Ehh, good enough
“Not cool, Doc,” my 25-year-old self, living in Los Angeles, attending rabbinical school, and falling in love with the woman who will become my life partner, says to Dr. Victor Morton, the man who is helping me unravel my resistance to falling in love with Jane and dealing with rabbinical school.
He, my therapist, has just double-dog dared me to submit a poorly-written essay for my third-year Bible class.
Feeling like I’m committing a crime, I walk the five-page, stapled, double-spaced, crapfest of a paper to the front of the 1970s classroom.
Dr. Tamara Askenazi, in a plaid skirt, lipstick, and hair style chosen from the I’m-still-in-my-youth style book, shuffles some papers, barely looking up as I hand the paper to her.
Handing my researched reflections about the Samaritans to a world expert in Literature and History of the Persian Period, 6th-4th centuries BCE, is like handing a poem you wrote about stars to Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I imagine crimson words Bad student floating above my head.
Recently, this past summer, when I was recovering from COVID, I told the members of the ROTB Saturday Spiritualigious Gathering, “It’s not going to be a great service. I’m not feeling so well.”
“Please,” I ask, looking into the camera, “Would you raise your hand if you are ok with me not being able to bat out the best service today?”
Most hands go up.
“Keep your hand up,” I continue, “if you think it’s ok for me to forgive myself for not pushing myself harder than 83%-87%.”
The same hands stay up.
“And,” I add, “keep your hands up if you are alright giving yourself permission to not be so perfect.”
We laugh as many hands go down.
A few weeks later I get the paper back from Dr. Askenazi.
Full marks. She seemingly didn’t even notice.
I ask myself and, later, Victor, “What’s the point of hard work that goes unnoticed?”
Ironically, that question is a corollary to the question of theodicy from the book of Job—“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
The book of Job was probably written between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE.
The time period over which Dr. Askenazi is boss.
Not striving. Non-striving.
Being OK with OK.
I tease those on zoom at a recent Saturday Service, “How about if I will only give you an A if you demonstrate that you aren’t striving for more than a C or a low pass?”
Canon Raggs Reagan, my friend—one of the first women ordained as an episcopal priest —visibly squirms in her seat.
“Raggs?” I ask. “Have you something you’d like to share?”
“I’m afraid that assignment would be too difficult for me. I was already setting my goals on getting you the best C that was ever earned. Of course, still overachieving and counter to the task at hand.”
Don’t try so hard.
Be ok being a bit disappointing.
It’s winter, for God’s sake.
No one is running on full cylinders.
Take it easy on you.
That’s the lesson of today.