Honey Mustard Mistakes
As the hostile social butterfly (moth?) I am, I’m part of a few antisocial mom groups on Facebook. Recently, one of the posted games in my favorite group suggested that we should each pick our celebrity name by combining our favorite salad dressing with the thing about us that has most disappointed our parents.
So, hello, friends – my name is Honey Mustard Divorce.
I was raised Mormon, and growing up my mom told me fairly regularly that divorce was never an option. “Murder, on the other hand,” she would add only semi-ironically, letting that caveat linger in the air unfinished.
So when I got a divorce 6 years ago, I was breaking with a long family tradition, going back about a gajillion generations, of sticking it out even (or especially) when miserable. Divorce isn’t a decision that should ever be made casually, and, in my opinion, is so awful that it should only happen when the only thing that’s worse is staying married. In my case, an already agonizing situation was made significantly worse by the knowledge that my parents thought I had failed All Of Morality and my children, in that order.
Not that I was a novice at failing my parents. I wasn’t. I’d started young, honed my skills, and kept it going strong for about 3 decades. If I were to use the criteria in the social media game I mentioned above, I would have changed my name more often than Prince (may he glorify the afterlife in Purple forever): I would have been called Honey Mustard Failing Mormon Seminary Classes, Honey Mustard Reads Inappropriate Books, Honey Mustard Pagan, Honey Mustard Sucks At Math, Honey Mustard Runaway, and Balsamic Vinaigrette Moved In With Her Boyfriend (my taste in salad dressing shifted for a brief period of time), among others.
Lest you think I’ve limited the population of people I’ve disappointed to my parents, don’t worry. I’ve failed my employers, my friends, my spouse, my children, and myself. Once in college I ran up $824 in late fees at the University library. I’ve forgotten work assignments, made completely inappropriate jokes at serious work meetings, spaced on my sisters’ birthdays, and broken promises I’ve made. I’ve compromised my personality to appeal to the person I was dating, and misrepresented myself so people would like me better. As I type this, I’m sitting on like $200 in unpaid parking tickets.
You don’t know how much I wanted to lie to you about all of that. That paragraph was almost a list of all the ways in which my awesomeness overcame the shortcomings of the past. But in the immortal words of Brene Brown, “You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
Right now at Magic City Spiritual Community, Charles is teaching from The Gifts of Imperfection, which was written by Brene Brown, who is this incredible researcher who has started an international dialogue about vulnerability. She talks about the necessity of embracing our imperfections, and of living honestly into the truth of ourselves.
I’m going on record to say that this sucks in a lot of ways.
I don’t want to acknowledge the necessity of imperfection, I just want to be perfect. I want to feel like if I follow a 10-step plan and read the 17 most influential self-help books, I will stop screwing up at some point in time. I won’t have to ever lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, embarrassed almost into oblivion by something mortifying I did. I want to know at some point I will be the ideal wife, the ideal mother, the ideal friend, the ideal employee. I want people to murmur in admiration as I walk past, awed by my quiet grace and the beauty of soul that transcends the physical, a rock star in the enlightenment world.
And the reason why I want this is terrifying to admit. I feel like if I manage to attain this perfection, I will be completely worthy of love. Not only the love of other people, but, maybe more importantly, love from myself.
I will be Honey Mustard Nothing.
In his book, Whatever Arises, Love That, Matt Kahn asks readers to imagine that when they feel their worst, they deserve more love, not less. When you are sad, angry, disappointed, embarrassed, when you have made a colossal mistake, or when you are hurting the most – you deserve more love, not less. The reason this concept is terrifying is that I think that most of us think that love is something that must be merited, and can only exist in the absence of mistakes. If we really deserve love at our darkest, most horrifying, most flawed, then maybe everyone else does, too. Maybe love and acceptance should be our default mode, not our reward for perceived merit. And this is a scary, wide-open, vulnerable way to live.
Last night, Charles and I were talking about how it would transform the face of the world if every person knew that they were completely seen and loved, truly loved, for who they are. The insane part is how spectacularly rare this is. It is a very human impulse to show people only what we want them to see of us, to think that the bits of us we find the most distasteful will render us fundamentally unlovable. And the person you most need love from – yourself – is the person who is most likely to find you unlovable because we all see our own flaws in unflinching Technicolor.
Mistakes are unavoidable (although I probably could have dodged those parking tickets. And the $824 in library fines). We’re human, and we’re going to mess up.
Maybe the small truth is that it’s a revolutionary act to decide to love ourselves even in the midst of our own personal yuckiness. Matt Kahn suggests that when you experience something unpleasant that makes you feel like rejecting yourself, you place your hand gently over the part of your body that is feeling distress over this (for me, my chest right in the middle of a panic attack), and murmur quietly to yourself, “I love you. I love you.” And you do this for a solid two minutes, even after the horrible feeling has retreated. It may take time, but ultimately your spirit responds to this.
I plan on trying this, just as soon as I feel like I’ve fixed some of my personality flaws and earned some love from myself.
Just kidding. Honey Mustard Judging Myself Like You Would Not Believe needs to go be kind and accepting to herself, so I’ll catch you later.