Thursday, July 24, 2014

7/25/14—Outliving My Mother

On Wednesday, I got my yearly mammogram. I've been getting them pretty much every year since I turned 30. But this one was different.

It wasn't so much fear of something showing up. I've had bad mammograms in the past. I've had a needle biopsy in one breast and a lumpectomy in the other. The lumpectomy was a lesson in doctors talking you into unnecessary surgeries. I could have had a needle biopsy that time, too, but the doctor convinced me to operate. He showed me a very basic line drawing of a woman's breast with a dotted line on the side of it and said, "this is what your scar will look like."

It was an innocuous-looking dotted line, so I signed up for surgery. In reality, though, the dotted line was meant to signify a thick, red scar and a pucker from where they remove the flesh. They didn't tell me that part. I call it my Frankenboob. It was very traumatic for me to see the size and extent of it, especially since I was born with a gene for horribly visible, overly dramatic scarring. I wasn't prepared and I still remember the shock of removing that dressing for the first time and seeing it. When I confronted the doctor, he pulled out the line drawing of the boob and showed me how my scar looked just like the dotted line on the picture. Doctors. They see funny. 

No, this time was different because I am 51 years old. And 51 is the age my mother was when she had a mammogram that came up showing a small lump. She died five years later. I've missed her ever since.

I'm confident that if I "fail" this mammogram I'll be able to beat whatever cancer may be in there. Things have changed a lot in the 30 years since my mother died. This isn't about that. This is actually more about a thing we do to ourselves when we lose our parents at a young age. I've been silently, secretly dreading this particular mammogram for 30 years. It's a milestone, of sorts. Both my sisters went through it before me. And now I move toward another sad milestone just five years away—the day I live longer than my mother did. 

So all day Wednesday, I was a slowly deteriorating mess. By the time I got to the radiologist, I had already cried twice. I cried again during the mammogram. Then I cried again when I got home. I cried when I spoke to my sister on the phone. Then again when I spoke to my brother. And, finally, I cried in bed that night as I listened to my mother's voice from a recording made 40-some years ago. I had no idea how much fear, grief...whatever...I had been holding inside regarding this matter.

At 51 I feel like I still have a lifetime ahead of me. I have dreams I want to fulfill. I want to be an author. I want to live someplace cold. I want even more dogs than I have today. When my mom was 51, she could see the finish line. I was her youngest child and a junior in high school. Soon I'd be going off to college and, after raising six kids (largely on her own as the wife of a man who worked and traveled a lot) she would have been practically free. Maybe she wanted to be a writer. Maybe she had dreams to pursue. I don't know because I never got to have those kinds of adult conversations with her. But as it turned out, all that was ahead of her was chemotherapy, surgeries, pain, sorrow and then, finally death. 

Granted, my mother lived a lot of life in her 56 years. She was the oldest of five children. She was born in India and blessed by Ghandi. How many people can say that? She also lived in Egypt before returning to her native home in England. Then WWII came and she was in charge of her siblings. Because her mother worked and food was rationed, she was the one who decided who would eat that day and who wouldn't. Then she met a soldier and moved to America. He abused her and locked her up in the basement. She managed to escape him, then lived a few years, I guess, relatively carefree. She even went on a double date with Joe Garagiola once (he was a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals at the time, then became a famous sportscaster.) Then she met my dad and had six kids and, occasionally, a career running congressional offices. 

I'm sure she didn't feel too short-changed. But I feel short changed from losing her so young. And I feel short-changed for her for not having the advantages I have. If this mammogram shows something, I will likely live. I've had a lifetime of freedom and the following of dreams. All at her hands. 

They say you can never know someone until you walk in their shoes. In some ways, I can't walk in my mother's shoes. I have no idea what it's like to want a family, raise kids or see them grown. But I do finally know what 51 feels like. I have a good sense of all that's behind me, as well as all I have to look forward to ahead. My brother told me my mother knew from the moment of her diagnosis where it would it lead. I can't imagine being 51 and feeling so young inside and then hitting upon the realization it would all be over soon. As with everything in life, she wore her fate gracefully. 

