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If you think you’re a loser, you’re probably not.

March 29, 2012

 Lately I’ve been musing on the idea of success, especially since reading this awesome blog post , but also because I’ve been crushing on this mom, whose blog posts are full of self-deprecating remarks about dropping her kids off at school in her beat-up minivan while still wearing her pyjamas.  Except underneath all the stuff I’d probably judge her for (single mom of 4 kids by two different dads, messy house, no post-secondary degree or career), she’s passionate about feeding her kids healthy food and taking them to the ocean (when the minivan will make it).  I admire her for being honest about her shortcomings and admitting when she yells at her kids, though it’s obvious that she adores her family and is an amazing mother.

By my definition, being a loser is living the life someone else thinks you should be living.  To me, the most profound part of Eat, Pray, Love is when Elizabeth Gilbert decides to try to be That Quiet Girl At The Back of the Temple, and lasts one whole day.  When she is assigned the role of Key Hostess, a job that requires her to welcome all the people who come to the ashram to practice meditation, she accepts that she will never be demure and quiet and mysterious.  She embraces the idea that God dwells within you as you, that spirituality lies in being absolutely the best and truest version of yourself, whoever that self is. From that place one can reach out to others, be of service to humanity and end any self-judgement and negativity around not adding up to someone else’s expectations. 

The flipside is, what is cool?  I spent wasted so much time in high school trying to be cool.  This pursuit is like a dog chasing it’s tail: the goal is always just over your shoulder, and just when you think you’ve got it, it slips away.  The funny thing now is that the things I thought were dorky then, like cross-country skiing with my dad on weekends and hanging out in the used record store/bookstore in Nelson, are the things I’m proud of today.  Last summer I saw a girl on Hornby Island wearing a ridiculously large floppy beach hat and a tie-dyed bikini, strutting the beach and smiling at everyone who would make eye contact.  Even though I judged her getup as outrageous, I couldn’t help smiling back.  Her confidence was infectious.  She was cool, because she was owning her outfit, and the accompanying big attitude.

New Zealand Beaches

Some friends who just got back from travelling talked about the families they met in New Zealand who worked part-time jobs waiting tables or bagging groceries to afford to put gas in the family camper and hit the road to go surfing, tramping, or camping.  They talked about the inner calm these families exude, being completely okay with who they they are and their choices in life.  Sure, there are probably regrets, but they have embraced what makes them happy and have let some stuff go.

I think about my Big Boy, who took karate lessons for about a year, over a year ago, and still practices martial arts (he thinks he’s a Jedi padawan) about every spare minute.  Martial arts are not my thing; I would rather he obsess over a team sport, like soccer, or something practical, like swimming (though for a boy, maybe knowing a few fight moves is practical).  But as a mom, I want to guide my children’s journeys in discovering who they are and living that life, even if it’s not the life I would choose for them.

So my conclusion is that cool is being yourself, like the blogger mom I’m loving these days has completely dialed.  She could teach me a thing or two about being okay with who I am, and letting the kids be who they are too.  I have seen countless adults who are messed up because they feel they’ve failed their parents’ or their own expectations.  The lesson I’m taking away is that it’s okay to be a loser; if you’re true to your ideals and inner voice, the cool will shine right through.

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