“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ~ Aldous Huxley.
My brother was the only boy in our family, he was born after three girls. I was told that my purpose in life (I came after him) was to prevent him from being spoiled, which if he had been the only boy and the youngest, apparently, he would have been. If you know my parents (‘we have no favorites, we love all of our children equally’) you would realize that the justification for having a fifth child could only have been their rationalization to others! As one who had four children of my own, I know what it is like having to respond to those helpful questions (‘Pregnant again?’)
Anyway, the first name I knew my brother to have was ‘Boyo’. That was all I ever heard my father call him. In fact for some time I thought he had two names! My mother was a tough cookie, she was not one of those soft, maternal types (she herself said this, it was no secret). So sometimes if we wanted to get around her, we would send my brother to ask, it seemed if she had a soft spot at all, it was for her ‘one boy’. My siblings may dispute this version of things. I was the youngest, my memories are often twisted versions of the truth.
In customer service we are often taught that perception is reality to the consumer. What is, is not as important, as how things appear. There was a story I once read about two men who shared a hospital room for a long period of time. Each day the patient by the window would entertain the patient by the door with a description of the view out of the window, which the door patient could not see. He would describe the weather, the sky, the tree, the bird pitching in the tree, the scenery beyond. Over the weeks as the seasons changed, the views changed accordingly. Each day the man by the door looked forward to hearing the description painted so vividly by his roommate. Both men were very sick, and one day, the patient who had been in the bed by the window died. The remaining patient asked the nurse if he could move into the space by the window, so that he could see the view his friend had religiously described to him every day. “What view?” asked the nurse, “there’s only the building across the alley. And anyway, your roommate was blind!”
I have recently made an effort (once again) to get some physical activity back in my routine, and have been attending different exercise classes at a local gym. It is fun to see women (mostly) of all ages and shapes doing their best to get their blood moving and muscles tightening to the beat, sweating and grimacing in earnest effort.
One morning, after another rainy start to the day, I was happily trying to keep up with the constantly changing Zumba moves when I noticed that the floor around my feet was dirty. Little specks of mud must have accompanied me into the building, and in the area where I had been moving and shaking was the telltale sign of dirty shoes. I felt embarrassed. I couldn’t blame anyone else, and I didn’t see any similar dirt elsewhere. Guiltily I tried to move myself away from the telltale spots, trying to ignore them, glad that there was no ‘floor work’ in this particular class. I got back into the rhythm of the exercise, but was conscious of my breach of protocol nonetheless. At the end of the class I decided I should try to clean it up. The next class was yoga, it would not be pleasant to be laying your mat close to the dirt. With wet paper towel in hand I started to clean up, only to discover that the spots were permanent scuff marks on the wood floor!
We often paint our own reality, and are quick to heap assumptions onto others. We can readily assess the faults and flaws of others, but are less quick to recognize our own shortcomings. One of the signs of willingness to grow and change is being prepared to pick up a mirror and look long and hard at yourself, and acknowledge those areas which require closer inspection and correction. I often say that the secret to aging gracefully is having poor lighting in your bathroom! It can be difficult to shine the light on some of our less pleasant personality traits. And even harder, if you are lucky enough to have someone point them out to you, to say (genuinely) thank you!
I have found that there are those with the opposite problem though. There are some who examine themselves so much, and are so hard on what they imagine they see, that they fail to appreciate all of the strengths and beauties they possess. I have seen students who are paralyzed by self-doubt, who cannot trust themselves to have the ability to achieve their goals, because of all the noise and chatter inside their heads.
Somewhere in the midst of those two extremes: a failure to honestly face yourself, and a compulsion to obsess over yourself, lies the perfect balance. And even if we can’t achieve that balance on a daily basis, if we can at least be willing to pause and pay attention, we may pull ourselves back to center. The human condition is imperfect, it takes maturity to accept that, it takes wisdom to strive to improve.
On this fabulous Friday morning may you be willing to accept yourself with all your beautiful flaws (‘all your perfect imperfections’), and be even more willing to accept the same in others. Or as my friends would remind me: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!