Know-it-all-ness + perfectionism = the death of curiosity

Developing good listening skills is a top priority for me in 2019. I know some folks who will be REAL thrilled about that.

I’m kind of a shit listener.

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Trust me, this is as shocking a revelation to me as it is to you. I thrive on interpersonal connection. When someone is telling me about the stuff that drives them, shapes them, makes them them, then I excel at listening.

It’s the other 85% of the time that I’m falling way short of the mark.

But being a good listener is a trait I really prize in other people. Good listeners are the folks I usually consider wise and insightful. Other people gravitate to them. Because you know what people want more than almost anything else? To be heard.

So, with these thoughts in mind, I started sorting through my listening problem. Being an abysmal listener isn’t a space I’m willing to dwell in–now that I’m aware of it. Nope. Onward and upward.

Here’s what I found:

  1. My not-so-good listening is connected to my know-it-all-ness. True, in daily life, I’ve tamped down my need to act like I know everything. Because that’s all kinds of of annoying. But there’s still this underlying thing: when confronted with information I know nothing about, I simply gloss over it in my mind. It’s a mental version of yeah-yeah-yeahing. I just assume I kind of know what’s going on and can make educated guesses about the rest of it. And I do this with topics I know nothing about.  You can imagine how effective that might be. giphy-4
  2. This mental yeah-yeah-yeahing relates directly to my lack of curiosity. I’ve realized recently that I don’t ask enough questions. I don’t ask why or how enough. And this is precisely why I suck at small talk. I just assume I’m not interested in “surface topics.” Which is some bullshit that means I don’t want to mentally engage about things that may not be in my wheelhouse. I don’t want to dig deeper–and leave my comfort zone. But lately I’ve been watching Simon communicate with people–and I’ve realized he really excels at this. He asks questions about things that are obviously important to the person he’s talking to. And then he gets these really interesting answers. Because he’s curious. I need more of that in my world. giphy-5
  3. Ultimately, I think all this–the know-it-all-ness and the lack of curiosity–finds its root in the perfectionism that’s dogged me since I was a kid. I know some folks roll their eyes at the idea of perfectionism. I mean, who doesn’t want to be perfect, right? But I was the kind of kid who wouldn’t do something if I didn’t know I could do it right the first time. Anything less than a A on a test made me want to give up (see: high school Trigonometry and Chemistry). I’ve worked hard to shake this nonsense. Because–hello–I believe life is a continuous learning cycle. But I also wrote a novel that I thought I got perfect on the first try. And I was kind of crushed when someone told me it, in fact, needed work. Even though I should’ve known this right away because a) I am a writer. I revise things all the time and b) I taught college writing for 5 years. Which means all I did for 5 years was read student revisions, while constantly reiterating the benefits of revision to said students. But suddenly, I wrote a book and I forgot all that. I needed the project to be perfect to be worthwhile. Which meant I didn’t want to listen. To anything.giphy-6

Good listening is top on my list of priorities in 2019. At 43, I’d be a fool not to admit how little I know. The universal well of knowledge is so vast that the mere thought of how much I don’t know can completely paralyze me. But the easiest way I’ve found to let knowledge flow into my world is simply acknowledging that everyone I meet is my teacher. Which means I have to be humble enough to admit that I don’t know everything, and then open myself to the knowledge people are willing to impart if I’m just curious enough to receive it.

I write because I believe that stories matter. That they can change the world. I think it’s time to really open myself to the stories around me–even the ones that present themselves in the most ordinary of ways.

Thanksgiving Convo Fail

Let’s just say that, after our Thanksgiving convo mishap this morning, I am VERY thankful that successful parenting doesn’t hinge on ONE conversation. Especially if it takes place in carline before I’ve had enough coffee.

Jane & I talk a lot. I mean that in the sense that we’re both superbly loquacious AND that we have lots of pretty cool conversations.

