“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” ~Jack Kerouac
You know, there are times when people (for whatever reason) put us on pedestals. This is dangerous for so man reasons. The first is that no one can live up to the idea of perfection. It’s like the Loch Ness Monster: a group of folks will SWEAR it exists, but it really doesn’t. The second is that when—inevitably—a person falls off that perch, it is an ugly mess. Worse: it is an ugly, avoidable mess. Because, hey, it didn’t have to happen.
I don’t want the illusion of perfection. I don’t long for perfection. I think that is a dangerous, terrible mistake. It’s a war without a winner. Instead, I recognize my shortcomings, my occasional idiocy, and every chink in my figurative armor. There’s no shame in that. That’s honesty, pure and simple.
What I find particularly intriguing are the people who don’t like that. Those who, almost forcibly, insist on the illusion of perfection. Those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of flaws. Those who fall in love with the illusion of who they perceive a person to be.
There’s a story I’ve told before, about a friend who insisted I wouldn’t do something. She, with all the fervor of one who simply feels she knew best, insisted I would never do this thing. It doesn’t matter what it was. I was in the middle of telling her this story, and her conviction that I would not behave that way totally derailed me. Unbeknownst to her, I had do The Thing. It was my truth. And, looking back, she stole that from me. But she also taught me a lesson I have to remind myself of, constantly: there are people you trust your stories to, because they aren’t waiting to judge you. And then there are people you tell nothing to, because they’re simply waiting for you to make a mistake – or they simply aren’t capable of actually seeing you.
In truth, it’s all too rare for people to actually see one another. Most people just don’t put in the effort. But that’s one of my favorite things on earth: to really see someone and to be seen by that person in exchange. It is a powerful thing. It’s a kind of brilliant magick. It is, also, a vulnerable act – one we don’t always know we’re a part of. But it can entirely change the world.
But back to the pedestal conundrum: it’s like falling in love with a photograph. There’s a moment forever captured in time. There are smiling faces. But looking at the photograph, do you really know that the people in it are happy? No, you don’t. You only know that one, singular image. That snippet of presentation. And that’s not the sum of a person. It isn’t even necessarily reality.
Another example is this: I’m a fairly happy person. I will not let my shit day leak over into your day. And I don’t take out my crap on other people. I’m not more enlightened than anyone else. I’m just sensitive. And if I were to make you feel like crap when I already feel like crap? Well, I’d feel like Captain Douchebag of the Asshat Parade. So, really, I’m just trying not to be a jerk. But my point: on the occasions where I’ve not been Suzy Sunshine, I’ve been told I should smile more. I’ve also been told that because I’m thin, I must not eat. And that wearing a tank top is considered being half-dressed. Because – flashback to high school – my shoulders are somehow an offense thing.
No one should feel as if it’s okay that to tell a woman that she should smile more. It’s never, ever okay to comment on a person’s weight – whether you think he/she is too fat or too thin. It’s just rude. And while it can stem out of petty jealousy or being a lifelong member of the Bitch-Bastard Asshole Alliance, it makes you a total smear of crap on toast. Lastly, unless this is the Vatican, my shoulders are not risqué.
Perfection is a lie. I never wanted to be perfect. And I don’t expect anyone else to be, either. But watch how often and how insistently you place people upon a pedestal. Chances are that you won’t like the outcome. And, personally, I’m terrified of heights.
Give me mess and madness. Show my vulnerability and mistakes. Gather the possibilities that spring up out of your failures – because at least you were brave enough to try. Show me the way you look when you’ve been let down. Offer me your darkest secrets. And reveal what it is that you really want – out of life, out of everything. Life is short and weird. It should be messy and full of successive, delightful aftermaths. Anything that looks pristine isn’t worth your time, darlings.
So, jump down off that imagined pinnacle of perfection. Get dirty. Get impossible. Get real. You deserve nothing less.