Albert Camus said, "Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is."
There is always something else to do, some other way to act or talk or dress or think, that we struggle with in order to be "better." So isn't it funny that we have such impossible standards for ourselves and a completely different standard for animals -- like dogs, for instance -- a standard that is based on universal generosity?
From my understanding, there is no real competition on whether someone's dog is better than another's. When someone says, "My dog is the best!" does anyone actually feel threatened by those claims? For the most part, we smile. We delight at the relationship they have with their dog. We curiously ask for more details. We share in their joy. But turn that around and when someone says, "I'm the best!" or "My boyfriend is the best!" or "My mom is the best!" we find ourselves balking at such boastful claims or end up comparing our own lives and relationships, worrying that we somehow fall short.
I wonder: What does it take for a dog to be the best dog to his owner? Maybe a dog only has to be himself, be with his owner. Maybe a dog only has to accompany his owner in life. A dog needs only to be present to be the best.
I also wonder: Wouldn't it be so much kinder if we believed that to be the best person is to do the same? If all we needed to do to be our best is to show up and just be there for ourselves and the people in our lives with complete presence of mind without thinking we need to be different or be somewhere else or doing something else?
For instance, when I ask myself what my son might remember in years to come as things that made me the "best mom," I doubt he will recall that I mended his school uniforms or kept the house clean or arranged the classiest Christmas decorations. My guess is he'll remember that I sat with him everyday as he worked on his homework, showing me proudly how to write a certain character in Mandarin. Or he'll remember our water fight as he rinsed dishes with me after dinner. Or maybe, he'll remember playing make believe, pretending to be Santa placing pretend presents under the tree while Mom and Dad acted as little children sleeping away on Christmas Eve.
The demands of being "the best" can feel never ending, and so I have to decide where to draw the line. I have to decide what the ending looks like. For right now, it's about being there for my family when we are together and not longing for something different. Maybe the ending looks different for you, because of other demands on your time and energy, because of circumstances out of your control. And that's OK.
Let's leave comparison behind. We can all be "the best" and not take away from each other's glory. In fact, I believe that by being our best, we add to our collective contentment -- when I am my best, and you're your best, we are all better off together.