This morning, on the way to school, we were chatting about Dress for Success Day. She’s dressed as a teacher, although her first choice was scientist. Her Bobby & I failed her on that one–her lab coat and goggles are still languishing somewhere in storage. (We’re like 85% moved in, but both Simon & I are avoiding the storage unit like the plague. I’ve suggested just burning it to the ground instead of trying to weed through all that random/extraneous stuff, but Simon seemed to think that was a little extreme. Whatevs.) So, Jane opted to be a teacher, complete with a bun, glasses, an apple, and a name tag. Super cute.

Mornings are Jane’s best time of day. She’s optimistic, energetic, loving, and kind. Definitely a morning person (x 1billion). She had just finished listing things she was excited about (they are numerous), when I decided to jump in with, “Let’s chat about Thanksgiving for a sec.”

Now, by the time she’d paused for a breath and I got around to this topic, we’d just pulled into the morning carline. I rushed on, “You know, that stuff about the pilgrims and the Native Americans… it’s not really true. They weren’t friends.”

Puzzled silence. 

At this point, I’m not sure if she doesn’t remember this conversation from last year. Or if she doesn’t want a lecture about human rights first thing in the morning. Or if she just wonders why they lie about pilgrims at school. But something is amiss. Because she’s just kind of looking at me (I’ve turned my head around to have this conversation, because carline in a weird time warp in which time actually stands still).

Instead of realizing this is not the right time, or that I’m running up against disinterest, or any of the other things I could’ve realized, I pressed on. (It was early, y’all. I’d only had one cup of coffee)

“White settlers weren’t friends of the Native Americans. They wanted to take their land and send them away, not live in peace with them.”

Then… Wait for it….

“It would’ve been better if instead of helping the settlers, the Native Americans had just let them die.”

What the FUCK?!? Who says that???? Me, apparently. Me, first thing in the morning in carline.

Good Lord.

But, problems with my hasty/half-ass narrative aside, her response was perfect. She looked at me, sighed, and said, “Mommy, I’m going to get out of the car now, okay?”

How she kept from rolling her eyes all the way back into her head at me, I’ll never know. But she did. And, fortunately for me, talks about social. issues, race, and representation are ongoing in our house. And usually my timing isn’t completely sucktastic. So, I’ll get another stab at this in which I don’t suggest letting anyone die.

I’d always wondered, though, if I’d know if she was completely uninterested in what I was sharing with her. Turns out, yes. She knows how to be crystal clear.

Good on her.

 

Here’s a New York Times piece on the myth vs. reality of Thanksgiving. I’ll probably read this & a few other resources before embarking on this conversation again. And I’ll have another cup of coffee. Couldn’t hurt. Might help.

Coming Soon…

Something new is about to happen at Rocket Fuel, y’all.

Wait, what’s Rocket Fuel?!?

It’s the place where I write about parenting and recovery and running and coffee. I cuss a lot. I ponder the big questions in life. I talk about my marriage. My spirituality. How my adulthood is shaping up–for better or worse.

Something new is about to happen at Rocket Fuel, y’all.

Wait, what’s Rocket Fuel?!?

It’s the place where I write about parenting and recovery and running and coffee. I cuss a lot. I ponder the big questions in life. I talk about my marriage. My spirituality. How my adulthood is shaping up–for better or worse.

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Good question!

The blog is called Rocket Fuel because it was launched in conjunction with Rocket Designs, where Simon designed & sold recovery shirts. (We picked “rocket fuel” because it wa kind of a play on my obsessive love for coffee.) The original idea for Rocket Designs was to scale the business, expand its reach, and become legends in the recovery world (or something kind of like that).

My first blog posts on Rocket Fuel were, in fact, centered around recovery. And it‘s true that I still write about recovery a lot. In fact, recovery underlies everything I write about, because without it, I would have none of the other amazing things I write about: my kid, my marriage, my health, my spirituality, my life. BUT I realized, after a while, that I didn’t want to overtly tie all my posts back to recovery.

And, while the Rocket Design shirts are still for sale on Redbubble, we never put the networking, marketing, and dedication into expanding the idea the way we originally thought we would.

But, while I still love coffee, Rocket Fuel seems kind of like a non-sequitur without being tied to Rocket Designs, no?

