5 Things It Turns Out I’ll Never Be Done Learning

Jun 8 2015

I spilled chocolate protein drink on myself this morning.

I spilled chocolate protein drink on my white work blouse and down my face and in my hair; waaaay too late, of course, to go home and change.

I gave my nephew a ride to school this morning, too, because I AM AN AWESOME HUMAN BEING, and I help my family.

Also, I screamed at the spider who malevolently descended from my sun visor while I was giving the nephew a ride, scaring said nephew because he’s “not sure that’s very safe driving, Beth, to scream and close your eyes and wave your arms like that.” I was braking and pulling over because SPIDER, but did my nephew see that part? Noooooo. He just criticized the blindness and the flailing. What does he know?

I went to the drive-through ATM a few minutes later, and I nicked the concrete pole that protects the machine from People Like Me, knocking my driver’s side mirror from the car entirely, which was a little bit my fault, because, yes, I technically hit something with a part of my car, but also was definitely not at all my fault because Someone Else of the teenaged variety had already wrecked that side mirror, like, 3 years ago, and it’s been hanging on by a thread (literal thread) and super glue, so it was pre-broken, and I just finished the job like the person who opens the pickle jar after someone else tried and tried and tried and loosened it so that the buff guy gets all the undeserved credit for actually popping that sucker open. I am undeservingly credited, is what I’m saying, for knocking the side mirror off my car, and I’m happy to share the credit with others because that’s the kind of sharing, generous person I am.

All of that, plus remembering my kids get out of school for the summer on Thursday and I have no summer childcare arranged, happened before 9:00am this morning, which, let’s be honest, makes it pretty much like every other morning, full of mishaps and danger and ME, screwing stuff up, and it occurred to me this morning that I’m not very good at adulting. That, in fact, if given periodic Adulting Exams, I’d most likely fail and have my Adulting License revoked.

“Adulting” has become a verb lately, and I approve. Yes, it’s kitchsy. Yes, it’s trendy. Yes, it’s a grotesque twisting of conventional, acceptable grammar rules, using a noun as a verb. But it’s so helpful, isn’t it?

Now that I’m 40, though, I’ve figured out nearly all of us adults are merely impersonating grown-ups. I mean, I won’t say all of us; theoretically, there’s someone out there who’s a grown-up and feels like it, too. But most of us? Yep; totally faking this adult thing and a little bit amazed we don’t get caught more often with our pants down or watching our side mirrors fly away at the drive-up bank.

It’s nice being 40, man, because the pressure’s kind of off now. If I’m not a grown-up yet, I’m unlikely to become one, and realizing that is freedom. There are things in life I’ll just never be good at — things in life I’ll always be learning and will never have “learned” — and I’m grateful to know it.

And, because I love you, fellow grown-up impersonators, and I don’t want you to ever feel alone, I present to you a short list of…

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5 Things I’ve Learned I’ll Never Be Done Learning:

  1. How to Clean: I recognize that part of my problem here is an absence of motivation, and I know there are myriad how-to-clean resources available on the World Wide Webs, but I feel very confident saying I’m not ever going to fully learn how to clean things. It’s fair to say at this point in my life that washing my sheets once a week is never, ever, ever going to happen. Nope; I’ll wash my sheets once a month, maybe, if I combine just the right amount of optimism and lying to believe that’s true. And window sills? Dear Lord. Do people actually clean those? Because mine are a dead fly museum with some pretty wicked black mold in the corners to keep those fly carcasses company. Millennia from now, when future archaeologists dig up my house, they’ll create all kinds of brilliant theories on why I collected fly carcasses and what that says about our family unit. I wish I could see those reports, because, frankly, I could use an explanation.
  2. How to Have a Body: I’ve had a body for a while now. Like, as long as I’ve been alive, and a little bit before that, too, and I’ve gotta say, having a body is complicated. This thing has nooks and crannies and scratches and scars and needs. It needs stuff all the time, and I only know what those things are some of the time. This body has weight, for example, and it’s very, very good as preparing itself for a future apocalyptic starvation scenario where it needs to have the reserves to live off of body fat for months and months, but apparently no one has given it the memo that we’re not facing a Worst Case Famine Scenario here in 21st century suburban Oregon, so it’s a little behind the times. This is the body I have to navigate, and I used to think I’d figure it out eventually. HA! Now I know this body’s a life-long science experiment. Which is ultimately doomed.
  3. How to Work a Brain: I’ll be honest, my brain’s not all I was led to believe it might be when I was little. Not to belittle my mom or her parenting style, but she’s a lying liar who lies, you know? Unlimited potential, Mom? Yeah, right. Turns out, I’m not going to be a princess or the president, and, worst of all, I couldn’t actually have grown up to be a unicorn no matter how good my brain was. My brain, in fact, is a little faulty, prone to depression, and has very, very questionable judgement. Not to complain, but they should probably offer better customer service and free repairs on these things.
  4. How to Be Good at Family: Family is the best except when family is the worst, and I’m afraid I contribute to both ends of the spectrum. I’m a wonderful mom — funny, charming, engaging, involved — until I’m ragey and dysfunctional and tired and, well, not at all wonderful. And I’m a wonderful daughter, a wonderful sister, a wonderful friend and a wonderful wife in exactly the same ways because it’s important to be consistent. Yep. Sure enough. I’m wonderful. And woeful. Wonderful and weird. Wonderful and wild. And fantastic and feral and free. And triumphant and trapped. Both/And, friends. Very Both/And.
  5. How to Have Faith: Oh, Faith. Oh, Faith, you tricky bastard. Oh, Faith, who I once thought was the opposite of doubt and who I’ve since learned shelters the Doubters under her wings, and the Questioners, too, and gives Love and Light freely to all comers. Oh, Faith, who is at once both freefall and foundation, and grime and grace, and more complex and simple than I ever imagined. Oh, Faith, who I will never fully figure out or understand but whom I pursue anyway because you are as strange as you are compelling and beautiful, and, when I listen to you and not necessarily to what others say about you, I find myself drawn into the lap of God to be simply loved for all my fabulous follies and flaws.

My list, of course, could go on and on and on; thousands of thousands of things I’ll never be done learning. But this is enough for now, because I can write the list forever or go forth and live the imperfect life. I pick going forth into imperfection. And I’m inviting you to come, too.

In conclusion, I spilled chocolate protein drink on myself this morning, and I flailed blindly at a spider, and I ripped a side mirror off my car by accident and because I’m me. I will always be a mess, and there will be some things I will never figure out, and it turns out that’s OK. Which is, of course, another thing I’ll never be done learning; that I’m OK, anyway, not just despite the mess, but also because of it, for it’s inside the mess and the chaos and the madness and the mire that we find the mystery and the magic and the laughter and the grace to keep learning and keep becoming. In the end, we are all becoming; becoming, meaning in process, and becoming, meaning already beautiful. We are becoming, friends. That’s as true a truth as I know.

With love,

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P.S. If you have something to add to the list — something you’ve learned you’ll never be done learning — I’d love to hear it.