On being human

So you’ve realized you’re human this week and it kind of stinks.

I get it. I’m human too.

We all are.

Woman leaning against railing watching a sunset over water.
I don’t know why watching sunsets make you contemplative about the world, but they do. (Photo by Heshan Perera on Unsplash)

We blast into the world with all that we are. And we screw up. We are disappointed and we disappoint. We unintentionally hurt someone. We say the wrong thing. We can’t get to our goals. We discover yet again that our journey toward self-discovery and self-improvement has hit some sort of obstacle.

We’re not perfect.

That last one has always been difficult for me. Whatever the right mix of anxiety and achiever lands you on perfectionism, I’ve got it. And while it can sometimes make my work better than it ever needed to be, usually it just serves as a reminder that it’s impossible to achieve the perfection I so innately crave. That I can’t get there. That I’m a human.

It’s served at times to make me into a procrastinator. I don’t have the right idea or the best approach, so I can’t get started. At other times it’s held me back from trying new hobbies and activities. When I do try a new thing, if I’m not good at it right away, my first instinct is to quickly give up and go back to what I know I’m already good at. (This philosophy has applied largely to sports of all stripes as I am a bad athlete to my very core. Oddly enough, this never applied to my writing even though I spent many years being one of the worst writers in the entire world.)

As I get older, I realize this trait in myself, and I work to mitigate it. I don’t have to be the best and I don’t have to achieve mythical levels of perfection.

This mindset allowed me to finally start running. I am a thoroughly mediocre runner, and I’m okay with it. I do try to go a little faster or a little longer, but I’m able to measure me against me. And the realization I’ll never run a record breaking marathon (if, in fact, I ever even attempt to run a marathon) is fine with me. I don’t run to be the best at it. I do it to take my mind off things, to pound out my frustrations and fears and joys into the pavement. To focus on a good audiobook at the path in front of me.

Sometimes, though, I can only get so far.

The last year and a half has been tough. The last six months, since my second daughter was born, have been tough in a different way. The past couple months since I’ve returned to work? Another difficult transition. And while I have triumphs and successes along the way, sometimes it feels like the full weight of all the toughness have compounded on each other. It’s pretty humbling to look at yourself and realize you don’t measure up to the standards you’d like to set for yourself.

I haven’t been quite getting there. I never really do, but I’m more aware of it lately. I’ll never be the Platonic ideal of a mother, although I do okay. I am far from the perfect spouse. I can be a decent daughter, a middling friend, a worker who keeps trying to find the solution.

But I can’t meet perfection. Not the kind I want. Not even the kind I’m sometimes willing to settle for.

So what’s the next step?

Breathe a little. Find something to appreciate. Maybe the feel of a dog curled up next to me in bed. Sitting exhausted in a rocker for another late night feeding, I can hear the patter of rain outside. Huffing and puffing my way down the sidewalk, I can watch the flowers blooming. Revel in a spontaneous “I love you” from the three year old. Appreciate a really well-written passage in a book I’m reading.

The little moments are there to fall back on. And while I’m far from perfect, sometimes the moments can feel a little like perfection.

Breathe a little. Find something to appreciate.

A beer? A cookie. I can compliment you.

So you’re human. You showed up late, you didn’t get enough sleep, you forgot to do an important task, you were a little short with your kids.

You and everyone else. All of us are making small screw ups and small corrections. Finding personal failings and potential successes. Looking at moments to rejoice and those to mourn. All of us are collectively grasping at our own forms of perfectionism and then, far more often than we want, falling short.

But we’re all doing it.

Together. Separately. Alone. Connected.

You’re only human.

Me too.

And I think you’re doing great.

5 thoughts on “On being human

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