(If you want to check out Simon’s shirt designs, you can find them here: https://www.redbubble.com/…/collectio…/174232-rocket-designs)

Book Nerd (to the 43rd power)

The pieces of me–my love for writing and running, my need to sing off key at every song on the radio, my penchant for remembering lines to movies and bits of songs I haven’t heard in years–make me who I am. I honor myself by making time to do things I love, so that my daughter sees the woman who shapes her world as a whole person.

I grew up in a household where motherhood meant absolute sacrifice. My mom gave her all, every day, to care for me and my sister. As much as I scrounge around in the bits and fragments of childhood memories, I don’t remember my mom ever doing something just for herself. Not once.

I wish my mom had known that the whole maternal sacrifice thing… well, it’s kind of bullshit.*

I give my daughter access to all that I am. But the pieces of me–my love for writing and running, my need to sing off key at every song on the radio, my penchant for remembering lines to movies and bits of songs I haven’t heard in years–make me who I am. I honor myself by making time to do things I love, so that my daughter sees the woman who shapes her world as a whole person. Because I am. A full, glorious, flawed, incredibly enthusiastic person.

The one place where that ability to create space for the things I love hasn’t translated is reading. That’s right. Reading. I love to read. More than I love to do almost anything. Consequently, I feel guilty when I do it. There’s this subconscious voice that kicks in that tells me to stop screwing around, to do something productive. There’s something deep down in my soul that believes I don’t deserve that kind of unadulterated pleasure.

So this year, my 43rd year, I am laying down that reading guilt. I’m going to set it free because it does not serve me. And I am going to fully embrace my love of reading. So much so that I am going to read 43 books this year.

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That’s right. Go big or go home, baby.

I’m already reading 3 different books. At one time. So my very first step is, well, you know, to finish one of those. And, yes, they count even if I started reading them before I turned 43… because I am the decider.

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Here’s where you get to play along. Got a book recommendation? Drop it in the comments. I love to explore new authors, new genres… and I’m willing to try almost anything you think is good.

Here’s to uncovering all my book nerd glory in year 43.

 

 

*And by that, I mean it’s unnecessary to being a good mother. My mom’s sacrifice for us was real. It’s one she feels even now. And while I love and appreciate her, I needed to find another way for myself.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Good Enough

I am a master at self-sabatoge. I’m a hard worker. But I like to work right up to where I want to be, then decide I just can’t do it. That I don’t deserve it. That I can’t handle it. And then, I just …. stop.

I’ve spent a lot of time convincing myself I’m not good enough. Like most folks who excel at alcoholic-type behavior, I am a master at self-sabatoge. I’m a hard worker. But I like to work right up to where I want to be, then decide I just can’t do it. That I don’t deserve it. That I can’t handle it. And then, I just …. stop. No dramatic flame out. Just a quiet deceleration that takes me back from the precipice of success and puts me on the slow track to just-good-enough.

But…

About a year and a half ago, I realized I’m guilty of holding myself back. On so many levels. Emotionally. Spiritually. Professionally. And I realized that this is my next hurdle: to embrace real, substantive growth on all levels. To allow myself to change and explore new territory, whatever that looks like.

Today, I sat in a meeting with a big, international client. Which I never would’ve allowed myself to do just a few years ago–I would have been so consumed by anxiety that I wouldn’t have been able to hear the conversation around me over the roar of “don’t fuck this up” in my own head. But this morning, I sat there. Cool as a fucking cucumber. I munched on a bagel, offering my opinion when it seemed relevant. Otherwise, I was just  being. Being comfortable in my own skin. Being worthy just because.

If this doesn’t seem revelatory, I’m so glad. I love that not all people struggle with self-worth. I hope my kid never has to. But I had to sit through a few rounds of therapy and lots of AA meetings to get to a point where I got it: that I am okay. That I am MORE than okay. That my brilliance comes just from being–not because of anything I do or don’t do. I am worthy just because I am.

