The Most Terrifying Thing In The Forest

“‘A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest’, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, ‘because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.’” – Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith

This is how I want to walk out of my apartment and into the city every day, how I want to walk down Burnside Street at night. It’s how I want to walk into work every day. It’s how I want to walk through life.

I don’t think that means having total confidence on every level. I think that means knowing exactly how to be human. I think it includes the ability to accept your own flaws and to admit your mistakes, to know that sometimes you’re going to fart in public, misunderstand someone’s intentions, or get a little too drunk. It also means that you’re going to do the right thing as much as humanly possible, even when you’re not sure what the right thing really is. You’re going to parent yourself no matter what your background and upbringing, and know when to start, when to stop, and when to care. You’ll also know that you will make mistakes finding out how to know those things, and this is also human.

A friend of mine recently sent a text to a couple of people in which he showed a home improvement project he was working on, with the caption: “Perfection is the enemy of done.” It occurred to me that this is a truth on every plane of existence. It applies to my work; if I try to turn in a perfect report I get the opposite of good feelings from resulting constructive criticism. It applies to anything in life that’s important to me: the fact that I ran 26.2 miles is far more important than how well or poorly I did it. Getting on my bike and trying new things is far more important than winning races. It also applies in the bedroom, which is something I actually learned long ago; setting expectations for myself that are nothing short of perfection in body and mind means I lose the ability to get lost in the moment and to get really, truly dirty and beautiful. Does he have flaws? Fuck, who knows or cares? So why would he know or care about mine?

Perfection is the enemy of done.

Perfection is the enemy of humanity.

Perfection is the enemy of ecstasy.

Perfection is the enemy of perfection.

We worry so much about our ability to be better. We worry about success, and about striving toward some (usually unattainable) goal in life. For many people, that goal seems to be something called “happiness”.

For me, I think that happiness means being a person who lives without fear of my humanity. I am flawed. I am a terrible cook, an even worse dancer, and a very harsh critic of my body and its capabilities. I am also an enthusiastic foodie, a totally amazing dancer when I’m all by myself, and a dedicated runner and bike racer regardless of my skill level in any physically demanding discipline. We all have our pros and cons, and very few of us are the “best” at anything. I am my only competition.

I am good at my job under normal circumstances. I also know that the tribulations of the past year temporarily put my brain on hold. I have not been able to contribute, for the last three months or so, to my completely stellar work team in the way I would like. That’s changing now. I feel challenges coming on, and I fear them less. I don’t feel like I have all the tools yet, but the willingness is coming back, thanks in part to enthusiastic coworkers who take me to the field and remind me of the reason for the season. Am I the best? Hardly. Am I good enough? I’m working on it.

So my plan is to learn how strive less for perfection and more for my own particular brand of human-ness. I want to learn to be completely, one hundred percent me, and not some idealized version of myself. I’m not a thoroughbred, but I’ve proven time and again that I am from hardy stock. And that’s just it: I don’t have to prove anything ever again. It’s time to take the pressure off, to allow myself to just be who I want and do what I want, while becoming the best human I can be. That will make me happy, genuine, confident, capable, and truly indestructible.

Accept myself and accept my humanity, and I will become the most terrifying thing in the forest.

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