I wonder if any the tears I cried on Wednesday were the tears she never shed. I wonder if any of my still unmet dreams are the dreams she never got to live. I will never be the woman she was. I just don't have her class...haha. But I can still be the woman she might have become. 

There's a bit of a mission you take on when your parents die young. Because my parents (my dad died a few years later) didn't live long enough to see me grow up, I want to do things I know would make them proud, because I will never hear that from their lips. I want to make their early departure somehow worth it. I'm fortunate to be very much my mother's daughter. And I just hope, whenever I get to see her again, I will have done her proud. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

7/23/14—Turning Work Into Magic

I've lived in my home for 15 years now. I've seen a lot of mailmen come and go in that time. 

One told me our route was the one they use to torture new mailmen with, because it's long, difficult and filled with dogs. Another mailman quit our route after being viciously mauled by a dog, in fact. He was the mailman that used to break the rules a little with my tarot packages from overseas, because he knew I lived to receive them. I think each mailman plots their own route, because I've received mail at 8am from one mailman, noon from another and 9pm from another. Yeah. 9pm. 

The mailman we have now delivers around 2pm or so. I really couldn't say for sure because he's a magic, invisible mailman. In all the 15 years I've lived here, he's the only mailman capable of eluding the dogs EVERY SINGLE DAY. This is made even more difficult because I recently got a new mailbox that opens loudly and doesn't close very easily. But he somehow manages to open it without a squeak and close it without sound. Either that, or he teleports the mail into the mailbox from the curb. I wouldn't know because I've never managed to catch the guy in action myself. 

It's easy to underestimate the value of the service this man provides, not in delivering the mail, but in delivering it without waking the beasts. It seems to have gotten to the point that they don't even hang out by the window anymore, because they perceive there are no longer any threats to the perimeter. Either that or, since they have no idea when he comes, they're too lazy to sit there all day and figure it out. 

There is a quote out there somewhere that says something about how any job can be elevated to an art when you do it well. The real quote is pithier, but the little bit of extra service this man performs by being stealthy every day is this man's art. Maybe he does it because it's scary to have dogs flailing themselves against a large plate of glass standing between him and certain dismemberment, but I like to think he does it because this is his art. This is how he turns his everyday, same-route-as-yesterday drudgery into something beautiful that he can be proud of. Regardless, he's a master at it. And his efforts are appreciated. 

There's doing a job, which is basically performing the tasks you're expected to perform. There's doing a job well, which is going above and beyond to be one of the best at what you do. And then there's doing a job magically, which is a whole other dimension that doesn't necessarily mean you're technically one of the best, but it does mean you're a star. 

There's a woman named Dee that locals may know. She works at the Variety Store. She used to work at the Hollin Hall bakery and, at before that, the natural foods store in that shopping center behind the Krispy Kreme. She stood out at the natural foods store because her vest was covered in "Jesus Saves" and "Have a nice day!" buttons. When they went out of business, so did her vest. She can't wear the buttons at the Variety Store. I don't share her beliefs, but I would sign a petition to let her wear her vest again. Her bubbly personality becomes even more entertaining in that vest. Regardless, it feels good to be around Dee. She has a happy outlook on life. I often hear people talk about her beautiful singing voice. She performs in local churches. I think Dee just sees life as both service and celebration. There may be more knowledgeable people at that Variety Store, but none of them shine as brightly as Dee in my opinion. She makes her everyday job magic. 

When I think of myself, I think I do my job well. My clients think I'm really good at what I do, and there are times circumstances allow me to appear to be magic, but my magic doesn't happen every day the way it does with Dee and my mailman. My "magic" usually manifests when clients don't know what they want and just hope I figure it out. So my ability to intuit needs is the little added bit that I try to do whenever possible. But thinking about Dee and my mailman has me wondering about other ways to add value. 

