by Tish Hamilton
As we round the corner of the 6th month of this pandemic, here are a few things I, Tish, have not done: baked sourdough bread; strummed a tune on the dusty ukulele; read last week’s Sunday New York Times; hired an SAT prep tutor for my daughter, Nina; completed a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in a house with a pool on vacation with my neighborhood “pod” with kids my kid’s age. (I don’t even have a “pod”!) Run a marathon. (Ouch. That last one hurts.)
Comparison is the thief of joy, Mittens. That was a caption in a New Yorker cartoon: a fat cat sitting over his fresh kill [dead mouse, sorry, Dimity!] scolding a slightly less fat cat looking glumly at his less-impressive fresh kill.
Thing is, comparison is such an easy trap for runners and mothers to fall into. Our “sport” (or hobby, habit, practice) is fueled by comparison: You start running, you get “better”—faster, stronger, leaner, happier. You enter a race, and you beat someone. Then there’s the trap of comparing yourself to your former self. I was so much younger yesterday than I am today. Dang!
Don’t even get me started on the parenting comparison: Someone always has a bigger house, an Ivy League-bound child, a dinnertime ritual of reflection that sparks thoughtful, enlightened conversation. [laughing while crying emoji goes here]
And all that was before the pressure-cooker of the pandemic!
Working from home; schooling from home; recognizing how privileged (and grateful!) we are to have our health and health care. And letting go of so many of the compulsive comparisons we measure ourselves by (even if they are thieves of joy).
“You do not have to be good,” wrote the poet Mary Oliver, not a runner but an avid ambler—good enough in my book! “You do not have to walk on your knees for 100 miles rough the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
In that spirit, Nina and I are embracing “good enough.” We mow the lawn; we don’t weed-whack. Good enough! We stir leftover rice into a can of Amy’s Lentil Vegetable soup and call it dinner. Good enough! We notice spots on spoons that our ailing dishwasher hasn’t quite cleaned and toss them in the drawer anyway. Good enough! Wouldn’t it be so great if my perfectionistic-leaning daughter could hold onto “good enough” as her hybrid school year unfolds?
I will never own a Tesla; Nina isn’t going to Harvard; this pandemic won’t last forever.
I did bake blueberry muffins (with vanilla yogurt because no milk). I’ve kept up a “movement” streak (25 minutes running, biking, hiking or walking). I read an anti-racist book (Stamped, adapted for middle-graders by Jason Reynolds). We do the best we can. Good enough!