I used to call myself Bea Real. I thought it was funny. Funny, and a good reminder to be honest, to be real, not to forget myself, not to be someone else, not to follow. That phrase has lost a lot of meaning over the last decade. It seems that many phrases have been picked up by advertising giants and turned into cliché—a cliché which makes us forget the original meaning. Be real.
I just finished reading a book called Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer. It was one of those books that came to me as if in a dream. Good book karma, I suppose. The topic of the book is something that I’ve been struggling with in my life, in my marriage, in my new family. The book is about balance. The book is about being good versus being real. I have always struggled to be good. It is not what comes naturally for me, not what comes first. Usually, I think about an answer and try to choose what is good. It amazes me how often I choose what is morally ambivalent. I err on the side of morally neutral, but I want (or have always wanted until now) to be good. Ha!
Thanks to my new book-writing friend, Claire, I am convinced that I no longer need to work so hard (and fail most of the time) to be good…that I need to shift my perspective toward better balance and be more real (i.e., relaxing, enjoying, not reading so much, maybe doing more, just being myself that is not trying to be anything at all.)
I am not sure where this pressure to be perfect came from. I resisted all of the typical teenage desire for perfectionism—I was the bully, the leader, the loner. I didn’t look to others for approval—they looked to me. I set the standards; I was the bar. So why now do I gawk at other mothers on the street trying to ogle their babies, trying to gage how I’m doing. That baby isn’t nearly as cute as mine. Oh look, that mom has huge black circles under her eyes, I look better than that, don’t I? Is that mom radiant? She is! How does she do it? Oh, we need that nice, expensive stroller with the SPF visor, don’t we baby? Where the fuck did this come from? The litany of thoughts that flow through my mind on a daily basis is pure torture, mundane, banal torture.
I care too much about sleep training, and breastfeeding, and which diapers are the best, and how to make my husband participate more in family life, and is it organic? Is it local? Is it cheap, we are on a budget, you know? Life has become didactic and competitive and I am becoming a lemming, a follower, a fan. A fan of all this prefect-mom bullshit. Moms have to be perfect now, didn’t you hear? Recently I have been telling my friends and sister-in-law that I am tired of all this. I don’t want to do it anymore.
Then I found this book (or this book found me, woooo watch out karma.) I don’t want to be perfect. It’s too hard and not real enough. I have always been happy with my mistakes. I’ve always thought that my mistakes and hard-living make me who I am—and generally, I like who I am. How does having a child change this, change me? What am I so scared of? Book quote time:
There. I had said it. The world hadn’t ended. Nor had my marriage. Maybe each trial
didn’t make another chink in the armor of marriage, bringing it to its inevitable end
point: divorce. Maybe each trial made a marriage.
Keep the noun marriage or substitute family, adulthood, life, motherhood, etc. Now, that I have everything that I want (that I’ve wanted for years) I’m so afraid that if I don’t do everything perfectly that I will lose it all—that the god(esse)s will think that I don’t deserve to have it all and they will smote me. If I fuck up at all, my baby will be gone, my marriage will end, my life will come crashing down and rinse away in the Olentangy. That’s what I am afraid of. Sounds realistic, doesn’t it? No? Right.
I am tired of feeling this way. So, no more. Thank you book karma. Thank you Claire for being so smart and living through this crap too and writing about it so I could be reminded of myself. I am a leader although no longer a loner, I co-lead a tribe now, one specific tribe. My people. And we struggle in this together. Me and DD and Babyface (and the cat) are a tribe. We will fuck up. We will not be perfect. We will not die. We will be happy and have fun and love each other and live. Perfectionism is dull and not real. Fuck being good.
I feel better. Keep it real.