I've written before about seeing your job as service, but this is beyond that. This is about elevating service to an art. It's a little hard to consider when your job is art to begin with, but it's about elevating the service aspect of your job to an art. What does that mean to you and how do you do it? And do you do your job, do it well or do it magically?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

7/21/14—Taking the Hint

I've had a headache for about a week now. And I think I know why I got it. 

I mean, I don't know the medical reason I have it, but I do think I know the spiritual reason. See, I might usually get two or three headaches a year. I also never get sick...maybe twice in the 17 years I've been self employed. Part of it is that I'm not exposed to other people and their germs. But part of it is that I just don't get sick. Even when I worked in an office I didn't get sick much. 

Back when I worked in an office, though, I would call in sick just to have days off...haha. And when I did actually get sick, I would stock up on Campbell's Chicken Noodle and Haagen Dazs, as though they were the miracle cures of the Gods. Then I would indulge myself fully in my illness. In short, I took care of myself. And, in fact, I used to look forward to getting sick because of both the rest and the menu. 

But when you're self employed, things are different. You don't call in sick. You work through it. You don't even get snow days. And, if you're like me, you're lucky if you even get two weeks off a year, much less the month I'd be entitled to if I were working for some other company this long. When you're self employed, you're not paid for the days you take off so you see them differently. 

So after five days of having this headache, and having tried different pain medications to no avail, I decide the headache was either weather related (we're having an odd cool patch here), stress related, dehydration related or maybe a migraine. But on Friday night, I found myself going to a meditation thing in rush hour about an hour away anyway. And I think "as long as I'm out, why not leave a few minutes early and see if I can get my new phone set up?"

So there I am, pressed for time, in rush hour, trying to fit something extra in along the way...there I am putting myself in a stress situation when I might have a stress headache. And I'm very thirsty and hungry, but I don't have time to stop. And as I'm driving, I'm thinking, "what am I doing to myself?" I'm also thinking I should stop for water, but now I'm behind schedule and stressed, so I don't. It wasn't until more than an hour after I arrived at my destination that I got some water. And it wasn't until I was almost home that I finally stopped for the Excedrin Migraine that eventually took most of the headache away. I still have the headache today, but it's much more tolerable with the Excedrin in me. 

The point is that I put everything in front of my self care. I find myself doing this all the time. There's always just one more thing I can do before I take care of myself. Then I feel guilty for taking care of myself. Like today I ended up sleeping most of the day instead of cleaning house. I have someone coming over this week and would like the house to be extra clean (which is still cluttered and dusty by most peoples' standards...haha) but that won't happen now. And the dogs didn't get the attention they deserve and they don't care why. They just want the mommy that's always there. So I feel bad I can't be there for them, as I should.

It's easy for us to forget our self care when we're used to all the other agendas we serve in our lives. I don't have a husband and kids, but that doesn't mean I don't serve a bunch of agendas that aren't fully mine. I serve my clients' and my dogs' and my house's and my yard's agenda before I serve myself. While all of those things also serve me in some ways—just as a husband and kids would—they're not just for me alone. It's the "me alone" thing we often neglect. 

The metaphor of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others applies here. Back before I had dogs and a house and there was only me to serve, I got it. I bought the chicken soup and wallowed in my misery. And it was good. 

So I think that's part of why the headache has come to me this week. To remind me to put the mask on myself first and not feel bad about it. I've been having clues like this for a long time...exhaustion and such. And I just keep on truckin'. I think I just underestimate what it takes to live my life, and I'll bet you do, too. But, sadly, I have to remember I'm not in my 20s anymore. And I'd hate to think what would happen if I continue on this way. The consequences could be fatal. So I slept all day today and didn't push too hard yesterday, either. And I might call in sick for at least part of tomorrow. I guess I can take a hint after all. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

7/18/14—Touching Eternity

Tonight's post is adapted from one I wrote back in September of 2011. 

One of my best kept secrets is that I'm a ceremony queen. Nay, diva! It's a secret because I only invite a special few to share in my ceremonies. But I make my own incenses and oils. I anoint everything and set up a sacred altar. I come up with elaborate ceremonial rituals for participants, usually involving fire and tiny explosions...haha. 

