Giving 110%: Otherwise known as impossible, crappy expectations I have no intentions of fulfilling

I can’t give 110%.

I will never be able to give 110%.

It doesn’t matter if you beg or flatter or offer bribes. The simple fact is that there is no 110% of love or effort or determination. I only have 100% to give, and I’m not so sure any person should even get that.

A couple of years ago I had this surprisingly insightful conversation with my fencing coach. (Yeah, I fenced. I also took karate, and I’m a damn good shot with a bow. You better play nice. ;) ) I was still fairly new, but I was determined and hardworking. That gets you pretty far in itself, but mostly he was just a great coach and was constantly offering me new challenges.

After explaining one of them, he  asked “Are you going to give me 110%, Erin?”

“Yes, sir,” I promised immediately.

“No, you’re not. That was a trick question. Where do you plan on finding an extra 10%? You only have 100%. You’re human. Heck, I don’t even want you to give me the 100%. Only give me 90. Save something for yourself.”

I’m human. I “only have 100%.”

Have you ever heard someone ask you for less than you’re offering? People always, always want more, but, after a point, there’s nothing more to give. Coach knew I was giving him my all, and that was what worried him. He also knew I needed to give myself permission to take a break or goof off or just simply stop trying to be perfect. I needed permission to breathe for the sake of breathing, without an ulterior, productive goal. And do you know what happened when I gave myself that permission? I realized how capable I was. I looked around the room while I was *breathing* and saw that I could hold my own against my more experienced peers. I allowed myself to have enough confidence to be happy with my progress, and I also made some lifelong friends. I found out that breathing can be pretty spectacular and there’s a lot of joy in taking a break.

As a volunteer, I push myself to reach for 99% of my attention, compassion and patience to be directed at those I’m helping and other volunteers. (Oh, come on. We all know the other volunteers are usually the trying ones to work with!) But at least 1% of my patience has to be kept for myself. I need it to forgive myself when I don’t understand what someone is asking me or for when I make a mistake. I can’t give all my patience and love away, if I want to be of any use in the long run. I think the same thing is probably true for life in general. We need to remember that it’s okay to call a time out. We need to know it’s okay to be unhappy sometimes and weep or whine or whatever it takes to feel better- whether that means talking it out or claiming your right to remain silent. That’s how we keep going. We pause, so we can start again. We allow ourselves forgiveness for our humanity and the courtesy of a little time or patience, and it works out a lot better for everyone.

So, dear needy significant others and sport commercials and society that demands I constantly be happy and successful and perfect, you can screw it. I will never give 110% for anything on this planet. I will not push myself to 110%, because I would lose myself. I will not give you “my all,” because why should you possess me? I am not yours. No, I will give until it hurts and I’m tired and frustrated, but then I will let myself pause and simply be with myself. I will probably scream. I might swear or throw things, but, in the end, I will get up again better than I was before because of the pause that is the 1% of patience that is mine and only mine.

You cannot have my 1%.

I will not find an imaginary extra 10% to please you. It does not exist and I have no intentions of inventing delusions for you.

(But have fun with the mystical, magical super human strength you think you have. I wish you the best of luck.)

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That Time the Governor Ditched Us

I have literally spent the last hour trying to figure out how to tell you a story.

One darn story.

Honestly, I think the problem was that I was trying to write in a notebook in the room I usually write from my phone in. Laugh all you want, but now I’m on my phone and I can write in coherent sentences (I think).

Unfortunately, my taste to tell you that tale has turned tart. (Even random alliteration cannot resurrect interest in it.)

Still, I want to write, so I’m going to tell you a story that I meant to tell you months ago but never quite got around to.

During my legislative internship this past year, I met the governor multiple times. (Henceforth known as G.) The first time I met G with the other interns was extremely disappointing. We had allowed forty five minutes to meet in the office and discuss the work we’ve been doing, but apparently G had different plans. When we got there, a sweet, frazzled secretary ushered us into a function room and told us where to stand.

“This is where you’ll want to be for the picture,” she explained.

“Thank you so much!” we harmonized. Oh gosh, we were hard-core fan-girling over meeting the governor.

A few minutes later, we heard those clear, confident official footsteps coming our way and G was looking us over. The (also frazzled) recipient of our fandom marched down the line to shake our hands and say something brief to each of us, as is expected. It ended up being “What do you want to go into? Do you have plans for college?” which are probably the two most stressful questions you can ever ask a bunch of teenagers. Plus, they’re extremely loaded. You better have the right answer. (You say there is no right answer, huh? Try something that sounds ‘under-ambitious’ or something very prestigious. You’ll be told to aim higher or lectured on how hard it is to achieve said goal. Trust me when I say these are not fun conversations.) Then, a camera flashed, we were promised the picture would be sent to us (it wasn’t) and we were out the door. The whole process was done in under ten minutes. Four of which were spent being placed for the photograph and waiting for our audience.

