Free to Be You and Me

by Brian Leaf

Sometimes I think you might be a better, more productive, more interesting person than me. You seem so confident. You know how to make whipped cream from scratch. Or maybe you can build a shed or name the members of the president's cabinet. And you're so good with kids.

Last week, I went on a walk with my son's class. Another parent was on the walk, too. She stayed at the back of the group to make sure kids didn't fall behind. When one kid was considering throwing a rock, she made him reconsider with a wag of her finger. She reminded a few kids to keep their coats on. She seemed everywhere at once.

I, on the other hand, walked with my son. I felt bad that I was not helping to shepherd the class. I felt bad, when someone fell behind or picked up a rock, that I was not more assertive. I felt bad that I wasn't creating fun games for the kids or leading the charge to run down the hill at full speed.

It was a gorgeous day. The sky was crystal blue. The sun reflected off the water gushing in the creek. The grass was a luminescent early-spring green. My son and I walked in silence admiring the colors and sounds. He was so happy to have me there. At one point another child held my other hand and we, too, walked in silence.

After the walk, the class said goodbye and I walked to my car. I felt so healthy from the exercise and the fresh air and sunshine and time with my son. But I felt bad that I hadn't helped more. I wished I could have been more assertive and confident with the class. I wished I were more like the other parent.

The next morning, after I dropped off my son, the teacher stopped me to say, "We have another walk coming up next week, and I'd really love for you to join us again. I so appreciated having your gentle energy and mindful presence in the group. It's a real gift to the children."

Funny. I only felt bad because I was comparing myself to someone else. That other parent is wonderful and so very competent and helpful. She is wonderfully perfect as she is. But it turns out that when I let myself be me, as I did that day, I, too, might just be wonderfully perfect.

The moral of the story: Don't try to be the funny dad; the got-it-all-together mom; or the always-perky coworker. They are great as they are, no doubt. But we are each happiest and serve the world best when we are truly ourselves.

Brian Leaf is a Kripalu Yoga teacher ad the author of 12 books, including the memoirs Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi and Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi.

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