Everyone is asked to bring something to the ceremony so that, through the planning ahead, their energy arrives before they do. There's often music...I have a few drums and a complete set of crystal singing bowls, along with various chimes and rattles. Or I'll play pre-recorded music. Sometimes crafting is incorporated into the program. I have a laser generated star machine for indoors ceremonies. And typically people end up bearing their souls and making themselves vulnerable to the group in the some way. I'm sure you've all caught on by now that I like to be dramatic. Multiply that by 10 and you've got one of my ceremonies. 

I love to create, so every ceremony is different. I usually begin days before by drafting the "script" and making the incenses and oils. Every detail is thoroughly thought out, all the way down to cheat sheets for participants so they don't forget the order of things during their part of the ritual. I know it sounds anal, but there are a number of steps that usually have to be followed and I can't expect them to memorize those steps when they're busy thinking of what their affirmation will be or what they'll etch on their take-home altar item or whatever...haha. Did I mention I REALLY get into this? Fortunately, everyone enjoys them and can't wait for the next one, so clearly I'm not too overbearing. 

Anyway, the ceremonies might be for finding love, adding something new to your life, getting rid of an old habit, healing, honoring the year's passing, etc. Group ceremonies are made more powerful by the collective energy of the group so, for me, choosing the right dynamic is essential. 

Taking part in ceremony and ritual goes beyond making wishes, saying prayers or even of purifying some part of you that you feel is in need. In fact, it goes beyond the physical body and your current existence to touch something very deep at the soul level. If you believe in souls and reincarnation...and if you believe that the soul and even your DNA carry the code of human life history...then maybe there's a way to retrieve or reawaken some of the early energies. And if a way exists, ceremony and ritual are one of the vehicles to take you there. There's something about smoke and fire that will do that for you.

A part of me deeply connects to that part of us that is the original human. It also deeply connects to what you might consider earth's first witches, the shamans. When I'm deep in the moment, I feel those ancestors, their ancient DNA flowing through me. When I'm preparing for a ceremony, I hear their whispers as they guide me. This is different than meditation or anything else. There's a different reverence, a different feel, a different hand of creation. It's very mystical. Aboriginal. It goes back to the earliest stirrings of man. 

This ancient drive can be found in every religion. Catholics do the body and blood of Christ thing. That's a ritual. Facing east and praying every few hours is a ritual. And the day-long prep for an authentic sweat lodge is too. It's almost instinctual within us and yet is one of the sad losses we've volunteered to take in exchange for modern "rituals" like adhering to schedules or doing things in the same order during our morning routines. These things may bring us comfort and even put us in a "zone", but they don't really touch the same depths. 

So consider adding some sort of ceremony or ritual to your life that does. Something with smoke and fire and and intention and reverence. Something you do uninterrupted and just for your soul self. It can be as easy as sitting in candlelight with some good incense burning and journaling once a week. Or setting an intention by writing it on paper and keeping it someplace special. I do everything first class out of respect for the process...handmade journals, beautiful papers, wax seals, artisan altar items, expensive incense. I like to awaken every sense. This takes things out of the ordinary. 

Over time you can add things to your simple ceremony more complex. Years ago I did an entire evening of beauty every Sunday night. I would take a bath and imagine the waters purifying me. I'd exfoliate the week off of me with a scrubby to prepare for the new. I'd wear something that felt sensual and crawl into bed with my journal and some chocolate, my room lit by candles. Then I would write, imagine, dream. No sound, no interruptions. Just me holding court with me. 

If you put some thought into it, you could come up with something fabulously "you", too. Just sit in silence and ask yourself how you can honor your soul, your higher self, that part of you that is sacred and divine. Then try a few things and see how it goes. There is a part of you that rose from smoke and fire...that worshiped smoke and fire. Touch it and you touch eternity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

7/16/14—Basking in Grace

I have been the beneficiary of grace many times this summer. At times the show of goodwill toward me has brought me to tears. This grace has come in every area of my life, from helping with health and fitness goals to my friendships to my tarot stuff to my career. 

