Saturday, February 16, 2008

Be Ye Holy, For I Am Holy

I have spent my entire life with this unreachable definition of success. Due to my particular set of genetic idiosyncracies and psychological tendencies, I absorbed this and processed it into a peculiarly mediocre form of perfectionism. I set high standards for myself as a student, a musician, a housewife, a mother, but this didn't always translate into the internal drive required to make these things actually happen.

Don't get me wrong, even my half-assed efforts got me farther than plenty of people in many different areas, and there are areas of my life in which I have unquestionably done well. But even these triumphs were always dogged by the sense (corroborated by my teachers) that I could have done better, should have done better. That I had fallen short.

Those tendencies were reinforced over the years with the constant drumming of Christianity's philosophy of personal insufficiency, and self-flagellation became second nature. One of my favorite things about a good friend of mine is his frustration with my constant apologizing. He sees, as I so often cannot, that not everything is in fact my fault. Not everything that is imperfect about myself requires an apology, and I have gotten better about that in my conversations with him over the years. I wish it was easier to convince the rest of my brain of this.

Especially now. I have, by any standard of measure, failed in my faith and in my marriage. I am still walking through the forms of both, but less and less enthusiastically, and I am quickly losing the will and the desire to continue fighting on either front. I know the standard party line, that I should just rely on God and he will get me through it. And so I fail there, too -- he didn't "get me through it", actually, and I have lost interest in making another attempt at depending on someone who is silent, invisible, and impossible to understand.

It seems a little like cheating to give up on a personal standard and find an easier one, just so I can stop feeling like a total failure. On the other hand, I run 5Ks because I know that a 100-mile endurance run would be a standard I would fail to meet, every time. And I can succeed at a 5K, every time. I make no apology for running 5Ks, and perhaps I should stop apologizing for looking for a new standard, one that doesn't have my failure woven into its every line.

I am human, after all. Maybe a human standard of measure isn't such a bad idea.

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