As the other interns and I found a place to sit and chat outside the State House, certain footsteps came toward us again. We each smiled and sat up straighter, hoping to see what was so urgent. Surely, rushing through our visit was necessary for the country’s wellbeing. We would probably be getting medals for sacrificing our right to speak to those who represent us. Those footprints were going someplace crucial, maybe the White House. Oh, they were doing great things all right.

Those very official footsteps marched very urgently down the street to an ice cream parlor. G didn’t as much as glance over at us.

But, hey, I get the need for ice cream. I just wish we hadn’t been planning to go there, too. You can’t follow the governor to an ice cream parlor. It just looks bad…

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”
Don Kardong

PS I apologize for having such an inconsistent posting schedule lately. Life happened and I didn’t feel like writing weekly poetry, so I stopped. It’s just one of many scheduling flips I’ve done, and I may still write poems. We’ll see how I feel about it later on. I started this blog by writing every day for a month, and you can see how much that has changed. I know the lack of structure can be difficult for my friends who thrive in consistency, but that’s how I work so you’ll just have to forgive me. What can I say? Sorry for any upset, but this is probably going to continue to happen. I changed my mind on what I want to do next week about six times today and don’t even talk to me about what career I’m going into! Indecisiveness is a bit of an Achilles heel with me. I’m going to take the next week or so off from blogging, but I still plan to read your wonderful pieces! (I’ll be writing, too, just not for the blog.) Thank you for your flexibility!

Obituaries Rewritten

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would throw marbles onto her stone driveway before I visited. As soon as we pulled up in our car, I would jump out to go gather up all the marbles hidden among the pebbles and return them to her.

“Thank you! I’m always losing my marbles, aren’t I?” she’d say with a wink.

Sometimes, she even let me throw them back out for the next grandchild to discover. You have no idea how absurdly exciting it was to me. Those little moments meant the world to me, and I have a feeling I’m not the only grandchild pining for a marble scavenger hunt right about now.

These little moments are what I want to focus on this week. Obituaries can be so cold, so clinical. It sums up a beautiful life into three short paragraphs, the majority of which is a list of surviving family members and dates. It never mentions the marbles she laughed with her grandkids over or her beautiful smile. It never echoes the many times she told me about all the jobs “gals are in” now from electricians and construction workers to CEOs, adding the first fuel to my feminist streak. Obituaries are just dry, empty outlines. She lived here, loved there. That’s just not enough, is it? No- this is what I want to add to her obituary:

J was one of the kindest, most faith filled and most genuine women you will ever meet. She believed in people with such a fervent honesty that you had no choice but to believe, too. She loved to share her wisdom from teaching her granddaughter the names of different trees and their leaves, to proving to the world how much girls can do. Her family misses her endlessly, but is ever grateful for the time they had with her and everything she taught them. Unconditionally loving, marble-’losing’, brilliant grandmothers don’t come along very often, and their footprints never fade. Although J has passed away, her lessons live on in the hearts of many, and, in that, her beauty will never die.

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Here’s to all our geraniums. Some beauty endures all and lasts longer than life itself.

Labels (Weekly Poem)

Freak.
Goody two-shoes.
Slut.
Whore.
Bitch. Retard.
Failure. Villain.
Miss Perfect. Hero.
Loser. Geek. Jock.
Hippie. Emo. Druggie.
Loner. Cry-baby. Ghetto.
Dork. Dweeb. Stoner.
Prep. Thug. Newbie. The Popular.
Brat. Teen Mom. Faggot. Cross Dresser. Problem Child.

STOP.

Who are they?

Human.
Flawed.
Bruised, not broken.
Imperfect.
Beautifully made.
Worthy of love.
Equal.

Imagine if
Labels didn’t exist.
Imagine
Creating your own identity
Without name tags
Or lunch tables.
Imagine
Pausing judgments
Long enough to look at yourself.

Pretty (My weekly poem)

This week’s poem is just because society has a pretty screwed up standard of beauty. We advocate unhappiness with oneself on the basis of appearance, resulting in 91% of women detesting their reflection and dieting to achieve “their ideal body shape.” However, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type so commonly seen in the media. Obviously, that’s not a reasonable standard for the 95% to strive for. A little less cultural emphasis on mascara and a little more on education and careers could go a long way.

Painting on concealer to hide behind
Running constantly to try to drop a few pounds
Eating tiny bits of celery for every meal
Tugging, teasing and twirling hair
Tracing self worth in the flatness of a stomach
Yearning for acceptance, sacrificing respect

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.”
Markus Zusak

“That’s always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they’re pretty. It’s like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste.”
John Green