Pardon me while I digress to tell a story relevant to all of this. A couple of weeks ago (through the grace of a business contact) I was put in touch with a prospective client. When I told this person my rates, they said I was outside their budget and asked me to refer them to someone else. When I told them I didn't know any other freelance copywriters to refer them to, they a) seemed to think I was lying and b) tried to convince me by saying, "if you don't refer people, people will never refer you."

I told them that I refer people all the time but that I don't seek out knowledge about other freelance copywriters. Besides, I have never been introduced to another freelance copywriter, I don't come across them in the course of my work, and while I've given advice to budding freelancers over the years, I'm not aware if they're still working or what their rates are. So part of it is just circumstance, but part of it is intentional. And it's intentional because if I knew their names, during the slow times I'd torture and distract myself by looking them up on Facebook, googling them and wondering if they're getting more business than me, instead of doing something about my situation. I don't want to fall into that trap. 

Spiritually, I believe that there is plenty of pie for everyone to have a slice. It's not a competitive thing for me. It's a sanity thing. And I'd rather do what I need to weather the nearly two decades of ups and downs I've had as a freelancer than have a list on hand as a courtesy to people who don't want to hire me anyway. It's hard to weather the changing tides of being a consultant. This is one way I keep my head in the game. 

I tell this story for a reason. And the reason is that the things we do for others are not tit for tat. You don't hold a door for someone so that someone will hold a door for you. You do it because you're nice and trying to help. That attitude will come back to you, but it may come in the form of someone letting you in line in front of them at the grocery store, for example. So there are two things going on here: 1. You do for others out of the kindness of your heart and not because you want something out of it and 2. You will be repaid, but maybe not in the way you think. There's also a third thing. 3. You get to choose how you help. 

So as I was thinking of these moments of grace that had been bestowed upon me, I was wondering what I had done that was worthy? Why were these people reaching out to me so kindly, some of them people who don't know me well. And then I remembered...I do a lot of stuff for others without asking for anything in return. I pay it forward and I do it from a pure place—not a place of hoping it comes back to me. Still, there have been times over the years that I'm exhausted from doing for others and wonder when the energy will flow back my way. I think that's natural, but it's not why I do it. 

Anyway, this summer I feel like I've received more than my share of grace from others. But do you know why more than usual have stepped up the plate? Because I let people know what I was going through. It's that simple. And the ones that could help volunteered without me even having to ask. I recently had dinner with a friend of mine who is one of the most selfless people I know and we were discussing how, when you're an independent person used to doing everything for yourself, it's hard to ask for help. Very hard. Since I left my parent's home 30 years ago, I've never had anyone to help with money, chores, dog rearing or anything else in my life. It doesn't even occur to you to ask for help after all that time. 

But I've found lately that, when I've honestly expressed my fears and needs to people, they're very willing to help. Part of it is that, in recent years, I've purged relationships that were parasitic and replaced them with relationships that are more equitable. But part of it is that so many of us are willing to help if we know help is needed and if the help that's needed is something we can do and something that doesn't end up compromising our own needs. Knowing that people are there to help without you having to outright ask means a great deal. 

So I want to thank the people who have offered to help, those who are helping and those who are helping but think I don't know what they're doing. Your kindness will come back to you. Maybe not from me. Maybe not in the same way. But when it comes, it will be beautiful and you'll be humbled by the generosity. You'll wonder what you've ever done to deserve it. And then, hopefully, you'll remember what you did for me and embrace the breathtaking blessings of your gifts of grace. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

7/14/14—Reclaiming Parts of Myself

A friend of mine spent the weekend backpacking with his dog in the most beautiful spot. The pictures he posted made me want to be fit enough to do it. He said there were nice spots you could drive to, but I like the idea...the romance...of this backpacking thing. 

