“I Want to be a Better Person.” “Really?”

The Pit of Someday Must

The oil of what I should be
slides round me in a dark pool, 
sucks at my legs,
La Brea Tar Pit of expectations, have-to's, plans.

I shiver, fling gobbets of dark oil,
as I lever one slippery leg out,
then a second.
I push. The glop releases
with a bubble of recrimination--oh, but you must!

I turn my head and sink onto the sand.
Today I will not work toward anything,
will not wish myself different.
I will rest my lumpy body in the sun,
clothed only in sand and grit
and the smear of obligation denied.

How strange it feels to lie here,
nothing to do, nothing to be.
It is okay, okay, I soothe myself
as alarm races down my arms--
I better ... haven't I got to ...

I stroke my greasy arm. 
It is okay, I whisper.

Sarah Webb



Something feels wrong about trying to be a better person. We talk about changing a lightbulb but we really don't do that, rather, we replace it. Come to think of it, most of my life I've wanted to be someone else. A full replacement. 

And that's sick!

I used to think that it would be cool to be Babe Ruth or Einstein, but they are both in pretty bad shape right now. So I’ll nix that idea. 

Then there was Picasso. Yes, he was some artist, but some of his personal life wasn't very artful, and I'd hate that. 

I guess this urge to be someone else is like playing hopscotch and wishing you were playing croquet. Is one game better than another? I don't think so. 

So how do I go about life without being engulfed in fantasies and pipe dreams?  What does it take to just accept the cards I was dealt?

There are a few parts that couldn't be improved. I'd love the two inches back that I’ve shrunk. I'd love to be the athletic star that B was in high school though I wouldn't want his illness or bum leg. And this list goes on and on. 

Someone this morning was saying he wouldn't get married because he only wanted someone he'd be super proud to be seen with. I didn't have the heart to tell him that beauty fades, even with seemingly perfect people. 

So the remaining problem: should I get that one wish from a genie—who will I choose to become? Me?


I want to be a better person.

Really? I want to be elephantine.
I want to forget everything I know of words
and teach you my ancient elephant language
until you feel it in your hands and chest and feet.
I want you to beat djembe drums in riotous
rumbling rhythms until I feel them pulsing
throughout my sturdy elephant legs,
and I sometimes find myself swaying to and fro
as I feel your heart beating in my heartbeat.
I want nothing of good or of better,
just the textures of our togetherness
as we move our slow and knowing bodies
through this gorgeous sensate world.

—Emma Skogstad


I want to be a better writer
a better painter
a better mother
a better friend
a better housekeeper
a better citizen.
There’s always room for learning more
Becoming more skilled
More responsive
More—lots of things.
But would this make me a better person?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Will I do the things necessary to become better?
I received a teaching on Shantideva’s
Way of a Bodhisattva.
A bodhisattva is a good person.
A better person.
The qualities a bodhisattva cultivates are
Moral conduct
I always get hung up on the perseverance.
I’ll stop now.


I have an idea better than better.

I will be who I am. Completely.

I will not be who you see me as, who you want me to be, certainly not who society says I ought to be.  No, I will be me.  I will dance awkwardly, laugh a lot, smile even more, burst into song whenever I am moved to, cry when I want to.  I will listen to my body as it moves through nature.  More importantly, I will heed my intuition, my soul, as it nudges my will this way or that.  I will do what I know to be right and do not what I know to be wrong.

Better is an illusion.  It is subjective. It is a concept forever out of grasp.

But to be myself, to be as I am; that is the fullness of being.

And that, my friends, is far better than "better" ever hoped to be.

—Linda Neighbors