In a group of friends of mine, we have collectively celebrated a few fortieth birthdays. Each time another passes the milestone, we ask them how it feels to be wise and have their shit together.
Last Sunday, it was my turn to celebrate this milestone. I got to thinking, what does it mean to “have my shit together?”
In my twenties, I thought it meant to be polished and unruffled and capable of dealing with anything that came my way. Basically, a shit-free life, perfection, everything smelling like roses.
Now I know that having my shit together doesn’t mean I don’t have any shit. It means I know which shit to use as fertilizer and which shit to flush down the toilet.
It means that I don’t curse the world for being unfair if there’s a pile of shit on the sidewalk that I need to step over.
It means I curse when I don’t see the shit and step in it, and it gets stuck to the bottom of my shoe, but I don’t then smear it all over myself or wallow in it. I’m not a pig.
I need to scrape it off, perhaps toss the shoes or spray them with scented cleaner, and move the fuck on. I may need to work to understand why there was shit there in the first place, and try to solve that problem.
Before this shit analogy gets too stinky and disgusting (too late, you say?), I’ll move on. It’s a lot of work to redefine wisdom and success to be disconnected from perfection and polish. But acknowledging that there’s no way to avoid shit completely, and instead focusing on what is within my control, is an essential step.
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