I recently went to a wedding in which the bride with five younger brothers was a family lauded for their emanating love. Ugh. That’ll never be our family, was my thought. Gosh. It’s the nature of a competitive spirit to feel like a loser in some regards, you know? I’ve got that striving, boisterous, loud-once-you-get-to-know-me, high decibel quality. My sarcasm calls it like it is; my high achiever mindset gets downright disappointed when all four to-do lists don’t get accomplished in one morning.
I’m not so much the one who would say, “I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself but for what you are making of me” like Roy Croft, but the one who would retort, “I hate who I turn out to be when you repeatedly push me to the max.” Gag-me romantic phrases don’t hit home in my world. I’m more of an, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” kind of person, similar to Thomas A. Edison.
Perhaps someone will express gratitude for me being in their life not because of my sensitivity or gentleness or patience (rough edges are more abundant on those corners), but for my humor, encouragement, and buoyancy. Though feminine refineries aren’t my forte, there’s still a market for effervescence and big smiles. I may not cook a spread for a big group, but I would be the one who contrived an exciting game plan, worked the room with pleasant conversation, and made an effort to recognize participants for their varied outputs. That’s got to count somewhere. Just because I’m not the harmonious, soothing type (nope; more in line with Jillian Michaels) doesn’t mean I’ve lost the competition.
What competition was that again? The one I made up in my head?? Yeah- that one.
I want to be recognized. I want to be awarded with titles.
Because people don’t walk around with plaques at the ready (which would only serve to diminish the value~ akin to participation medals), I have to strike a balance between striving and satisfaction. Each day has aspects which can be improved. Each day must also hold some victory to celebrate.
Travel with me all the way back to 1841, to when Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay “Heroism”: “Be true to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant, and broken the monotony of a decorous age.” Yes! That’s the life I want to live, the example I want to set, the trail I want to blaze. While choosing the path less traveled when staring at diverging roads, I won’t receive many accolades. I may even become a faded blip, possessions trashed from lack of real value. All those habits I worked so hard to form and years of journals written and saved, might perish in the marching of time … that’s the real gulp to swallow.
It’s okay to want more. It’s okay to keep trying. But it’s also acceptable to pull back. “Again, I observed this on the earth: the race is not always won by the swiftest, the battle is not always won by the strongest; prosperity does not always belong to those who are the wisest, wealth does not always belong to those who are the most discerning, nor does success always come to those with the most knowledge— for time and chance may overcome them all.” New English Translation of the Bible: Ecclesiastes 9:11
It’ll be okay. Serve, love, give, repeat. I can try again another day, maybe die another day in grunts and upheavals, feeling as if the pain of sacrifice brutalized my ideal. But the virtue in handing over is the belief in a higher calling. The separation of life from mediocrity to outstanding is not easy. The presence of a struggle is encouraging. Going from subtraction to a zero balance is labor enough; moving from addition to multiplication is wrought with back-to-back-to-back wrestling matches.
It’s no wonder I sleep so soundly.