You’ve heard of a ski bum, right? Someone who works hard all summer so they can ski all winter? Well, my Grandpa Mahoney wasn’t a ski bum, but he was a bum skier, and a pretty good one at that. Most of us who have ever gone snow skiing have had some experience with snow bum skiing, sliding all the way down the hill on your fanny, either accidentally or on purpose because the hill was beyond your abilities. But not Grandpa. He was a water bum skier.
One of our trips to Bear Lake included another family and Grandpa and Grandma Mahoney, my mother’s parents. As usual, we would ski in the morning and evening and play on the beach or in the water during the afternoon wind. One morning I was on the boat with “Uncle Phil”—one of those family friends who isn’t really an uncle but you call him that anyway—and several others, including my grandpa. Well, for whatever reason, Grandpa decided he wanted to try his hand at waterskiing. This was rather remarkable considering that he was probably about 60 years old at the time and had never waterskied before.
Uncle Phil, who was driving the boat, stopped, and Grandpa jumped into the water. Someone got into the water with him to get him all situated, then Uncle Phil began to slowly tow him along. Finally, Grandpa yelled “Hit it,” and off we went. Grandpa was a rather small man, so he got on top of the water fairly easily. There was only one problem—instead of standing up straight, he was in a squatting position, his nether end endlessly bouncing along the surface of the water. And thus, “bum skiing” was born.
Every time Grandpa tried to stand up straight, he would start to lose his balance, so he would return to his squatting position. This happened over and over again. It still makes me smile when I think about it. Uncle Phil was laughing so hard I don’t think he could see where he was going. If we had been able to catch this on video, which would have been rather difficult because video cameras hadn’t been invented yet, I’m sure it would have won America’s Funniest Home Video grand prize. Grandpa’s run ended when he finally did stand up straight—and promptly tipped over into the water. But the story doesn’t end there. Several years later my dad overheard Grandpa tell someone, “I used to do some waterskiing. Got pretty good at it, too.”
We’ve laughed about this story for years. But it was always told basically at Grandpa’s expense—we were laughing at him rather than with him. When I first thought about putting this story on my blog, it was still with that attitude. Realizing it would put Grandpa in a less than favorable light, I decided not to use it. But then I got thinking—for a 60-year-old man who had never waterskied before, he really was pretty good at it. At least he had the gumption to try it, and that says something in and of itself. However, the thing that really struck me was that not only was Grandpa not afraid to try something new, he also wasn’t afraid to celebrate himself and his accomplishment.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good at celebrating myself. In fact, I’m lousy at it. I’m incredibly good at downplaying my efforts and accomplishments, but the other side of the scale is basically empty, an imbalance that is definitely detrimental. The thing is, even if I were a highly acclaimed, award-winning water skier, or author, or artist, or whatever, I’m sure I would still believe I wasn’t enough. And, in the script that I’ve been using for most of my life, you have nothing to celebrate if you’re not “enough.”
It’s a dangerous idea—this perception of being enough or not enough. The biggest challenge is that it is undefinable; how does one measure his or her enoughness? I don’t know. My script tells me that I will somehow magically recognize when I have arrived at that point. But that leads to the question, arrived where? If I’m honest, I have to admit that, according to my script, that destination is determined by comparing the perceived value of my own accomplishments, performances, worthiness, talents, or beingness to the perceived value of those same qualities and efforts in someone else. I once had a very wealthy man tell me that it wasn’t how much money he had that was important, it was how much more he had than somebody else that mattered. I was quite taken aback by that, but I realize now that I’ve been doing that with myself—my enoughness is determined by whether or not I perceive that I am better than someone else. Except, my endeavors are never enough because there is always someone whom I feel is doing it, whatever “it” is, better. The problem with determining my enoughness by comparing myself to someone else is that the basis for that evaluation is always faulty. I’ve often told others that it’s not fair to compare their dirtiest bathroom with their neighbor’s clean front room, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I guess I should listen to myself; I might learn something.
However, comparison to others isn’t the only method I use to determine my enoughness. When I’m not comparing myself to someone else, I’m measuring myself against an unreasonable standard of what I think I should be able to do. (“Should” is another dangerous word, but we’ll leave that for another day.) For some perverse reason, I think I should be able to do things perfectly. I certainly don’t expect that from anyone else, but that’s the impossible-to-meet standard I set for myself. Problem is, because I’m not perfect, and never will be in this life, it is impossible to do things perfectly; there will always be room for improvement. So, according to my unyielding script, I can’t celebrate because, being less than perfect, I’m not enough.
Frankly, I’ve had it with underrating my enoughness, so here’s what I’m going to do. For the next week I’m going to try an experiment. Each night I’m going to list five things I can celebrate about myself. Here’s my list for yesterday:
- I watched my daughter’s two youngest children, the toddler and the whirlwind, while she went to an appointment.
- I called my mom to check on her.
- I got up at 6:30 a.m. to kiss my husband goodbye before he went to work.
- I meditated for 15 minutes.
- I did yoga for an hour.
I have to admit that at the same time I was making out this list, I was also telling myself that each of these things was nothing big. Well then, I guess I’ll celebrate small things. And that’s enough.
I’ll let you know in a week or so how the experiment is going. I’d love to hear from you if you decide to try this yourself. You either can comment to this post, or, if you’d rather not make it public, you can email me at email@example.com.
Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_8161215_3d-man-party-isolated-on-white.html’>digitalgenetics / 123RF Stock Photo</a>