I’ve surrounded myself with people who believe that miracles happen on a daily basis. I’ve jumped whole-heartedly into the belief that we humans habitually limit ourselves–that we are capable of so much more, that the possibilities are so vast and endless that I can’t begin to even imagine them. I’ve begun to trust my own intuition. To listen to my inner guide. To be open to the Universe (God… whatever…) in whatever way it presents itself.

And, more than anything, I’ve embraced my own divine spark. My own self. My own worth. It’s freeing. A little scary sometimes… there’s just so much POTENTIAL here. But the view from here is peaceful and hopeful.

A friend today told me that I sparkle. And it’s possible that she’s been a bit mesmerized by my shimmery eyeshadow & lipgloss… But the current around me feels electric with joy & possibility. I am deeply content. Not because everything in my life is perfect. It isn’t. I still fuck up. I still fall into old habits. I still have ultra-petty moments. But none of these things define me anymore. They never did. But now I know it. And that kind of knowledge ripples out to the folks around us.

That’s the kind of energy I want to put out to the world. The kind that sparkles. (The shimmery eyeshadow doesn’t hurt, though)

I Wish I’d Known…

I wish I’d known, from the time I was a little girl, that my worth was not defined by my relationship to boys–not whether I liked a boy, was desired by a boy, or whether or not a boy had ever stuck his dick in me.

I wish I’d known, from the time I was a little girl, that my worth was not defined by my relationship to boys–not whether I liked a boy, was desired by a boy, or whether or not a boy had ever stuck his dick in me.

I wish I’d known that boys would be taught to view me as an object–by society and sometimes by their own parents–and I’d have to fight that objectification tooth and nail forever.

I wish I’d known that the whole virgin/whore dichotomy is a bullshit racket designed to rain shame and guilt down on any girl who wants to control her own sexuality.

I wish I’d known that I had a right to say no. Always. No matter how I was dressed. Or how far I’d let him go. Or whether or not he’d bought me dinner.

I wish I’d known that I could own my own desirability. That I didn’t have to rely on boys to tell me whether or not I was attractive, and thereby worthy.

I wish I’d known I could tell the sixth grade boy that told me I was ugly to FUCK OFF. I wish I’d known I didn’t have to believe him.

I wish I’d known that no matter how much alcohol I consumed, no one had the right to fuck me without my consent. Even if I slept around a lot. I wish I’d known that I had inherent value simply because I exist.

I wish I’d known that boys were not superior to me in any way. They were not ever better leaders, stronger, or more resilient–unless I let them be.

I wish I’d known that I could do something other that giggle when boys hurled sexual innuendo at me.

I wish I’d know it was okay to be a girl, to set my own limits, to chart my own course. I wish I’d known that I could say NO loudly–to many, many things.

But I didn’t.

So, now I gather all the knowledge that I wish I’d had, and I pass it to my daughter. Because she deserves better than I got.

Kids Will Totally Eat Your Plans for Breakfast

Kids excel at two things:

  1. Making sure their parents can never, ever again have sex without subconsciously (or, too often, VERY consciously) listening for the sound of little feet approaching the bedroom door, and
  2. Waylaying even the best laid plans.

Fortunately for you, this post is about the waylayification of expertly laid plans.

I work from home as a writer/writing consultant. Which means that I plan my own schedule. Folks hear that & they’re all: “COOL! That must be so great! You can do whatever you want.”

Yeah. No.

I write for other people. I write this blog. I send in submissions for publication. I’ve got a manuscript that I’m (supposed to be) editing. I manage clients. Attend meetings. And do the everyday shit that makes life run.

Same as everyone else.

Except that I suck at time management. I mean, I never miss a deadline. For real. BUT, I have no idea how long the average task will take me. Not a clue. And, if something happens in the middle of the day–like a client meeting or an doctor appointment–it can throw my day into a spiral of UNproductivity. Simply put: I never learned to maximize my time to achieve my goals.

And, y’all, it’s holding me back.

