Measuring Up

Measuring up is over-rated and based on superficial standards. Striving to fit in and belong is always draining. Yet, sometimes we all still do it. Too often, our hearts and heads pay the price. For those of us who aren’t devalued as “different” this experience is not a daily occurrence. Still, when we do stretch beyond our comfort level, it’s a godsend to close the door on the sanctity of our homes. In that setting we relax our guard and feel accepted for who we are, not for who others think we should be.

As parents and advocates for vulnerable loved ones there never seems to be enough sanctuary to buffer us from our relentless pursuit of inclusion. I’m talking about the kind of inclusion you feel in your bones, not what the system holds up in a cookie cutter format. Constantly seeking responsive, everyday opportunities for our family member is a full-time job, with no paid overtime. We push ourselves to become smarter, stronger, more resilient—all while feeling worn out. Then we judge ourselves harshly for falling short of our goal.

Falling down is easy when we constantly stretch, strain and sprain. On the other hand, recovery and stabilization is challenging. My falls usually involve pain, even if it’s a bruised ego. Embarrassed or not, there’s learning and wisdom when I take the time to clearly assess why I fell. My gut reinforces that it’s imperative to get back up—or run the risk of being flattened. Every parent knows there really isn’t much of a choice when advocating for a vulnerable loved one.

Society readily judges and encourages us to hide our failures— like a stain on our record. We often we feel ashamed and judge ourselves for not having known or done better. When we do talk about our missteps, it’s typically not until the experience is well in the rear-view mirror and we feel totally righted again. And from that safe perch of stability things get analyzed, sometimes too cold and clinically. Human frailty somehow gets displaced, as a non-contender.

I’m fully human, with all of its shortcomings. Yet I regularly need to remind myself of that inescapable fact. Until that message gets seared into my psyche, the refrain of not measuring up will still echo, even if in the distance. Do you still hear that echo?

Susan Dunnigan

June 2021