I’m old enough to remember the 1980s, and remember them with a certain amount of clarity. People forget as they mythologize Ronald Reagan that at the end of his first term his approval ratings hit a low of 35%. The Republicans, though, had a strategy, which they unveiled at the 1984 Republican convention in Dallas: highlight the accomplishments of the president’s first term, the booming economy, and ignore anything unpleasant that preceded the convention. They declared it “Morning in America” heralding a new dawn and selling the greatest of all double-edged truths in life: possibility.
I’ve been thinking about morning a lot lately mostly because I’ve been thinking about mourning a lot. I’ve done too much mourning in the past year, raging over my own weaknesses, regretting chances not taken, regretting friendships and relationships lost, having my eyes opened to family myths and human flaws in those that have long loomed large in my world view. It has been, as the famous Chinese curse says, an interesting time.
I am ready for morning, I think, ready to move forward and take the lessons I have learned over the past year into the rest of my life. Life, after all, can only be lived forward, and to continue to mourn things lost, regret actions that can never be changed, to wonder “what if…” and “if only I’d…” is the equivalent of emotional suicide (the heart dies but the body lives on).
Yet…I have no idea how to embrace the new dawning day.
This past year has been all about revealing fallibility, both my own and that of others, and while I’m comfortable with the idea that other people are fallible I have difficulty accepting my own flaws. Mit Moi wrote recently about imperfection, using math as a metaphor no less (clever woman!), saying “Despite it’s[sic] flawless definition, perfection has some serious defects. One of them is that, by its very definition, it does not allow for improvement, or progress. On the other hand, imperfection can do nothing else but spur folk to improve it.”
OK, I can buy this: if I am imperfect I have room to get better. But how, and by whose standards am I judged imperfect? Perfection implies that there is any one choice or modality of being that is, by its own merits, better than another. The reality is that most choices or ways of being, excluding actively hurting people in pursuit of your own happiness (something definitely not to be desired), simply lead to different outcomes or different lives, no better or no worse than any other choice that could have been made or life that could have been lived. So by what criteria do we judge a choice or a life, or a person, to be less than perfect?
I have a friend who lives life by the “All That And A Bag Of Chips” theory. Basically, it goes something like this: I’m All That And A Bag Of Chips and just because I am doesn’t mean that you (generic) can not also be All That And A Bag Of Chips until such a point as your being All That And A Bag Of Chips attempts to tell me that I am Not All That And A Bag Of Chips at which point you (generic) become Completely Full Of Shit.
In this philosophy of life is it possible for someone else to be CFOS and ATAABOC simultaneously on a sliding, X/Y algebraic scale just the same as it is possible for others to be Not All That And A Bag Of Chips but not be CFOS but it is never possible for you yourself to be NATAABOC while you can sometimes, but not often, be CFOS. Oh here,
have a visual.
Workable? I’m not sure. I think I am entirely too aware of my humanity and my flaws, entirely too scared of making a mistake and having people stop loving me because my imperfections are revealed to be able to make the ATAABOC theory of life work for me.
Except…all of the things that I’ve learned in the past year, lessons about taking risks (sometimes a good idea), about trusting people (probably never a good idea; the jury is still out on that one), about asking for help (often a necessity and not as hard as it seems), about taking responsibility appropriately (hint: not every problem is mine to solve; some problems are mine to look at and say “geez, that’s fracked up and someone should fix it” and then walk away from) have been about dealing with my own humanity and imperfection.
So how, then, do I apply these lessons that I’ve learned? How do I learn to treat myself as I would others? To forgive my own imperfections and mistakes?
One thing I do know is that perfection is not attainable. I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to please everyone all the time and the only thing I’ve gotten from it is anxiety attacks and to have very nearly reached middle age with absolutely no clue as to what I want out of life.
Another thing I know is that I’m tired of the dark, of the shadows, of living my life as if every choice I make is vitally important to my future (pepperoni or sausage is, after all, only dinner).
I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face, to feel the excitement of possibility, of promise. I want to believe that the future holds both good and bad in equal measures, that the rest of my life is not simply a slog toward the inevitable big sleep and doomed to be nothing but sorrow and regret.
In short, I want to stay flexible for as long as I can. I want to be able to admit the idea that there are things unexpected out there, things that do not fit into my world view and to be able to treat those things as I did previously: not as a threat but as something of interest. Or perhaps I’m just deluding myself and I’ve gotten to the place where I am in life because I was hobbled early and learned the wrong lessons. I don’t know.
I want to think that I still have a chance to be the girl that I think I used to be; the one who was unafraid (or at least appropriately cautious and appeared unafraid anyway); the one who was happy with her own company; the one who was strong enough to believe that she was, in fact, just fine the way she was and any one who didn’t like it could go hang.
I just hope the sun comes up soon.