Why I Didn’t Write a Blog Post (sort of…)

Spring Horses 2

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” –Robin Williams

You see I had penned a post on clutter and how to take it out like yesterday’s garbage (because a lot of times that is what clutter is).  However, it didn’t seem right to burden you with thoughts of manmade stuff when if you look beyond your window or even in the cracks of your sidewalk there she is–glorious, beautiful Spring!  Today friend, step outside (even if it feels a little chilly) and look for her–small signs can be so uplifting.  Today, clean out the winter ‘bluck’ in your soul and allow spring cleaning to come to your mind, your heart, and finally your soul.  This is the season for renewal, rebirth, and redemption–bask in that for at least 20 minutes –I promise you it is just what the doctor ordered.  Cheers

Spring Trees

Spring Shot 3

Overcoming Perfectionism

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order. – Anne Wilson Schaef

Childhood–

Since I was a child, I have always tried very hard to make everything just right and just so, and when these attempts at perfection did not live up to my inflated expectations I gave up.

Teenage years–

When I was a teenager, I aimed for perfection, failed to reach it, gave up…dropped the ball…said, “It was a dumb (fill-in-the-blank) anyway.”

Today–

Still trying to make everything just so…still not reaching expectations…giving up?  (Sadly, giving up more often than not.)

As a teacher, I often told my students to “embrace the stick people.”  You see often in class we made pictorial graphs to add to an idea, and like me many of my students were not artistically gifted.  I didn’t care about the pictures they drew.  I just wanted students to show their thoughts however messy or unattractive it may have been–stick people would do the job of depicting whatever needed depicted.  I never just “do the job.” I only do the job if it can be veiled underneath the cloak of perfection, and so I often I let the “job” fall to the wayside because I simply feel I can’t try.

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Perfection has debilitated me–weakened my potential for growth–made me appear to be thoughtless and a flake to others (and myself).  It has harnessed me and imprisoned me as it tightened its grip on my mind and even body.  Ironically as a young 20-something years ago, I touted perfectionism as my strongest attribute in job interviews–sadly, how wrong I was and have been, but this past week when I didn’t have much for media noise (just a radio and a bad television signal) a message kept coming through in books, a shoddy television set, an ancient radio, and especially in my humbled heart. It went something like this…

“You don’t have to be perfect–but you have to try–even when it doesn’t come out the way you planned.”

{But I’m scared.}

“That’s okay.”

{But I might fail.}

“That’s okay. In failure you learn and grow.”

{But I’m not good enough if I’m not perfect.}

“That’s a lie.”

{What if I waste my life in failing so often?}

…And then on my old dusty radio the DJ quoted, “Anything worth doing is worth failing at.”

{Point taken.}

For me perfectionism has risen to become an all-encompassing excuse for not trying, for stepping down, for giving up anytime it gets hard, for not really living.  For me perfectionism is about fear.  Perhaps, I could be describes as a“maladaptive perfectionist” (encompassing an unhealthy form of perfectionism) or a “atychiphobic” (someone who is afraid of failure).  However, I don’t know that I need to spend time doing biofeedback and other psychological work to get to the core.  I think I need to find my “grit.”

In her Ted Talks Angela Lee Duckworth defines grit, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life-like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

This is something I never discovered as a child or young adult–something I rarely have experienced as an adult in sprints but never in marathon form.  I have done only those things that came easy–things I could be successful in–things I could be perfect in.  How tragic all this time wasted trying to be too perfect.

But I am learning that perfection isn’t what matters. In fact, it’s the very thing that can destroy you if you let it. – Emily Giffin

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

So if you see me and I’m down on my bum, dusty, ragged, and spent–don’t help me up.  I’m down there building grit, embracing my stick people–I might fail, but that’s okay.  My life will surely be more passionately lived because of it.

Happiness Files

“And every day the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘this is important!  & this is important!  & this is important!  you need to worry about this!  & this!  & this!’  And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart, & say, ‘NO.  this is what’s important.’”
— Leonie Dawson.

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

This week, the days may seem hard–the weather may be improving, but work may be difficult, and your private relationships may be strained. Life in its complicatedness can be tough, but life in its lovely simplicity can wrap it arms around you.  Sometimes those arms are not as comforting as you would like, and a person has got to stake their own claim on finding relief and a little morsels of happiness.

Gretchen Rubin with her infamous Happiness Project has brought much attention to self-propagated happiness. Rubin a former resident of Kansas City (like myself) realized that we very much choose to see the glass half empty or half full—but Rubin argues that if it does appear to be half empty we can move ourselves to a more full existence. While I appreciate Rubin’s work some of her ideas didn’t seem to fit my life, and though she totes the idea that every plan should be individualized–to me a happiness project is too overwhelming.  So I continue to use my happiness file–it’s quicker, easier, and I can access it easily.

THE HAPPINESS FILES

The happiness file can be real or imagined—mine is both.  It simply is a procurement of stuff–articles, events, or ideals that make me feel a little better when the world is less than friendly or less than forgiving.  I have a happiness file on my computer, in a shoe box, and in my cranium.

Computer File

The computer file is simply happy quotes, pictures, videos, or articles that let me realize (again) that there are many people in the world who are trying to do good, make a difference, and struggle just like me.  A lot of these good feeling bytes come from The Foundation for a Better Life or Proverbs 31.  In fact, both groups drop good thoughts in my email box daily, and you can signup to for this bits of inspiration on their sites.  Really exceptional quotes, articles, and pictures go in a saved file on my computer.  When I’m feeling  a bit blue I take a moment to read through those things that have inspired me in the past.

