Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Perfect Problem

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

If any post has been as equally for me as it is for you, this may be the one. In fact, I have to be frank with you—I am writing this to myself and for myself since the genesis for these words came strictly from my own struggles.

A long time ago, someone once told me that trying to be perfect is like telling God his work of art isn’t good enough. That sort of stuck with me... It’s too bad that I didn’t actually process this message until last week—years, have you, after receiving this kernel of spiritual enlightenment.

If you knew me—and it’s safe for me to venture this characterization because I’ve heard it for longer than I’d like to admit—you might list words like perfectionist, type-A, and maybe even meticulous to describe my nature. If I am not fretting about one thing, I am probably fretting about another. It’s my “perfect” problem. I constantly feel like I’ve got something to prove, and in turn, I allow my actions and thoughts to be consumed by the need to please, by the need to be good enough.

At times, I am like the look-out in a pack of wolves: pensive, eager, and even paranoid. I’ve mulled over this idea a lot, and I’ve concluded that my look-out behavior stems from my reliance on myself and my perception of what others may or may not be thinking about me. I am mistaken, and I know it. But sadly, I keep making those mistakes, over and over again.

Why can't I shake this need to prove I am "good enough?" If I know my behaviors and thoughts are mistaken, why can’t I stop? Why can’t I just let go and let God? Why can’t I shrug off this “perfect” problem of mine?

I know what my mother would tell me: I’ve got to define myself through God’s perceptions of me and lean on God’s strength instead of my own. I know what my friends would tell me: “Who cares what other people think!”

And I hear them; I know they’re right. But I don’t know what to do next...

As I type this, I have no specific solutions for myself. There’s no action plan that will help me let my need for perfection go. Honestly, I don’t know how I will purposely be better tomorrow… If I did, I probably would have done it by now. I am sure the textbooks would tell me to retrain my mind. The devout would tell me to pray. The insightful would tell me to scale back and calm down. I know all these things too; I just don’t know why I can’t apply them in a real way to finally rid myself of this “perfect” problem.

I feel like an addict sometimes, and perfection, or rather the pursuit for perfection, is my drug. I grip the feelings and rituals I’ve associated with perfection like an eagle clenches its prey as he jets through the sky.

But maybe I am not alone in this boat. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve struggled with this too. In fact, my problem may hit home for many other woman today. Given the way this culture is, it might be safe to say that we are all consumed by the chase for that elusive perfection in one way or another.

Joseph Campbell, an American writer and philosopher best remembered for his mantra “Follow your bliss,” reminds us that the achievement of perfection is not perfect at all, explaining that “Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up.”

So in close, I must admit that I still don’t have the answers, but what I can say is that I plan on breaking myself up. I plan on stripping down the layers. I plan on introspection. I must be silent more and listen harder. What exact message I am listening for, I can’t say. I just know God’s voice will be carrying one of them. And in time, I hope that I will be able to dig deep enough so that I can confront my “perfect” problem and do away with it once and for all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Last Moment

Last Moment
By: K.A. Phinney

And then the tears
Ran from my cheeks
And met the water’s edge
Because the girl I swore
I couldn’t be was
Waiting on the ledge,
In a much closer space
Than I thought she’d ever be,
Waiting for me to fill her.

And all this time,
I dreamed that grief
Was further away than this,
And that your little face,
The one that makes me live,
Would be here much longer
Than it really was.

But I guess I took you for granted
In the smallest moments.
Because all my nightmares,
The ones that promised
you’d be stolen away
And I’d become that sad, crying girl
Were right indeed.

Seems we never know
When we’re in that last moment,
The last one we’d call normal.
The one before pain, death,
And our undoing.
So in that last moment,
We are happily blind
And thoughtless.

It’s the poetry of life, they’d say.
Or, the poetry of death,
When in that last moment,
We never really know
That is exactly what it is.


And since we never know when that last moment is, let us love each other with all we have in every minute we are given together. And if your loved one is gone already, keep their memory close by cherishing your last moments, for now and for always.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Eating, Praying, and Loving (Part II)

Click here to read Part I: On Eating, Praying, and Loving

Dear Friend,

I can tell you’ve been brought down so low, and I see the weight of the world on your shoulders. When you look out the window of your life, I am saddened by your expression of emptiness, as if you see nothing before you that has deeply connected with you. It’s as if you are floating adrift with no anchor. How could you feel that no one really knows you?

But you must know that your inclinations are wrong. When you look out the window, you should see a road that rises up to meet you. You should look for the smiling faces and know you deserve them because you are here, living this life. And you are here for a divine reason because God created you when he could have been creating another universe.

And when you find those smiles, let them welcome you with arms wide open. You deserve to love and to be loved. Loneliness and depression are deceptive entities, and they work tirelessly to keep you away from your destiny. You must leave them in the dust and never come back to them, no matter the hour or the obstacle.

I know you might be surprised, but I also know about some of your secrets. You lay awake at night in fear. Your mind is so good at focusing on what you think you don’t deserve and convincing you that the things you love best will leave you or will be taken away as punishment. Your body is too good at allowing the paralysis of fear to overcome it. And your thoughts are your own slave driver, making you search endlessly for the elusive idea called perfection.

All of this thinking is wrong. You deserve so much better.

Imagine if you saw your friend like this. Imagine if you saw your friend doing these very same things. You know what you’d do. You’d scoop them up with your loving words and hold them in your arms until the last drop of pain fell from them and dried up. You’d tell them they were worthy. You’d tell them that God is their help and their protector. You’d tell them to get some rest. You'd say, “You’re beautiful, inside and out. I love you. Don’t be afraid.”

You know you’d do that… So then why, oh why, won’t you do it for yourself?

I know all these things about you because
I am you. And you must know that even when you make mistakes, even when you neglect me or go hiding, I am always here waiting for you. I will never leave your side. I will forgive you 100 times, and I will walk every step of the way with you.

Because I love you.

Every. Single. Part.

Your first and last friend,

This is a letter I wrote to myself. I was inspired to write it because of my last post and the book Eat, Pray, Love. I commit to reading this letter when my days are hard and when I am not being the friend I should be… to myself. I figure this very letter is what many of you needed to hear too. And maybe it opened your eyes to the struggles many women (and men) have. Or maybe, you’ll write a letter to yourself, and then tuck it away and take that letter out when you need to hear it most.

Infact, I hope you do. Because you deserve it.

Every. Single. Part.

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