I don’t know what I am doing most of the time.
I didn’t know how to be a mother, but they sent me home from the hospital with my tiny pink bundle and the only reasonable option was to figure it out. I didn’t know how to be a photographer, but I had a camera and a dream and I just kept taking pictures. I didn’t know how to be a single parent, but I was alone and there were three kids that needed to be fed and clothed and loved and that seemed as good a place to start as any.
I don’t know how to blog. I don’t know how to write. And there is this voice in my head that tells me I should wait until I know more, until I’ve practiced more, until I am better and smarter, until I get it all figured out. I am exposing all my foibles and flaws in such a public forum. Anyone can see when I am trying too hard, or not hard enough. Anyone, can see that I don’t know what I am doing.
I am familiar with this voice. I’ve heard it a thousand times before. It’s that call to be perfect and that constant reminder that I am never good enough. It’s the precursor to procrastination, to giving up, to failing. I know because I’ve let it get to me one too many times, and then I procrastinated, and I gave up, and I failed. That’s what happens when you are waiting to be perfect, to be good enough.
Sometimes, however, failing isn’t an option.
The first time I found myself alone with my baby as a new mother, I was terrified. Aside from a little babysitting in my high-school years, I hadn’t really spent any time with kids, let alone infants. I was that girl who never even wanted to hold other people’s babies when they were being passed around the family/friend circle to be admired. Babies? Eww. What if they cry or vomit or give me the stink eye? No thank you, I’ll wave from over here.
Then I had one of my own. I was, ready or not, a mother.
My baby was perfect. I loved her completely and totally. I wanted to be a perfect mother, but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. For the first time, procrastinating, and giving up, and failing weren’t real options. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did it anyway.
Last year my sister became a mother too. I laugh because she often calls me for advice. What do I know about parenting? I am no perfect mother. She calls me anyway though because I’ve done it before and for all my mistakes, I’ve learned a little something.
Still, I struggle with this notion of perfection. Don’t my kids deserve a perfect mother? Perhaps I should have waited and become a mother after I was smarter, more experienced, a little closer to perfect. Don’t my clients deserve a better photographer, someone with degrees and awards. And there are so many good blogs, so many good writers, so many places on the web for people to spend their time. Perhaps I should have waited until I had practiced more, written more, learned more before I went public with my life, my words, my hopes and dreams.
Perhaps. But I have three kids who know they are loved and light up my world every day. I have a long list of photo clients that appreciate my work and a portfolio of photos that improves with every picture I take. I’ve even developed a sense of courage, fledgling though it may be, and pride in all that I can accomplish on my own. I have all this, and it came about in my imperfection.
And while the voices in my head demand perfection, this is what I know in my heart:
I don’t have to know how.
I don’t have to be good enough.
I don’t have to have experience.
I don’t have to succeed.
I don’t have to be perfect.
Maybe it’s enough to just keep trying. Maybe all the mistakes, all the foibles, all the flaws teach me something valuable and keep propelling me forward. Maybe it’s not so much about perfection as it is about the process. Maybe that is why my sister calls me to ask what she can do to help her toddler take better naps. I don’t know much about child psychology, I haven’t won any good parent awards before, and if my four year olds’ temper tantrum this afternoon is any indicator, I’m pretty sure I am still not a perfect parent. I do keep parenting though, every single day, and when my sister calls I can tell her what I’ve learned.
So, here I am. Writing. Blogging. Trying, in my own muddled way, to figure things out and keep moving forward. I don’t know what I am doing, but I am doing it anyway. Some days it's easier than others, but I am learning to see it as an imperfect work in progress - better that, than waiting to be a perfect failure.