So, after two days of Simon listening to me kvetch about not getting done what I need to do because THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME. THERE’S NEVER ENOUGH TIME, he gently suggested that we watch this video:

When I say “gently suggested” I mean he sat me on the couch with a cup off coffee, put the computer in front of  me, and pressed play. He watched too, you know, so he could drive home the finer points. The man loves an organizational system more than most. More than anyone, really.

Amy Landino charmed me with her wittiness and her warmth. And her togetherness. I mean, I was watching in boxer briefs, a taco cat t-shirt, with my hair looking like a wild tumbleweed on my head. I was vulnerable. And halfway through, she had me. I was all: Shit’s gotta change.

And so, I did this:

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I KNOW, right? I’m obviously winning at scheduling.

Per my new bestie Amy Landino’s suggestion, every minute from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. got scheduled. Even though you can’t see a lot of it, there’s totally self-care stuff scheduled. But that’s not really my problem. My problem is working the things that make me ME (like running, reading, walking the dog, writing) into my day in ways that make me feel productive. Instead of like I’m floundering around aimlessly. Because that sucks all the joy out of having freedom in my schedule in the first place.

Because I wanted to be valedictorian of this newly scheduled life, I popped out of bed this morning at 5:30 (there’s that “me time!”), had coffee, centered myself. Then I heard it… the sniffles. From Jane’s room. I went in to find a variation of this:

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Isn’t it just the saddest? 

Jane never asks to stay home from school. Like, ever. In fact, any suggestion that she stay home is usually met with weeping & gnashing of teeth. Except for today, the day of my perfectly laid plans. When I asked if she should stay home, she nodded, sniffled, and crawled back in bed.

Well, I’ll be damned. The kid is actually sick. And hear me when I say I KNOW how blessed we are that she never gets sick. But it also makes her a HORRIBLE patient. She’s baffled by this cold. She doesn’t know what to do with herself. She just feverishly pouts about being sick. It’s A LOT.

And, remember that lovely, color-coded calendar of all that I was going to accomplish today? Well… I had to improvise. (Most of) the things got done, albeit wildly out of order. I managed to get dressed and put actual pants on (this is apparently something successful people also do). And when I had a moment where I didn’t know what I should be doing with myself–between pitiful moans from the kid and whines from the dog because she didn’t understand why we couldn’t go for a walk LIKE WAS SCHEDULED–I could just glance at the calendar, pick a task I hadn’t finished yet and go from there.

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This is the look of someone who feels accomplished–AND is wearing pants.

On a day that could’ve gotten sucked into the void, I managed to make meaningful use of my time AND be there for the poor, sick bunny. And it felt good. And productive. And like I was actually living toward my best life.

That feels like something, for sure.

 

Higher… higher…

Jane & I went rock climbing a while back. She’s been obsessed since then. When I say obsessed, I mean more conceptually than practically–it took me months to get her back in the rock climbing gym after that first time. But surely not for lack of her asking. And asking. And asking.

Here’s the thing about rock climbing: it’s hard as shit.

I consider myself a pretty active, in-shape kind of person. I could not move my upper body for DAYS after the first time we went rock climbing. Days.

Here’s the OTHER thing about rock climbing: it involves, well, climbing. Up a wall. Far off the ground.

I am afraid of heights. Like, for real afraid.

I freeze. When I was a kid, I used to climb trees. Which was great. Until I wanted to get down. Then… stuck.

I figured rock climbing would be a GREAT way to overcome my fear of heights.

Ahem. I made it about 5 feet off the ground the first time. Jane made it about the same height. Then we bounced down to the ground on our auto-balays. The next climb I made it about 7 feet off the ground. Then I froze. I tried to climb back down, but Jane convinced me to just push myself off the wall and let go.

I did. And I did not die. That felt like a win.

When we went back this time (only our second time climbing), I thought I’d just be able to scamper right up the wall. Or at least up to the highest point I’d reached on my last excursion, no problem.

Nope.

I got 4 feet of the ground. 4 feet. And I was completely paralyzed with fear. My brain started freaking the hell out, saying a bunch of stuff which added up to: you can’t do this.

I said fuck it and did it anyway.

