In my last post, about youth basketball, I wrote: “Incidentally, what keeps me up at night is what I may have done to instill this perfectionism in him. I tried to encourage risk, value failure, while celebrating each win. I never withheld my affection or punished a loss, always gave a soft place to land, always threw my arms around him no matter the game/test result. Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe nothing.”
(I wonder how long I can call them “youth” sports. They are in high school, they are teenagers. They are still youths, but when does that stop and I can safely just call this “sports?” The summer after graduation? College?)
Anyway. While thinking about that paragraph, well… Have you ever been to the eye doctor? You know when you’re sitting behind that Clockwork Orange-esque device and it’s clicking and the letters either come into focus or quickly blur? This paragraph was the click where the G’s and Q’s become striking in their clarity.
What keeps me up at night is what I may have done to instill this perfectionism in him. What keeps me up at night is what I may have done wrong. What keeps me up at night is what I may not have done perfectly and how, ultimately, everything everywhere that happens is mine to control. I wonder where he would’ve possibly gotten the notion that he had to be perfect.
I know where this unhealthy perspective comes from, at least for me. I wanted to get it right, be awesome, because only then could I justify my worth. I hesitate to write the next sentence because my mom reads this, but the truth is that I always came after my dad’s addictions. I desperately wanted to be first, and when I was pitching well, or if I went 3 for 4 and drove in 3 runs, I was. I know he didn’t intend any of this, didn’t try to build an insecure little boy with this mountain of inadequacy to unwind. Like all of us (except for the sociopaths, of which I’m convinced there are very very few), he did his best and I loved him to the moon.
But all of life became a proving ground for my right to be here, where I had to be awesome to find a seat at the table. I had to be the best everything, ball player, funniest, coolest, whatever, which turned me into a big fat pleaser who wasn’t particularly any of those things, except an actor who would contort into any shape you wanted me to be.
Maybe you don’t believe in God or Jesus or faith or anything at all, (and that’s cool, we’re all on different paths), but as I began to fall in love with Jesus, I began to discover that my worth wasn’t tied to my performance at all. That I was good enough, loved, that I belonged as I was, as I am. Of course, this wasn’t overnight. That was 23 years, half of my life, ago, and I’m still writing sentences like the one earlier.
But here’s the cool thing. I was totally honest as I wrote that paragraph this week, and that honesty allowed the click. The boy I used to be was mistaken about his worth. He was depressed and unsure of himself and I’d really like to wrap him up in my arms and let him cry. The problem then was so little of my behavior was authentic, so much was a show, image making and fake. That dishonesty keep me fumbling in the dark for years and years.
Maybe nobody will ever read this, but it’s all true. I overshare because I’m through hiding, everything is dragged into the light and exposed. Of course it’s sometimes scary, but when it is, I know it’s absolutely necessary. I could go on forever and ever about awakening to the man that I’ve been able to meet, vital baby step by vital baby step, but it’s times like these where I can face truth without shame and (here’s the best part) give me a break.
I have responsibility, but not control. Maybe I’ve modeled an unhealthy posture, but I can also model steps towards something brand new. Nothing’s set in stone, today isn’t just yesterday, part 2, we can unwind. He’s a beautiful boy with a lot of weight on his shoulders that I’m vary familiar with. This family (the one that lives in this house that shares my name as well as the entire circle surrounding our lives) is a wonderfully safe place to test the ground. And then to jump.