Much of the time, I feel like there is a hologram girl beside me, a perfect version of myself. She stands next to me, brighter, and more cheerful, neater, and tidier. And I try to live out of her. I try to use her hands, and speak with her ever graceful, never clumsy mouth. I try to live out of her body, wear her clothes. Her hair is my hair.
But the problem is, I am not a perfect girl. And that perfect girl is a hologram. She is not real. She does not have substance, so she cannot actually do things. But I get lost between us.
So, I have only myself to work with.
I try to get into the real day, this real moment. I listen to the rain outside, gentle, constant, the sound of water. I lean into a fuzzy green pillow, a soft grey blanket across my lap. I sit on an orange sofa with a torn cushion. My coffee goes cold on the table next to me. A notebook, a used kleenex. A pile of books. Various journals. I woke up at 3 a.m. and began reading.
I make a plan for the day: Writing. Going to the bookstore to buy a book. I want to do yoga. Feel a pull in my hip muscles to stretch.
I am tired of the hologram girl. She exhausts me with her cheerfulness, her constant willingness to engage with others. I am tired of her. I'm done, I tell myself, I'm done with her.
Rooting myself in reality
Yesterday, I was surprised to find myself loving life as I did the dishes. I put on the podcast I've been listening to lately (Missing Richard Simmons) and opened the blinds. I stood in the sunlight, washed dishes, listened.
I thought about what we offer people and why. And what it costs us.
Then I took my son to swim lessons. He had two lessons yesterday. A private lesson and a group lesson, with a two hour break in between.
The instructor during the private lesson was so unrelenting in his criticism that I spent much of the lesson, sitting on a damp bench staring at my hands praying the serenity prayer. A few times I covered my face with my hands just to get a break from the scene. Mostly, I watched my son's face. He didn't seem to mind it.
Another instructor yelled out an encouraging remark and then looked at me and rolled her eyes. I think she was criticizing the instructor's perfectionism, but I don't know for sure.
I asked my son if he minded all the feedback and he said not really. I told him I thought it was a bit much but noticed that he didn't seem to mind it. He actually seemed to like just getting some individual time with the instructor. He liked the connection, it seemed.
We went to a coffeeshop next door and played Uno. I drank a cup of coffee and he had a snack. Then grocery shopping. He pushed the cart the whole way. I felt like I won the Olympics of motherhood because I did the dishes and went grocery shopping on the same day. I am basically Martha Stewart, it turns out.
After the second swim lesson, we met my husband at home. We ate dinner, then played Scattergories, at my son's request. It was fun. Then, bed.
So, that was the day. Before that, I struggled with an existential crisis all day -- what is the point of anything? Why do anything? What does anything mean? Who really cares?
But I have no existential crisis when I am hanging out with my son, driving him to swim lessons, playing a game with him. That, I understand. The whole BE HERE NOW thing from Ram Dass.
"The purpose of waiting in line is to wait in line," Thich Nhat Hahn says. Every moment has its own purpose embedded in it. There is no purpose necessary beyond the act itself.
But I struggle with some acts and not with others. I struggle to feel alive and engaged when I am alone. This is a dark secret, that I am sure has to do with a developmental wound, not seeing myself as a real person. I can hear the advice from strangers now. It washes over me in a wave of (mostly) unintended judgement.
But I can accept myself in all situations, all circumstances. That is an option, too. So, at this point, it's hard for me to feel "real" when I am alone. I am deeply harassed by that "perfect self" hologram standing off to the side. But when I am with my son, she disappears. I don't need her then, for whatever reason.
And I can trust that I have good reasons, legitimate reasons, for all of this. I don't have to defend myself to you or to me. I can accept myself, however I am, and accept that I am doing "my best" in the moment to just be a human, which is both simple and not so very simple at all. Being human is so much, all at once.
And I can try to ground myself today in the day at hand. To take my son to school, to get dressed, eat breakfast. To eat the out of season blueberries my son ran and got for me at the store yesterday, a last minute decision. I was so proud of him when he brought them to me, telling me the price of the item in comparison to another item, proud that he is learning the timeless, satisfying art of home economics and learning to take care of himself and to navigate the world.
I love him so much and I am not sorry for that. I feel like I should be sorry for everything, every single thing about myself, sometimes -- that the world requires this apology for existing, especially from women, from queer people, from people who are not rich, as if they do nothing, add nothing to the world, but are only a burden -- but I am not sorry. Not really.
There is a deep 'fuck you' in me to this feeling. And that perfect me, the hologram off to the side, she is part of the conspiracy to make me ashamed for existing. But I can't afford that shame. I can't align with her view that I am constantly coming up short. I have to be enough as I am.
So today, the call to action -- for myself -- is to, as the singer Ferron says, "go on loving the things you love", to do, as the writer Angeles Arrien says, that which has heart and meaning for me. I can try to engage with each moment fully present, to drop that shame. To remind myself that the perfect girl is just a hologram. That she is very shoddy as a real human being. That she has no skin, no body, no substance, and therefore doesn't qualify as a perfect human being at all.
Call to Action
Today's call to action is for myself. It is: as much as possible today, to be a friend to myself. To align with that part of me that loves myself intact and whole and imperfect. That align with that part of me that is unimpressed by the hologram girl's cheerfulness, that instead finds her insincere and tiresome.
The call to action is to love myself as I am and to defend myself fiercely, even to this hologram girl. To let go of her as the perfect girl, to see her as she is, trying but shallow and fake. An imitation of a human, rather than a real human being.
I can let go of this perfect girl, and of all my questions, for a moment and I can just: Be here. Now.