I didn’t climb all the way to the top. And I had to work at it, going just a little higher each time. But Jane & I made a game out of it: “Can you touch that pink rock that looks like a brain this time?” “What about the orange oven mitt up there? Can you just tap that one with your hand?”

It was… fun.

I didn’t make it all the way up to the top. But I did make it about three-quarters up the wall. I climbed until my hands were so sweaty that they slipped off the rocks, and my arms were so tired they literally couldn’t hold my weigh anymore. I fell of the wall 3 times before I gave up.

Know what Jane did? Everything I did.

She never gave up. She never got discouraged. She pushed past her fear. And she far exceed her own expectations.

It was a very, very good day.

 

What Did I Do Over the Memorial Day Weekend? Told My Anxiety to Suck It.

7 years ago, I couldn’t even manage to go out and get COFFEE with my friend who visited this weekend. I mean, it’s true that she’s kind of infinitely cool. I’m totally not. But anxiety is more than being afraid someone won’t like you… it’s a fear of being seen that is so deep, and so horrifying, that running away feels like the only answer, even when what you desire most is connection.

On Friday afternoon, I kept getting texts:

“I’ll be there at 1:00”

“Dead standstill on 75. Looking more like 1:30”

“Alrighty. 6 minutes away according to Waze.”

When she finally peeked her head around the corner in the elementary school cafeteria, the two kids were right in the middle of a dance number. Or was it a song? Maybe it was a mashup. Sometimes its hard to tell in a first grade talent show.

When I saw her, I jumped out of my seat (among all the other amused and (relatively) proud parents), stifled a squeal, and ran over for a hug. Was I a spectacle? Eh. Maybe. Did I care? Nope. After hugs, I drug her back to my place in the crowd to watch Jane sing (and dance. Turns out first graders rarely do one with out the other).

 

 

It was all remarkably normal. For other people. For me, inviting a friend to share my space for a long weekend is remarkable. Because it means being seen–really seen–for days on end.

I spent all of my 20s and the first part of my 30s hiding behind a bunch of bravado and too much Miller Lite. Most of what I did and said was a red herring, anything to distract people from how anxious I became when I had to be honest, vulnerable, real.

Even 7 years into being sober, I struggled to connect one-on-one with people. I was terrified, way deep down where the fear feels cold and makes it hard to breathe, that I had nothing to offer. That if people really saw me, they’d be… what?… bored?… maybe. I don’t really know.

7 years ago, I couldn’t even manage to go out and get COFFEE with my friend who visited this weekend. I mean, it’s true that she’s kind of infinitely cool. I’m totally not. But anxiety is more than being afraid someone won’t like you… it’s a fear of being seen that is so deep, and so horrifying, that running away feels like the only answer, even when what you desire most is connection.

So, how did Captain Anxiouspants end up inviting a friend to stay for a long weekend?

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I did the simplest (and most difficult) thing: I just let life happen.

When circumstances pushed me toward friendship, I stopped talking myself out of coffee dates, hanging out, opening up. When I felt nudged by the universe to befriend someone, I began to honor that as a higher calling (ignoring my anxiety completely). When I was in a one-on-one situation and felt the onset of a panic attack, I owned it, by giving voice to my anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t like to be spoken, I found. The light of day makes it haul-ass. For me, at least.

I began to choose for myself the power anxiety got to have in my life. The answer for me: none. It’s not that it’s never there. It’s just that I address it the same way I address all the other parts of me: my lack of height, my nearsightedness, my flat feet. None of these things stops me from living my life. I just mentally stuck my anxiety in the category of things that sometimes require a workaround.

So far so good.

One Sunday, I texted my dear Florida friend to tell her how much I miss her. She responded by searching her calendar for a long weekend she could come visit us in Atlanta. Excellent! I love a woman of action! But, truly, it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about her being here all weekend. We’ve been friends for several years now. We don’t see each other much, but she’s part of my tribe. So, of course she could share my house–and my life–for three days.

