So much of the time, it seems like I get life completely wrong.
There is one thing that I have done a lot in my life that seems completely misguided, and it seems like others might do it, too. I try to project an image of competence and confidence, and even perfection out into the world. Even when (perhaps especially when) I am not feeling any of those things.
Of course none of us is perfect, nor can we be. But still, it feels like I am afraid just to be exposed as a human being.
And yet, when I do reveal weakness, or confess the inevitable mistake, or ask for help, the response that I get is almost always unalloyed human kindness. There is a connection that happens that is powerful indeed.
When others confess their weaknesses and insecurities to me, I feel the same toward them. Connected and compassionate. In fact, it seems that the relationships that I have only begin to feel close when each of us has talked a bit about what scares us. About how we feel uncomfortable. There is a type of joy that can happen in that connection. I'm not talking about the misery of shared victimhood. We can create a lot of suffering if we focus on how the world should be better to us. I am talking instead about a deep acceptance of both the world and our own imperfections.
This human experience is so vulnerable and frail. We are constantly exposed. We can never have everything we want, and even if we have every success we can imagine, nothing will prevent us from eventually losing it all. Everyone dies.
This is our life. And while it can feel incredibly lonely and sad, it can also be filled with happiness. I tried to convince myself I was perfect for a lot of years. I thought I would not have any worth if I could not be the smartest or the hardest working, or get the best grades or job. Instead, I just created a lot of suffering for myself and others. And a lot of loneliness, too.
I still have those tendencies. But I find that each day is an opportunity to open up a little more, and to connect to the parts of myself that I have hidden from. And, remarkably, I and those around me seem to become more happy as I become less perfect.
I am out on vacation with my family next week. Back on August 9.