I strive for perfection. I want to do the work and arrive at the finished product. I understand everything. I say the right thing every time. I hold space when it’s time to hold space. I press in and ask hard questions when it’s time for that. I read the room and never get it wrong.
That is my dream world.
In my dream world, there is no pain or shame. I am walking on air, making everyone’s day better, finishing the sentences they didn’t know they wanted to say. Everyone loves and adores me. I make the world a better place.
As my heart yearns for that dream world, I find I can unfairly view others as finished products, especially the “experts” on any given topic. The thinking goes that if they have learned enough to master a certain aspect of life, there is hope for me.
I recently heard Brene Brown on a podcast where she shared how she shows up in her marriage when she’s scared. It wasn’t some utopian idyllic way; it was controlling and harsh. The person she was interviewing was in disbelief.
I must admit, so was I, a little.
I was equal parts frustrated and relieved to be reminded that even someone who studies shame and vulnerability, who can talk intellectually about the best practices of showing up authentically, still faces her own demons. She still struggles with showing up as an imperfect human being.
And THAT is reality.
My dream world isn’t messy. It’s pristine and safe. There is no risk. No sadness. No “bad”.
While a very strong part of me wants to believe that would be amazing and longs for that option, I also know if that were the case, I wouldn’t even realize it.
Stephen Sondheim captured this idea perfectly in the musical Into the Woods:
Oh, if life were made of moments
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments
Then you'd never know you had one.
I will never be a finished product. Knowing that doesn’t mean I will never long for my dream world. I have to remind myself over and over that growing is good. When things stop growing, they die.
I am in process. In progress. Messy and mangled, striving and thriving.