Of course that doesn't mean I'll ever do it. I've been camping before, but with a blow up mattress and a huge cooler and plenty of clothes. When you have to carry everything you need on your back and sleep on the ground, it's different. Even if I were fit enough to do it, I'm not sure I'd manage very well out in the wilderness alone, even with my three dogs with me. In fact, I'd have to be brave enough for four. Still, my friend's hike is only ranked intermediate, so it's doable. 

Many, many years ago I set out on a difficult-ranked hike on my own. It was March, so some of the rocks were a little icy in the shade. It was grueling, even though I was very fit at the time. The first three miles down the mountain and past all the waterfalls was easy, but it was the part on the way back that was straight up that was hard. There was a boy scout group doing the same hike and we'd pass each other, then rest. Then pass each other, then rest. It was nice knowing they were there in case I hurt myself. It was also nice to see a bunch of boys struggling as much as me. When I was climbing up, I was in shorts, even though it was very cold out. Then when I'd rest, I'd have to cover up or freeze. It was probably the biggest "adventure" of my life. 

I've gone back to that trail since then, but have never done the hard part of the hike...just the mile or so in and back out again. I'll never be 30 again. And I doubt I'll ever do that hike in quite that way again. But I mourn the loss of my fitness, most of which came at the hands of too much food, too little exercise and a lot of depression. 

Sometimes it seems so easy for me to make bad choices. But it isn't really easy. It's hard because bad choices weigh on you. And they're much harder to fix than they are to make. Over the years I've made bad choices with my work, with men and, of course, with my weight. All of them were much harder to fix than make. 

Truth is I've been very complacent about my weight and fitness for a long time now. I'm doing more and more about it, but my progress is slow. I was surprised at how my friend's pictures made me all wistful for hiking again. Usually when I get wistful for physical activity, it's yoga. But I have a tendency to get vertigo these days, which makes yoga classes hard. I seem to find teachers that, even though you tell them you get vertigo, bark at you if you remain on the floor while everyone else has gotten up. I guess they don't understand how vertigo can feel like there's extra gravity on you while your head is spinning. You simply can't get up.

Anyway, it's nice to have a muse that can help you make better choices. Hiking may be that muse for me. When I was younger I would drive to a different place in my Hiking in Virginia guidebook every couple of weeks and explore something new. I may never have the balls to backpack in and do what my friend did over an entire weekend, but I know there are plenty of hikes around here that I could do starting maybe later this fall or next spring. Frankly, there are some easy ones I could do right now, for that matter. But I'm thinking of hikes in maybe the intermediate range...the ones with altitude changes that open up into into striking vistas that make the exertion worthwhile...the ones that aren't so crowded...the ones that go five or six miles, up and down hills or mountains.  

I think I haven't quite realized the price I've paid in terms of my relationship with nature because of my bad choices. Seeing those pictures this weekend really struck me for some reason. For one thing, the terrain is unusual for this part of the country, so I want to see it. But it was as if I was standing in his pics, feeling strong, feeling the breeze on me, having energy, giving my body a nice workout and feeling like an extension of the terrain...that's what I miss. 

I may not be able to get back to my 30 year old body and strength. But I can get back to the trail. And I can reclaim some of the parts of myself I set aside so long ago through my bad choices. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

7/11/14—Getting Real

This woman has surgically and otherwise altered herself
to look like a human Barbie doll. No doubt there's a
good bit of photo manipulation going on here, too.
Some of you may know me to be a night owl. I do like the early am hours. But I rarely ever spend those hours writing. And since I maintain a diversion-free bedroom environment, it’s even more rare for me to write in bed. So tonight I’m breaking all the rules.

It’s an interesting thing when that one thing that calls to you more than anything else is also the way you make your money. For some people those things are separate. For some they’re the same, but the people never recognize it because they never pondered the “what calls to me” question long enough to boil it down to a theme that has been pervasive in their life all along. I’ve had the honor of talking to many such people in the past and, when we light upon that common denominator, a light bulb goes off and they discover that what they’re doing now is fulfilling their mission. They might prefer to do it in a different way, bit it nonetheless supports their calling. I think there are a lot of people who are that way.

