At a workshop at the Woodruff Arts Center I got to work with the wonderful storyteller and teaching artist David Gonzalez. He took us through a transformation exercise in which we became other people, but we started as our “best selves.” This is the person that we can be when we are at our best, the person we would most like to present ourselves as to the world.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my “best self.” I believe I am my “best self” most often when I am teaching one-on-one. I love being that person, and feel most loved and valued in that state.
If I could, I’d be my best self all the time. I am not always able to be when I teach large classes. Nor am I my best self with my friends, though I want to be.
I am definitely not always my best self with my family. This is among the most painful things in my life. It’s especially sad because, while I think it’s most important to be my best self at home, it’s impossible.
My children and I have a relationship in which sometimes I am the hero, sometimes the villain, sometimes the fool, sometimes the wise man, sometimes nothing. I believe that they need me to be all of these things, because they push me in these directions. They like to mock me, defy me, argue with me, test me, infuriate me.
And so, even though I’d like to present my best self to them, I fail. Time and time again, I am not only a flawed father, but a very poor human being. I feel all the more wretched in these times because I feel so far from the best self I know I can be.
But perhaps this is the great miracle of parenting. If we could, we’d all be our best selves all the time. And then who would we be?
Presenters, self-fulfilling prophecies, convinced of our innate goodness with no challenge to the mirage of our perfection. No, parenthood offers a very different gift. Parents learn that you do not have to be your best self in order to be loved and loving.
My best self is important. I pull him out when I can. It is not my whole self.
This Father’s Day I am reminded, as I am every day, that I am flawed, in process, and expected to set an example for my children. The example I set is not to be my best self. It is to do my best work whatever self I happen to be at the time.