My 11 year old daughter, Emma, started an acting camp last week. Her first one. She will go to camp for nine days, then perform Alice in Wonderland at a dinner theater with a bunch of other amateur kid actors. For some reason I’ve always hated Alice in Wonderland. I find it weird and annoying. But, that’s just me. I didn’t tell Emma that.
On day two , the instructor would be assigning everyone their parts.
Emma (after day one): “I just want to warn you. It’s possible I’ll be assigned the part of a tree.”
She seemed worried, almost embarrassed about the fact that she would be a tree. She had no reason to believe she would be a tree, but it was as if she was preparing us – like we would be so disappointed to have a tree as a daughter. As if we would never be able to look her in the eye again. Mostly because all those damn leaves would get in the way.
At first I didn’t say much, just reassured her that she’d be given the part that was best for her and not to worry about it.
At dinner, the subject resurfaced.
Emma: “I know I keep saying this, but just so you know I could be a tree in Alice in Wonderland.”
I sat there thinking, why is this bugging her so much? Why does she think we will be so let down? Have we made her feel as if we can only accept her if she is in the spotlight, if she has the biggest and best part out there? Oh God. We’ve failed her as parents. Therapy here she comes. I wondered what type of motherly response would fit best in this situation.
Me: Well, if you are assigned the part of the the tree, then be the best damn tree you can be!
What is most important is not that we are the star of the show: the fastest runner, the most popular kid on the block, the top-paid lawyer in the firm. The point is that whatever we do, we do it 100 percent. If we are a 12 minute per mile runner, then we should be the damn best 12 minute per mile runner out there and not apologize for it. Sure, we can aim to be a ten-minute per mile runner, but until we get there, we shouldn’t waste our time wishing away who we are. The joy comes not so much in the task we are tackling at the moment, but the fervor and drive we use to apply ourselves to the task of 100 percentness.
Even if where we are at this moment is not our ideal, it is given more meaning when we take it seriously, when we see it as our challenge.
I am a middle-aged recreational runner (MARR). That’s where it is for me. I could sit around wishing I were a spring chicken with perky breasts who ran a 7 minute mile. I could put my energy into beating myself up for not making the top three at any race. Or, I could embrace where I am and be the best damn MARR I can be today. Maybe that means someday I’ll get on the podium. Or, more likely that means I won’t (unless only 3 people show up in the 45-49 age group). But, regardless I’ve done my best.
What I find is I am infinitely more happy in my job, my role as a parent, my marriage, my friendships and as a runner when I accept where I am, welcome it and be the best damn runner, friend, social worker,writer, wife, or mother I can be at that moment. It becomes less important that I am the fastest, most important or richest and more important that I devote myself to greatness in the doing what is simply before me - what is real for me. The joy comes from the pride in taking ownership and doing it well.
Emma was not given the part of the tree. She was given the part of Tweedle Dee. My guess is that when I watch her perform this week she’ll be the best Tweedle Dee I’ve ever seen.