If someone I deal with in my day job makes a mistake and emails me with an apology, I usually email back saying that no apology is necessary, that we’re all human, and that this is something to be thankful for. That I make mistakes. That we don’t deliberately make mistakes. We are not perfect, and we will never be. And to strive for perfection is to destroy ourselves. It took me a long time to come to this recognition, having been brought up to strive for perfection in all things, to beat myself up about mistakes made, to be ashamed of mistakes. It’s wrong, so wrong, to bring children up to be afraid of making mistakes. It distorts life, it scars minds, it creates all sorts of demons that are almost impossible to escape from. That’s my history. No wonder I invent worlds where people make mistakes all the time, where the making of mistakes is an every day occurrence, where striving for goodness is actually the main goal, where seeking redemption is the ultimate quest. Because that’s what stories really are – the seeking for redemption, not the seeking for perfection.
On Sunday, I had a long conversation with H, someone who, for some reason, has always talked to me with a refreshing openness and honesty and emotion, about her past, about her now, and we talked about each other’s children, and how proud we are of them, and what hopes we have for them, and how it makes us happy and humble that they appear to be turning out better than us, despite our parenting, that parenting is all about doing your best, and making mistakes along the way, mistakes there’s no point regretting because they’re done and past and gone. On Monday evening, H sent me a message saying she’d just been out on a run and that she’d been thinking about our conversation, and she just wanted to say what amazing parents M and I are. We just do our best, I messaged back, and you should look in the mirror to see an amazing parent. All parents are amazing, especially those who think they’re not, especially those who keep trying and trying, because they’re looking for goodness, not for perfection. That our children have become good people is much more a reflection of how I see the world than if they’d have become perfect people. Pains in the arse sometimes, yes, just like I am, but good people.
Where this was meant to be going in the rain, I don’t know. I just throw words at the page without really thinking about them. That’s how I create my stories, too. Sometimes, when I’ve relapsed into the boy who has to be perfect, I think that’s laziness. The rest of the time I think and know that this is because it reflects the reality of life; sudden changes of direction, fragmented thoughts and actions, mistakes, mistakes, and more mistakes, a fraction of a clear path ahead, and then obstacles again. Finite plots are an illusion, and there is no happy ending anywhere. There is happiness on the journey, and there may be some kind of spiritual happiness beyond (a conversation yesterday about Buddhism with my acupuncturist springs to mind, and A Fear Of Heights, my novel about Everest and Buddhism which will see the light of day in 2024).
Here we are, in the midst of life, and happiness is the embracing of our mistakes. That’s the journey. Our journey.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 113