Position Paradox – Perfection?

During our last Cooperstown trip, we got to chatting about our “status”, as it were. We tend not to think much about this topic. We came from two incredibly hard-working, at times completely broke (financially) families. We have never found ourselves likely to snub anyone for any reason. It’s not that we have to work at keeping our attitudes towards others and their socioeconomic statuses fair and unbiased; we were simply not raised to even consider those differences. Besides, if you look at both of our career fields, bias truly is a four-letter word.
Art by Dylan Taylor – “I’m Better Than You”
But, while eating breakfast at one of our favorite cafes, a walking paradox showed itself to me in the form of several fellow patrons. “Holy crap! Are we like these folks? Do we think we’re better than others because we’re similar to these people?? Wait, do I think that I’m better than THESE people,” I thought. I found myself equally ashamed, repulsed, proud, and confused, simultaneously.

There was a mildly mixed bag of individuals as far as age and occupation is concerned. Local, hard-working folks. Green, obnoxious students. Sage, snooty professionals. Rustic farmers. Young parents raising self-righteous toddlers. 

While Dave and I work hard (I’d easily admit that he, simply based on the makeup of his job, is a harder worker), we’re madly lucky. He may get home later than some out there, but he’s HOME. It’s not like either of us has to travel or be away from family for months or years at a time. We don’t have permanent blisters or grime covering our hands. Our type of work is real, but not always hard. We’re lucky, but we don’t always recognize it. I guess everyone’s like that.

Well, maybe not. I looked at all these individuals. Usually, when I’m surrounded by people, I feel safe and warm, if not a bit socially awkward. I take for granted that every individual has some bit of good in them. I’ve always thought this and have even argued it (for example, what about a criminal? Hitler?). But, while sitting there, I felt anxious and uncomfortable. It’s my favorite cafe in the area, but I didn’t feel necessarily welcomed. The staff was wonderful, it wasn’t them at all — as a matter of fact, they seemed to have the same awareness about the ridiculousness surrounding them as I did.

It was the others. Most of them. The ones I remember; the parents, the older “smart” couple, the teens, the locals. They seemed completely in tune with who they were being and projecting it as if in a well-rehearsed play. It was strange, and I grew concerned that I had missed rehearsals.

But, then I asked Dave, out of the blue, what he thought. Were we like these folks? Do we buy our organics and use our reusable grocery bags and shop at farmers’ markets and try to conserve and live simply…to portray something? I’ve always known the stigma that comes from our life philosophies (live more simply, eat real food, buy locally), but found a way to transcend them. I always felt that our reasons were as pure as anyone’s; that we could easily be questioned on them and defend politely. Suddenly, I fell face-first into them, and it smelled like manure. And not good manure for fertilizing.

We discussed this, and I’ve thought on my own about it further. I think that I’ve made clear in my posts and my conversations with others that I’m not perfect. No blogger or HUMAN really is. We do our best to portray enough perfection to appease our friends, co-workers, bosses, etc in order to make it through life. We try to make the perfect choices. Pick the perfect mate. Choose the perfect turnip. Buy the perfect house. Raise perfect children. But, all in all, we’re none of us perfect. And none of those coffeehouse individuals were.

Now, I smile to think about the nameless, seemingly class-less folks that I failed to study enough in that coffee shop. The two middle-aged ladies who politely fought over which would pay for their coffees and scones, who sat nearby to us and didn’t stop smiling or laughing together from the moment they stepped in. The woman in an old ragged sweatshirt and jeans who went out of her way to greet that snide mother, whom she clearly knew, and after being snubbed just grinned to herself and returned to her coffee and no one else. The quiet old man who watched everyone intently, getting as much news from his surroundings as he was getting from the local paper in front of him.

I think that I will go back. Besides, their muffins are the size of your head, and I didn’t get to try one. And since I’ll be with Dave, he already knows I’m greatly flawed. No need for pretense, as usual.

Look, We’re Normal!

We all have excuses for lots of things. Heck, I put off calling to get a copy of my baptismal record for the wedding — like, consciously delayed it. For awhile I had “too busy” excuses, but those turned into a fearful laziness. I think the more you put something off, the less you want to do it. But, this morning, I finally called and felt the weight lift, especially with how easy it was. Were the excuses worth it? Now that it’s done, it doesn’t much matter.

But what about the excuses we use regularly? Our excuses yesterday were pretty darn good. One, my sister and BIL were coming over for a quick visit (unexpected but always welcome). Two, we had been doing lots of labor-intensive yard work throughout the morning and early afternoon, and were EXHAUSTED. Third, and most importantly, the cat had been sick all weekend — new meds. Remember, he’s had a rough start with us, and while he’s not at 100% he’s way better than when we found him.

So, what horrible thing did we do, having such great excuses in our back pockets? *gulp* I sent Dave out to get KFC. Yes, I know how horrible that is for us. Yes, I know how horribly they treat the chickens. Yes, I consider KFC the devil. Yes, yes, yes. But, we had a great coupon and, in all honesty, it was a moment of weakness — literally! (Mind you…we had a huge haul at the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market the day before — we’re evil.)

I mentioned the guilt factor to Dave, who very easily brushed it off, saying, “Yes, we shop at farmers’ markets, buy organic when we can, and do our best with all the green stuff. But, it doesn’t mean I can’t jump off the wagon for the sake of convenience once in awhile. And, we don’t do it much.” His ease in letting the words flow off his tongue made me feel a hell of a lot better — and let me enjoy the disgustingly fatty chicken, #1 mac ‘n cheese, and buttery biscuits easier.

I’ve noticed that, since I don’t eat junk food as much (the junk I do eat is organic — pita chips, organic Pop-Tarts — I consider myself a stage 2 or 3 on the “how healthy are you?” scale), when I DO, I’m more conscious about it. It’s less of a “I’m gonna gain weight” thing and more of a “I’m not proud of myself. This is disgusting. This isn’t the wonderful stuff I’ve been giving myself.”

Guilt is a human reaction that’s just a stone’s throw from joy. Generally, when feeling guilt, you’re enjoying something that you probably shouldn’t be. We all do it — some guilt is for really bad things, some isn’t a huge deal, but what one person thinks is huge may be nothing to the next, and so on. So, in this case, we’re moving on. Some day, maybe I’ll be so super-human that our future kids won’t be allowed to have McDonald’s , and our house will be impeccable. You can hope for wonderful things, but in the end, we’re all just human. I’m not in this thing to be perfect.