muddy puddles

Our four year-old local granddaughter said that over and over the other day. It was not quite an appropriate term to use for the mixture of the water puddle created by ISHI washing our car, with our granddaughter throwing sand from a nearby construction site to the puddle. She was insistent in her use, and I later realized it comes from Peppa Pig, a show she is allowed to watch online, mostly as an electronic babysitter every once in a while. She was having the grandest of times, throwing sand that ended up, of course, defeating the purpose of cleaning the car. But c’est la vie. Clean never lasts for more than a second.

And it led me to a great insight, much bigger than the cleanliness issue.

It was about my mother. Her yahrzeit was yesterday, the anniversary of her death 11 years ago already, so I have been thinking about her a lot. I had noticed that the holiday closest to the passing of a person always informs about that person. I guess that’s why there is something particularly holy about someone who is born and dies around the same time, beyond a sense of completion of a cycle, but also a deep connection to the season. My mother died two days after Shavuot, when we commemorate the giving of the Torah. My mother never had much of an education of any sort, and certainly wasn’t given a Jewish education, which went to her brothers only (not that they did anything particular with it, either). So the drive for knowledge must signify something different for her, in my memory, at least.

What my mother taught me, today, 11 years after she passed, was her ability to handle the muddy puddles. She didn’t care about pretenses. She did care about propriety, but she knew quite enough to know not to put on airs. What you knew, you knew. What you were, you were. She knew enough fakers to keep as far away as possible, and she knew that nothing was guaranteed. If you did not please her, she would let you know, although often without speaking.

Apparently, I have inherited that from her.

Most of all, she had no need for protection from the Imposter Syndrome that I fall prey to, because she was in no way pretending that she was anything other than who she was. She tried to “better herself” by going to classes, but that was not because she had to prove anything to anyone but herself. She had to catch up with all the opportunities she wasn’t given. I don’t think she was bitter about it; it just was. (I wrote about her pursuit of travel here.) But she didn’t muddy anything about.

I am grateful for her sincerity, that she knew she shouldn’t/couldn’t/and really wouldn’t want to compete for the spotlight. Those around her who did burned out quickly enough. And yet…

Not that I’m looking for the spotlight, either! But I must admit I haven’t found my comfort level with the whole imposter syndrome. I often enough wonder about my successes, whether indeed I have worked hard enough for them. But I also get frustrated when I see so many other people who I would call frauds enjoy unwarranted success. So maybe really I’m the Imposter Police, with no power and no ability even to say the emperor’s not wearing any clothes…

Would you believe that there is a test you can take to find out if you “suffer from imposter syndrome”? There seem to be many, but this was the one I had seen last year in Science of Us column of NY Magazine.

Here’s the funny part of it all. Today I read another article on the same site: “Pretending You’re Someone Else Can Make You More Creative.

Are we searching for Creativity or Honesty? I certainly know what my mother would have answered, just by looking at her face.

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