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day 27: you do not have to be good.

February 28, 2011

So there I sat at my kitchen table on Day 27, sleep-deprived and grumpy at my children’s untimely Sunday morning wake-up call, guzzling coffee and feeding my weary brain the digital equivalent of a Pop-Tart:  Facebook.

Nestled among the Nordstrom Rack advertisements and friends’ photos of fat smiling babies was this status update:

(I am) staring rather despondently at piles of unfinished business–sewing projects, photo albums, papers to be filed, charitable donations that haven’t made it out of the house, unwritten thank you notes. If the road to hell truly is paved with good intentions, I’m totally screwed.

My first reaction to my friend’s witty self-deprecation was to laugh out loud (although I promise never, ever to type the letters “LOL”). After all, who hasn’t gasped for air while drowning under a pile of expectations, promises, and good intentions?  My children are four and two, and I think I’ve only completed up to “First word?” in their baby books.

My second reaction was to cheer her authenticity.  As I continue to enjoy Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection (yes, I am reading it at an imperfectly slow pace), I find myself applying her research on authenticity and perfectionism daily.  She writes, “Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”

In sharing her “unfinished business” with the world, my friend so courageously shared her vulnerability.

Her post reminded me of Jen Klein’s CNN article from last April.  In it she talks about the tendency of mothers to judge one another and defines the “Mommy mafia,” “enforcers of local social structures and norms and judgers of all who dare to do things differently.”  She urges mothers to accept — moreover, support — each other’s differences and imperfections.

I am not sure if my friend was feeling weighted by the unspoken judgment of other mothers or not.  For me, the harshest critic of my parenting choices, my unfinished business, and my messy kitchen lives and breathes in my own mind.  I may occasionally feel judged by others, but I more often face my ugliest attacker in the mirror.

My third reaction to my friend’s status update was, “Really?  Her?”  Don’t get me wrong, I understood the irreverence in her post.  I know she doesn’t believe she is going to hell for not having written her thank you notes.  But please understand:  that status update was written by a a whip-smart attorney and mother of three children under five.  At her magical Vermont wedding reception several years ago, she sang, beautifully and assuredly, the Irish blessing as a gift to her guests.  This woman handmade an intricate baby quilt for my eldest son when he was born.

Reading about my talented friend’s unfinished business, I realized, made me feel a little better about my own.  I am grateful for the laugh her status update gave me, but I am more grateful for that connection.

I love poetry.  I especially love Mary Oliver, and Wild Geese may be my favorite of her poems.  I offer it below as a gift to my funny, vulnerable, accomplished friend, with sincere gratitude for her authenticity.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

© Mary Oliver. Online Source

Isn’t that just grand?

I hope today is good.  Thank you for showing up with me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dawn permalink
    February 28, 2011 9:13 pm

    Even though I’ve only posted one comment, I want you to know that I’m reading your blog every day….and every day I get something from your words. I enjoy the humor and the “deeper” things that you share. You genuinely care about what you’re doing and it comes through in your posts.

    Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us. And, specifically, thank you for sharing the Mary Oliver poem today.


  1. day 49: mommy wars « a gift a day

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