But now back to me. :)

I’m someone who has to write. My calling, boiled down, is to “move people with my words.” Professionally, as an advertising copywriter, I move people to buy stuff and visit places and choose certain colleges and subscribe to things. Here on this blog, I hope I move you to consider your personal and spiritual growth in different or deeper ways.

But it’s an interesting thing when this passion of yours becomes a transaction of sorts. In my job as a freelance copywriter, I’m compensated for doing something I truly enjoy—something that makes all my cylinders fire. Even though I don’t make a penny off this blog and it’s what I would consider “writing for enjoyment,” I still see it as a business transaction because it’s informing my budding career as an author. Both of these “transactions” are deadline-based and “my day isn’t over” until my desktop is cleaned off and all the deadlines are met. Yet, I thoroughly enjoy the “doing” of them. Yet, they’re my job. Yet, I feel so fortunate for them. Yet I’m doing my job.

I hear people—usually celebrities—say things like “when you’re doing what you love, it’s not work.” OK. I understand what they’re saying. But I want to call bullshit on it, too. It’s still a job. There are still aspects of it that bite. You still have to be somewhere at a given time each day. There are still difficult people you have to deal with. So this breezy attitude of “it’s not work” is not only inaccurate, but it also sets false expectations that people can never truly meet.

I’ve never come out and said it here before, but I’m not a fan of expectations and ideals that can’t be met. Nobody and no situation is perfect and the projection of that image imprints negatively on the observer when they fall short. It’s the same with airbrushed supermodels, perfect love and shiny little Brady Bunch families. In the shadows lurk cellulite, annoying tics and a neglected middle child who’s just one forgotten birthday away from going postal on society.

Part of it is our tendency to look on the other side of the fence to admire what we’re missing, but part of it is also carefully crafted PR on the part of the observed. And, mind you, we all play the role of observer in this dynamic and we also all play the role of the observed. (Which means there’s someone out there envious of YOU. Yeah. You.)

Somewhere along the line, we all project an image of effortlessness to some observer. And somewhere along the line we all also begin to believe some unattainable thing we observed might be attainable. And we fall short. And we either awaken to the thought that we’re doing this to ourselves and stop buying in to ideals nobody can meet. Or we continue to feel “less than.”

If I told you there’s somewhere in your life where you’re falling short, would you know the issue I’m talking about? Stop for a second and consider that question. What would make you perfect? Is it a short list or a long list?

What if there are some things out there you just simply can’t do better? And what if that’s perfect? What if that’s part of why you’re here…to strive for your best and make peace with your best even when it falls short of someone else’s best?

We waste so much time and energy—and even beat ourselves up—because our body’s not as flawless as Adriana Lima’s, our faith isn’t as strong as the Dalai Lama’s and we’re not as polished and professional as that chick in the office. But you can’t possibly be everybody’s personal best—you can’t embody everyone’s “one thing they came here to be.” Besides, not even Adriana Lima is “Adriana Lima.” Nor is the Dalai Lama the Dalai Lama. Each of them falls short of their own projected image in some way. And each of them falls short of you in some regard that has meaning for you.

Internally we’re all aware of where we fall short, but externally we tend to pretty that up with denials, fancy clothes, a showy lifestyle, strategic omissions or a certain air that makes us seem like we don’t fart or fail. While there’s wisdom to putting our best foot forward, there’s also a price. No one, including ourselves, can live up to the image any of us consciously or unconsciously convey. And, because we greet our inability to live up to those images with shame instead of acceptance—because we measure our worth against the yardstick of others—we limit our evolution as both individuals and a society.

We live in a society where it’s considered arrogant if you a) own your strengths and/or b) don’t own your weaknesses. Society actually supports our feelings of being “less than,” perpetuating a cycle of inadequacy. It’s a cycle that only be broken by getting real, embracing the entirety of who we are and representing the good and the bad honestly.