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I didn’t panic until the morning that she was supposed to show up. Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to panic, because there was book fair, and a talent show, and the last day of school (read: I was living my life instead of pandering to my anxiety). But sure enough, by the time we were an hour away from her arrival, I was teetering on losing my shit. Why? Dunno. Anxiety isn’t logical. It’s just destructive. So, yeah, I thought I was totally going to puke. I was fidgety. But, notably lacking was any real desire to run away.

Which is nothing short of miraculous.

She arrived in time to see Jane’s performance. I did not puke. She blended right into our family for three days. And, yeah, I felt seen. Girl kept me up til 1:00 a.m. talking about, well, ALL the things. But I’m okay with being seen. It’s worth it to love & be loved back.

Because I may not ever be all that cool. But I am pretty damn worthwhile.

Just Do You. Brilliantly.

I sort of threw Jane in dance so I’d have an extra day to work past 2:30 pm. She seemed to like it. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if Jane likes an activity or just likes hanging with her friends. I don’t begrudge her that. I like to hang with my friends, too. And if she’s hanging while she’s doing pirouettes or what-the-hell-ever, so much the better.

My kid loves to perform. Singing? Oh, the girl sings. It’s like living in a musical in our house. Acting? She recreates scenes from movies, shows, the play they performed at school—all the time. Playing the piano? She practices without being asked. She’s seven. WHO IS THIS CHILD?!?

Dance, though. Dance is one of those after school activities that I sort of threw her in so I’d have an extra day to work past 2:30 pm. You know, more like a normal person. She seemed to like it. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if Jane likes an activity or just likes hanging with her friends. I don’t begrudge her that. I like to hang with my friends, too. And if she’s hanging while she’s doing pirouettes or what-the-hell-ever, so much the better.

Yesterday, Jane had her big dance recital—in front of the whole school. Let me stop right here. I would have lost my shit if, at 7 years old, anyone had asked me to do anything in front of the entire school. Hell, I’m 42 years old, and the idea of standing up in front of almost 600 elementary aged kids makes me want to puke. But Jane, she was excited. So excited she thought she might EXPLODE, she informed me later.

I love and am fascinated by this child in equal measure.

Jane knew every single move to the tap dance. Of course. She knew every move, but something seemed off. She was doing it right. But she didn’t seem to be feeling it. The little girl next to her was living this dance.

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Jane, not so much. She was doing it right. But it looked like it was taking every bit of her concentration. She was not one with the dance.

My first instinct: “Well, we can cut this out of the rotation next year.” I mean, we can only do so many activities. Dancing isn’t her strongest showing, so I thought… eh, we’ll try something different next year.

On the way to the car, I ran into the owner of the dance company. We chatted about how much Jane enjoyed the class. Then I mentioned that Jane seemed to be struggling to connect the moves, that dancing didn’t seem to come easily to her. The woman’s expression softened: “How wonderful that she embraces something that pushes her out of her comfort zone. She keeps pushing, even though it’s hard for her.”

Oh.

Right here is why other loving, supportive adults are crucial in child-rearing. Because obviously having Jane do something she doesn’t excel at is a great idea. It teaches perseverance and empathy (not everyone can be good at everything, after all). And the experience itself far outweighs the importance of tap dancing like Shirley Temple.

I’d gotten schooled about my own kid. It was humbling.

But this lesson about experience over performance is one I’ve already had to learn. Jane’s experience in dance mirrors my experience in running. I am not a great runner. I will never qualify for Boston. I rarely place in my age group. I might place third in my age group—if only three people my age run the race. I have friends that I’d love to run with. But I can’t. I’m not fast enough. Can’t keep up.

Nevertheless, I love to run.

For a brief moment, I almost let the fact that I’m not very good at running push me out of the sport. I got real caught up in times and placing in races and PRs. And it stopped being fun. Because I was trying to be a runner that I’m not. That sucks.

So why should Jane be a dancer she’s not?

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I tell Jane all the time that exactly who she is is enough. It’s perfect, in fact. Whether she’s the best dancer on the stage matters not a whit. I want her to do what she loves–to do her best, soak up experiences, and just be herself.

I run.

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She dances.

And we’re both brilliant at enjoying the experience.