Gummy Lump File

AllIreallyneedlrnkindergarterUnder my bed is my version of a “gummy lump,”  which was first introduced to the world Robert Fulghum of “All I Need to Know in Kindergarten” fame.  He kept a box artfully made by his child in a closet.  It was filled it with all sorts of special things that made him feel good about his children.  I have a “gummy lump” under my bed with pictures, handmade cards, drawing, notes, love letters, bits of this and that–all of these remind me that I am loved and I love others.  Mine includes things from my children but also items from friends, family, and my husband.  A cup of tea and a moment with my “gummy lump” can make a “Jonah day” so much better.  Get yourself a “gummy lump” and let feeling good begin.

Brain File 

Finally, I have a file in my head (and so do you).  When your child smiles and it touches your heart–ingrain that image in your head.  HOLD ONTO IT.  The sunset that takes your breath away–HOLD ONTO IT.   The delicious strawberry you eat out of the garden on a warm June day–REMEMBER IT.  Then on dreary, hard, unfulfilling days go back and hold onto those moments again.  I won’t quote existential philosophers, poets, or spiritual leader but instead tell you this works because it worked for Leo Lionni’s beloved character, Frederick the mouse and it works for me.  Frederick captured the warmth of the sun, the colors of the season, and stories.  He used them to uplift his fellow mouse and himself when the world felt bleak.  Holding onto those happy moments can bring you back when you most need it.

Frederick

“‘And how about the colors, Frederick?’ … And when he told them of the blue periwinkles, the red poppies in the yellow wheat, and the green in the leaves of the berry bush, they saw the colors as clearly as if it has been painted in their minds.” — Frederick by Leo Lionni

So find that quote that inspires you (save it), the letter your mother wrote you last week (keep it), the smell of your newborn baby (remember it)–we all need gummy lumpies(in whatever form they come)…just about everyday…

* I will be away from technology next week–so enjoy these first moments of spring (fingers-crossed) and we’ll catch up soon.

Simple Parenting: Am I Enough?

CalebandCourt9.2010Sometimes I’m too tired. To be a good mom.  To be a good wife.  To be a good daughter, sister, niece, friend…  Still, I lay awake in this overwhelming tiredness and I can’t sleep.  There are lists of thoughts ( things to do, worries, hopes, and the guilt) that spin so quickly they push forward and corrupt a dream-filled night.  It is the guilt though that pushes through the most.  The constant belief that I’m not good enough to be the above honorable titles.  Most painstakingly, I worry that I am not enough to be mom or wife.  I’m not giving enough of myself (even though some days I feel like I’ve given every sliver I have leaving none for myself) to nurture and love my beloveds.

The voices from media and the mommy wars would indicate that I am mostly not enough for my kids no matter what choices I make.  If I work , I’m a wicked Cowbird.  If I stay home to raise them I’ll become jaded in my mommy martyrhood.   But here is the thing–I’ve done both and both situations are exhausting. I think we as women (and parents) have done ourselves a disservice. We are trying to do it all and we can’t–and so we become exhausted with worry over being enough to all.

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Picture it–a warm summer decades ago on an afternoon in a middle income neighborhood.  The Jones didn’t live here, just Joe and his everyday friends.  Lawn chairs are stretched out on a shaded driveway.  Kids run haphazardly through lawns and mothers (all who work in either their homes or industry) share in neighborhood gossip and watch each other’s children.  They are relaxed and happy.  So are their kids.  These moms may have been tired–life always has hard seasons–but I never questioned if these women were enough for their kids.  The fact that one of my buddies or enemies (depending on the childhood rivalry of the day) called one of these persons mom meant they were surely a special person.  I never as a child questioned if my mom was enough.  She was my mom, simply that was enough.

Today, this worry exhausts me.  Is my child flourishing or am I limiting her potential by not enrolling in x,y,z program?  Am I emotionally present for my children or am I damaging them by being involved in my own personal pursuits?  Am I giving them enough nourishing foods? Enough free play? Enough stimulating learning activities?  Am I doing a good enough job at this job of Mommy CEO to create productive and happy adults in the future?  I have to stop myself and say what the hell is happening here?!  My mom made sure I got a bandaid when I needed one and a drink of water when I was thirsty from play, but she didn’t micromanage my time and the few mothers in the community who did were considered odd.  Today it is quite the reverse, but why?

Has the world become that competitive so we must get them started by reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets in the womb?  Are we worried that our children will get left behind in this age of intrastate and international economics?  Are we worried about how are children will hate us if we don’t find and cultivate their talents?  Will other parents judge us as failures?  I believe fear is the strongest catalyst in the mommy wars and in my own fear that I am not enough.

No wonder I’m tired.  Under this new parental dogma nobody could be enough.  I would need six of me to succeed in being this organic farmer, chef, chauffeur, classical educator, child psychologist, and of course housekeeper.  Why has raising a prominent, prepared child become the status symbol of keeping up with the joneses? Does everybody need to be Ivey league to matter?

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So I’m playing the worst case in my head…  What if my kids sought and cultivated their own talents, made their own play, developed their own relationships with peers, ate junk food (once in awhile), learned how to do their own laundry, and even sought out travel experiences or community college instead of Ivey league.  Wouldn’t then the natural process of growth and development that occurred within my kids be the best case scenario?  My exhaustion is self-induced and that has got to change.  Things must be delegated and dropped.  I’m going to allow my kids time to be, and I will be there when the growing pains occur, but I can’t prevent the growing pains by being a micromanaging mom.  Time will allow growth to take its course, and I need to be a spectator as often as I’m a participator.  So it’s time for this mama to let go just a little bit, to take a breath, and rest a bit because while I will be there I can’t do it all for them. They must do for themselves and that is enough.