Be Kind: We're All Living in the Gap
She asked for a pencil and paper. We were at my husband's office visiting, and she developed an urgent need for writing implements. We handed them over, and Aaron and I continued our conversation. Then we both noticed that she had one of his books open, and it looked like she might be writing in it! She wasn't. She was copying down the Arabic alphabet from a graph in the book. Her initiative, her drive, her curiosity, her thirst for knowledge and understanding never cease to amaze me. Of course, I took a picture.
Then when I went to post the picture on Instagram/Facebook, I hesitated. There have been so many posts rolling around complaining about moms who do nothing but brag on their kid on their Facebook page. I thought about it again, and hesitated again. Then I posted this on Facebook:
I know I post a lot about how awesome my kid is -- and I know it can get annoying. Too bad. Every kid needs someone who pays attention, who notices what's unique and amazing about them, who champions them. I wish every kid had that. So if you want to post on facebook about how awesome some kid is, some amazing thing they said or did, some spark of genius, or creativity, or compassion you noticed in a young person -- rock on. The world needs more of that too.
It wasn't until that post started generating some positive response that I finally worked up the nerve and posted the picture about my daughter above.
But why did I hesitate in the first place? Why do I place so much stock in the opinion of whiners?
On a logical level, I don't give a crap what everyone else thinks, but there's that little girl, deep down inside me still desperate for acceptance and approval. I grew up with an overwhelming fear of being obnoxious and annoying; it was one of my greatest fears, and it kept me isolated.
I have this idea of who I am, and who I think I should be. I think I should be someone who is not driven by fear, especially fear of the opinions of others. Then I take a look at my behavior and it doesn't always match. I think my choices as a parent should be based on what will best help my daughter to grow into a strong and compassionate woman of integrity, and then I see myself making parenting choices based on what I think will negatively or positively impact my popularity. It takes me right back to Freshman locker banks at my high school -- an anxiety ridden place, indeed.
This entire scenario reminded me of a quote from Ira Glass:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.
But there is this gap.
For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile.
You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
This quote was life-changing for me.
While Glass was being specific about creativity, I think his point carries over to many other aspects of our lives.
We have this vision of the world, we have this vision of what it means to be a good parent, a good person. We see how our own attitudes and behaviors play into that vision. We know we want to "be the change."
You don't just wake up one morning and decide to be different, better, and that's it, done. It takes practice. Years of practice.
But life happens in the meantime. We are all living in the meantime -- in the gap.
We don't get practice time, and then go out and live our lives after we've perfected ourselves. We go out and try things, see if they work, we fall down, we get up, we embarrass ourselves, we don't die of embarrassment -- but we don't get to practice life without an audience. And that audience usually has an opinion. It doesn't matter.
Life is not about perfection. It's about doing the best we can, and when we miss the mark, learning from it, course correcting, and moving on.
We need to remember to be gentle with ourselves, to remember that we're living in the gap. To just keep trying.
And when someone else offends us, well, maybe they're living in the gap, too.
All this from a little girl who just wanted to practice writing new letters. I'm so proud of her, and I want the whole world to know it.
Judy Schwartz Haley is raising a 4yo while surviving cancer, finishing a degree, & fending off ninjas. She needs more coffee. Read along as she tries to juggle it all at CoffeeJitters.Net.