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September 19, 2013
This is Not a Stone
Work in Teams
by Hannah Bird

For the past several years I have purchased my cosmetics from Korean companies. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I am slightly paler than the Pillsbury dough boy and Korean cosmetics come in colors that do not make me look like I should be exiting a Volkswagen Beetle with 34 of my closest friends.

The second reason is that these companies share my belief that the secret to a happy life is to make mundane things as awesome as possible.

The packaging of Korean cosmetics is the definition of awesome.  I have blush that is shaped like a cupcake. My face cream comes out of a shiny red apple.  My lipstick is a cat that is winking at me. And one random cream comes out of a jewel.  The everyday made awesome — I am all for it.

But last week when I was placing my semiannual order, I noticed a product that not awesome. Armpit whitener.

When technology exploded during the last half of the last century, there were all kinds of prognostications about how much free time they would generate.  There were optimistic estimates that the work week would be cut in half and leisure time would soar. We were going to usher in the new millennium relaxing with those we loved. That, of course, is not what happened.

Because of armpit whitener. Or rather because of our deep commitment to never feeling like we are good enough. All the leisure time that technology promised has been eaten up with second jobs and obsessive reaching.

We obsessively reach for perfect bodies, perfect parties, perfect lives and a million other versions of armpit whitener. We have put ourselves under a microscope and we and our stained armpits have been found wanting. We need to be perfect and complete.

But there is an easier way.

Because life is funny that way, I am part of the management of a ballet school. Clearly this is not because of my ballet skills. I am not graceful. My reflexes are legendarily bad.

I cannot find the beat in music. Choreography makes my head hurt. If I was in charge of costumes the girls would wear something from Walmart with glitter on it. Luckily, I don’t have to do any of that. My beautiful sisters-in-law do that. They are amazing choreographers. They are mesmerizing dancers. They make costumes that any professional company would envy. They are amazing.

So why do they need me? Because they are what we in the crabby lady business call “nice.” They do not think that writing press releases is a good time. They are too sweet to deathmarch 200 people through rehearsal without interruptions. No one is scared of them. Even though they should be.

So that’s my job. I am the sayer of hard things and the designated “no.”  Although I joke that this is why my sisters get presents and I get called names in the parking lot, the truth is this is perfect for me.  And it’s perfect for them.

And that is the secret. Even this introvert knows that we were sent down here in teams. We are meant to pool our resources. When we do that, we create something whole, something far more perfect than we could on our own. I am not saying that we shouldn’t work on our weaknesses. I am saying that we should resist the urge to be obsessed with them. We should not let them deprive us of the chance to share our strengths.

I have long maintained that one of the biggest mistakes parents make is that we forget that while our kids came to us they also came to families and communities. Although there is no excuse for abdicating parental duties, there is no shame in letting another person be the answer for your kid at a tricky moment.

There are people in my children’s lives who have given them gifts that I never could have. I am so grateful for that.  If my kids had only me and my husband as a resource, they would have missed some important growth and learning.

I sometimes wonder if this one of the reasons that we are told to be one. We know that perfection means being whole and complete. We know we are not going to be perfect one by one in the here and now on our own. But we can be one element of something whole and complete if we are willing to share our strengths and let others shine where we don’t.  

This is the way to be part of something important and amazing. Stop counting your flaws. Don’t obsess over your off-color armpits. Make whole and perfect out of your strengths and weaknesses by admitting that you have them. And then have the courage to offer both your strengths and weaknesses to other people in the pursuit of something great.

That makes life even more wonderful than my bunny rabbit shaped perfume.


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