I didn’t know what it would cost me to carry you. How much of my own life I’d have to ignore so I could take care of yours. So I could make it all work. I’d have to be fabulous. But I had learned that early, and well. Now that you’re gone, though, I’m tired. It might be time to rethink the habit of being so good.
I can’t say when it first started, the push to be fabulous. Maybe part of it is gender – a baby girl born in the Deep South toddles toward duty before she knows her own name. Or maybe it just slipped in, a little at a time. There are so many good reasons to respond to the world, to the yawning need, to the gap between the things that work, and the ache of all that doesn’t.
What’s the line between competent and fabulous, anyway? I can do so many things. I’m not brilliant, but I can look at a problem, and see what needs to happen – the possibilities – where all the loose edges could match up.
And there’s something I like about being great. It’s such a thrill – the glory of being the one who can do it, and who will. The problem is, it’s an edgy thing – a two sided sword that cuts both ways. There’s the first warm glow, the thrill of accomplishment, the excitement.
But the buzz can’t be sustained. Excitement, they say in Tibetan medicine, is an unfavorable climate – so close to violence, so far away from the center where the balance lies.
I knew a man once, a contractor, who said he liked working on tall ladders because it kept him honest. He had to be real with himself about what his limits were, what the point of balance was – how far he could stretch and still be safe. What the thin line was between his body, anchored in itself, and the spare, empty air beyond what he could really do.
Maybe fabulous is, at a certain point, the thin, empty air beyond balance – sometimes where you need to go, but really a place where you can’t stay for very long.
This morning, I walked out across city traffic and into an urban version of woods. I was desperate for some place where duty couldn’t grab me by the neck. Still, even in that quiet place, my mental list of chores chattered away.
Turning a corner then, I heard rustling in the brush, spotted the white fluffy tails of deer. They were so absolutely still, so perfectly blended into the mesh of tiny trees I didn’t see them at first. I stopped. Stared and stared, then looked away. I let my eyes forget. I wanted the deer to stay hidden. To have some place where they could just belong to themselves.
Maybe the remedy for being fabulous is belonging to myself. Like the deer who just fill up their quiet lives, who move lightly in the soft warm everydayness of themselves, I could belong to the wild, unclaimed territory of being just what I am.
It’s so easy to forget that just living is enough.
What is it that really heals the world, anyway? This morning, in the midst of feeling pressed down, used up, impossibly necessary, the deer doing just what is in them to do, remind me.
What will my next year be? My year of belonging to myself? My year of not responding? Maybe I will learn, one refusal at a time, one gentle turning away after another, how to nest in the untidy mess of a life, my irregular rounded pearl of a life. And that will be enough. More than enough. Everything.