly all right even though it meant that I was not very popular around the boys. Let’s just say that losing my virginity before I was married and NOT with the man I was to marry was ok even if it made me feel like a slut. With me it was not a matter of trying to be “flawless” but of figuring out how I could stop being one big FLAW.
‘You don’t have to solve every problem’… duh, of course not, but what about the ones in my life, the ones I feel I am causing? What about the problem of being unhappy, just that? Do I have to solve that one? And just how would I go about that? And that thing about not having to win all the time, ok, fine, but what about 50% of the time, or even 20%, or maybe 10%… well, once in a while, do I have to win once in a while?
You know, that is the trouble with all these pat little “niceties” people come up with and publish on internet: they are so untrue; they are so inapplicable in daily life. And then again, they might work for you when you are 102, but how about when you are 13 (oh God, yuks). I know I don’t have to be awesome, but could I be likeable? Actually I would rather be awesome, wouldn’t you? I’ve met some pretty awesome people in my life, at least I thought they were. For instance, my father was awesome, until I turned 19 and began to see his shadow side; my mother was physically awesome, as far as I was concerned almost right up to the moment she died. When I was 42, she was 69 and my psychoanalyst asked me who was the more beautiful in that moment. I didn’t hesitate: my mother, I said. Youth had nothing to do with it: she was beautiful, period. Later on there were writers that absolutely awed me: they were awesome, and I could never be that. Virginia Woolf was awesome, just take The Waves for example: absolutely awesome. Strangely enough, she apparently didn’t think so because if she had she wouldn’t have put stones in her pockets and walked into the Thames. So, so much for awesome.
What about imperfections? If I don’t have to hide them, why does make up have such a big market? What about girdles? No one wears them now-a-days, but when I was young you were supposed to hide your imperfect behind and imperfectly round tummy behind a tight girdle. Today you make sure you don’t have those imperfections starving yourself to death. Stockings hide legs that are pale and simply won’t tan no matter how much time you spend in the sun. Loose blouses hide the roll around your middle and pants, the fact that you have knobby knees. Tweezers are the best solution for chin and lip hair unless you decide to do the wax and take out the good stuff with that that is definitely imperfect. And that is just in the physical arena. When I was in school, believe me my parents often thought that my grades were imperfect and there were many times I really would have liked to hide them. And motherhood seemed to bring out the abundance of imperfections in my character which I definitely tried to hide, especially from my children… not very successfully I might add.
But I guess what gets to me the most is that part about not having to be productive all the time. That I never would have thought. Being productive and having a meaningful life seemed to me the perfect algebraic equation like 110x=y, which translated as 110 percent of the time (x) equaled x, a meaningful life. If not, why did I feel I had to take ten books and three notebooks on every vacation, work nonstop from the time I got up until the time I went to bed, be busy, needed and helpful in all areas of my life. Forget time to take a nap, time to go to the movies, time to relax in the Jacuzzi… that was time wasted. Nothing could make me feel as guilty as sitting around not doing anything or reading a book just for the fun of it (in other words, not because I had to write a paper on it, or do a review) or lolling about in the pool on a Sunday. Time was not to be wasted, and to not produce anything was to waste time. Ok, so then it says to “try and try again”, but that is not lying around doing nothing. I guess that is what I spent most of my time doing anyway: trying. And trying when you are not succeeding is a surefire recipe for frustration and depression so that resting –which is the next thing the list recommends- is not possible given all the stress those two emotions cause.
You don’t have to do a better job than anyone else, well no, not unless you want credit for it, not unless you want to be recognized, not unless you want the honorable mention, not unless you want to be hired for the job… I mean, let’s be sensible: of course, you don’t have to, but it is better if you do, no?
Finally, one arrives at ‘letting someone help you’ and that perhaps was the biggest no-no of my whole life. If someone helped me it didn’t count; if someone else gave me the answer to a problem I was trying to solve, it didn’t count; if I did research and came up with an answer someone else, somewhere else had also come up with –even if I arrived at it on my own- I was discovering the Mediterranean: it didn’t count; if I took an anecdote my father had told me and gave it life in a story it didn’t count: according to him it was plagiary. So I not only never let anyone else help me, I never learned to ask for help and now this silly little list tells me that that is what I should have done all along.
Well you just listen to me now, Ms. Heather what-ever-you’re-called. Maybe you should try my life for a while before you start making lists telling people what they do or don’t have to do. Maybe you should give some examples so that we really know what you are referring to or how you did it in your life and how successful you were. Because all that stuff you propose so off the cuff I had to spend 60 years of my life learning by doing the opposite, before I began to understand. That’s why, just in case you were wondering I called my Blog: Everything Begins at 60, because for me it did!
(If anyone read this as an angry tirade, please return to the beginning and read with tongue-in-cheek.)