The Puritan Ethic has a lot to answer for. Its framework seems too narrow to accommodate normal human experience yet on a subliminal - or conscious - level it is our yardstick and I know that I have shrunk from too many washings, too much real life, to measure up. If I had continued to accept an unmeetable expectation of ever-perfect as my goal and purpose, I would not be here to write today.
Among my most beloved family and friends (and my own character) there is backsliding, procrastination, less-than-wonderful credit, avoidance, faith that sometimes feels thin as onionskin, and a lot of laughing. We are liable to read rather than do the chores NOW, fall into a nap that replenishes better than prescription pain medication while reading, some (no names, please) have been known to spray heaps of Redi-Whip onto low-fat cookies and slip into the intoxication of moderate excess. Many of these innocent moments have been followed by guilt and the mental equivalent of a self-Inquisition, and not the Python's kind...the comfy chair, the soft cushions...more along the lines of the truncheon.
In talking some stink about the Puritan Ethic, what I oppose is a sweeping notion of rigid behavioral rules, the ones pertaining to small, personal shortcomings, not large and felonious transgressions. And the ease with which American children of a certain age and circumstance fell for it all. Among the hundreds of bits of knowledge collected from 12-step programs, one of my favorites is the simple explanation that all of us in those rooms were not bad people becoming good but ill people becoming well...or as I might rewrite it for palatability today, stubborn people becoming willing...willing to forgive, willing to let go, willing to make room for our common human experiences and what they do to us.
Growing up human but with Puritan expectations buzzing just off-stage, it is easy to become hypercritical and unloving of ourselves and others. I am coming to a place of peace with my backsliding, napping, forgetful, yet compassionate, encouraging and hopeful self. I have become an adherent and advocate of the non-ordinary standards by which a real life must be measured.
The world is filled with focused, intentional and hard-working souls who will always do it, whatever IT is, much better than I, based on those clearly understood restrictions. You will find me, with my friend, Ferdinand the Bull, in the field, appreciating the flowers. And somehow what HAS to be done will be. There is always a way.