Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Half-Assed

Yesterday novelist and retired high school English teacher Peter Ferry was in Ashland. I hosted a book chat with him at my house for about fifteen people and then he taught a fiction writing workshop on campus at SOU. Baby Leone cooed and gurgled through the first event and slept soundly through the second. I wore her all day in a front pack. She was very patient, even though I spilled falafel on her head while she was sleeping.

But, as I suspected, I was not nearly as in tune with her elimination needs. I did catch a poop in the chamber pot during the book chat. I went into the bedroom and held her over her little pot and kept the door ajar so I wouldn’t miss anything. But the rest of the day she did what most American babies do and peed in her diaper.

This morning has been much drier. She’s been signaling when she needs to pee and then going happily in her chamber pot as soon as I take her diaper off.

A lot of us, myself included, tend to think in absolutes. We say things like, “I use cloth diapers,” or “I am not a runner,” and treat these statements as immutable facts. This absolutism keeps us from doing things outside of our comfort zone. If I’m not a runner then I can’t go for a jog, because I’m not a runner. If I use cloth diapers then I can’t teach my baby a cue to pee in the potty because I use cloth diapers.

See what I mean?

But what if it’s okay to be more fluid? What if you use disposable diapers MOST OF THE TIME but still buy a dozen cloth diapers and use them SOME OF THE TIME? What if instead of thinking of yourself as “not a runner,” you put the baby in a running stroller and go do three 12-minute miles, even if you only do so once or twice a month?

One of my favorite books is Rachel Naomi Remen’s Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal. In it she tells the story of a woman battling a chronic illness that leaves her exhausted all the time. Because of her sickness the woman almost never leaves the house.

She feels too unwell to be part of the energetic, healthy world.

But then one day she realizes that there is no law that states she has to do things all the way and that there is nobody but herself forcing her to be like everyone else. So she tries going out. She goes to a show, really enjoys it, gets tired, and leaves at intermission.

The realization that she does not have to do things 100 percent frees her up to enjoy her life as it is to the best of her capabilities. Her new motto: Anything worth doing is worth doing half-assed.

I tend to be an overly critical perfectionist. And I often feel bad about what I am doing wrong. After I vacuum I notice the bits of fluff I didn’t get out of the corners. When I exercise for half an hour, I feel badly because I didn’t go for 45 minutes.

The more I think about it with my rational mind, the stupider I realize this is. It’s also so ridiculously self-centered to dwell on the negative. So I am hereby adopting the half-assed motto (or trying to anyway).

When I allow myself the freedom to try and to strive–and even to fail–life becomes a whole lot easier.

What do you think? Would a half-assed approach to life help liberate you in some way?

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on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 at 4:27 pm and is filed under home birth, infant pottying.
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