the good people

ah, the tender vast space between myself and the good people.

i generally don’t use the terms good, bad, right or wrong with any seriousness. this is an exception. i’m going to use ‘good’ in the simplest sense here, shamelessly, because i was just really good for like 4 days and am thus a bit exhausted. proceed at risk of gross simplification.

i just spent a few days with one of my sisters and her husband. they are ‘good’ people. friendly, brilliant, hardworking, and nice to others because they genuinely want to be.

i, on the other hand, am more of a visitor to the experience of being a ‘good’ person. when it happens i feel like a different self, a self that aligns with what i imagine actually-good people feel like most of the time.

i used to strive for good with virgo zeal. a pedestal-worthy good – selfless and kind and working for justice and honest and hardworking and knowing-how-to-do-things.

in addition to my sister and her husband, i happen to know lots of people who are good in this way most of the time, and still let me come around, so i have reference points and observational wisdom to bear. (my best friend is good!) i sometimes feel like i live in a forest of people on well-earned pedestals who all manage to still be interesting.

i want to document this because i suspect the tipping point of whether humans deserve to continue our existence on this planet is somehow linked to the ways in which we are good. not just good out of some obligation to others, but the good that grows wild because it feels natural and right.

it feels like this:

a) without thinking about it, hours pass in which i make decisions where my concerns are not centered, not even necessarily present.
b) there is something that needs to be done, i do it.
c) if i don’t know how, i figure it out.
d) if there is a best way to do it, i aim for that, even if no one else will know.
e) when the task is done, i don’t sit around feeling proud of it…i look for the next task that must be done.

i can do this for hours, even days.

but so far i can only really do this when i am in auntie mode or, occasionally, in love. with my sister autumn’s family, this good self comes out easily.

i notice it, usually in retrospect, because it’s not how i am usually wired. i find myself having just done a lot of helpful things and just feeling alive and present and happy.

my norm – which fortunately also feels alive and present – involves shamelessly thinking of myself a lot of the time. i don’t know if it is even possible to be good in the way i mean and have a blog. i think deeply about my comfort, my joy, my pleasure, my learning.

i think about what is a fair contribution from me relative to others in terms of effort towards whatever tasks may be at hand. i get bored, my mind wanders. i start writing blogs on being helpful instead of being helpful. even when it comes to chores around my own house i have to turn it into a musical costumed event with wine (‘presenting and i daresay toasting adrienne as domestic goddess’) or i just can’t really apply myself to the task.

when people ask me for help, there is still an inner voice like, ‘do i have to?’ i would rather not be asked to do something good…just let me do it on my own. i like my good acts to be inspired, not obligated (more on this later).

but i also rarely initiate goodness.

and then, when i am good, i usually want thanks or praise for it – see how good i am? is anyone watching me be good here? cause otherwise i would rather be watching louis or archer.

i accept and love who i am. i share an astrological sign with mother teresa, so this acceptance has been a journey. but i would love to be a more generally good person. so i am really interested in what has pierced my self-orientation here in my mid-30s.

(i’m dramatizing, i am. i hope.)

but when i land in rural minnesota for my monthly visit and move into the rhythms of that two-full-time-job-three-kid having household, my good self emerges. my source of joy shifts outside myself. being helpful, doing what’s needed, being present with the babies, all of this suddenly becomes enough for a life. janelle monae starts singing ‘to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things,’ and it feels like it could sustain me indefinitely.

what i know as clearly as i know the ‘good’ feeling is that part of how i can be so good this one week of each month is that i leave. i don’t have the capacity yet to be that good all the time. i visit good, then go home and go about my life being…not bad, but more just thoughtfully middling.

as i mentioned earlier, i don’t really do anything out of obligation. i tried being good out of obligation for much of my 20s and it was a mess – everyone within silent-resentment range of me could feel me suffering the sacrifices.

but the good i get to visit now is magnificent in part because when i am in it, i am doing the only thing i could even imagine wanting to do in that moment. it feels like an appropriate use of the miracle of my life.

i am in a real exploration of how to bring this passionate goodness into the rest of my life, with people over the age of 5 and not related to me, in places that don’t look and smell like rural fairy forest heaven.

because it feels like life force in my body, and why humans are here – to be living embodiments of love. to be good.

i would love to hear experiences others have with being good – when does it happen, who inspires it, where and why, and how is it sustained?

it is a simple thing, but it might just be everything.