I believe everything is a test
and I think I should pass
every test with flying colors.
But how can I do well on the test
if I haven’t learned the material?
It’s important to admit
when I’m in over my head,
to see when I’m not prepared,
to ask for help when I need it.
There are no short cuts.
In the school of life
we can’t skip grades.
In an effort to cope
with the overwhelming change
I dropped into a cycle
Working on myself
is something I can control.
If bad things are happening,
it’s because of my mindset,
my perspective needs tweaking,
obviously I haven’t done the right work
or enough of it
for it to count.
There comes a point
when all this work becomes exhausting,
pointless, fruitless, a waste of time.
Then the work becomes trusting,
surrendering, letting go,
opening up to what is,
being right here,
Let me set down this burden
of always trying to be better.
Let me breathe
and love this little creature
that lives within me,
this self that tries so hard to be good.
Tired, working hard to be prepared
for a workshop I’m teaching tomorrow
and those old scoundrels jump into my brain,
The Perfectionist and the Critic.
They let me know all sorts of things:
You should’ve had this done by now.
You don’t have enough authority to teach this.
It’s going to be a flop. They’ll want their money back.
Why aren’t you more organized?
You don’t have anything worthwhile to say.
You should just give up right now.
And I say:
Thanks guys, really appreciate it,
everything you said is really helpful,
and I’ll be sure to take into consideration
what you shared with me…
I’m going to get back to work here.
I don’t have time to wallow in self-doubt.
I have lives to save.
I had a talk with the perfectionist today
I said, Thank you for all you’ve done.
I know you’re wanting to keep me safe
I’d like to try something different now.
I want to try motivating myself
with kindness and encouragement.
So would you be willing
to stop warning me about looking foolish
or not getting it right?
I’m ready to step beyond fear,
ready to tap into the unused potential
hiding behind the shield of perfectionism.
Something in me has been waiting far too long.
It wants out.
The real me, the whole me,
wants to come out of the closet and
step into the light of day.
The real me wants to laugh and sing and dance…
So, really, o perfectionistic one,
thank you for wanting to keep me safe…
Let’s try something different now,
beyond what I once thought I was…
I’ll start with just being who I am.
are our greatest teachers–
so why are we so afraid of making them?
I praise the teacher
who can encourage the making of mistakes,
who can applaud the one who risks and falls,
and who is there to help the pupil to rise,
offering listening ears and open eyes
as reflections are made
on the lessons learned.
This world doesn’t need any more noise.
It needs no more opinions
But the expansive space of listening,
the receptive tender heart
that opens even more–
yes this holds the potential
to help and to heal
the hidden wounds that we incurred
when the lines were blurred
and we were told
we needed to be perfect.
And the outstretched hand,
the strength of helping another up,
silently holding what needs to be held,
yes, there is mystery and magic here
as we give ourselves the space
to see the story we absorbed
the story we believed was true–
perfection was the aim, the goal.
But let us tell this story no more.
It is time for another story here–
the story of glorious mistakes
and bravely looking foolish,
of risking the pain of vulnerability
to awaken the great
inexhaustible fount of creativity
that one day will save us all.
If you can escape the perfectionism trap
you’ll discover that you have plenty of time
to create lots of things.
It took me a long time to realize this.
But now that I’m prying myself free
of that ancient cage,
I’m tasting the wind and the sun
and feeling the crackling old snow
crunching under my feet
and remembering to breathe…
and this space to be here in this moment
that when I have words
I can write them–
and they don’t have to be
it’s enough that they are mine.
When there is a color I like
I can grab it and put it somewhere
on a piece of paper
and enjoy a simple doodle…
it doesn’t have to be special art,
it’s enough that it is mine.
and I can knit just one or two rows
and let that be enough
and I can scrape together dinner
pulling multiple containers of leftovers
out of the fridge
and then I can relax and watch a silly cartoon
with my children
because I don’t have the phantom of perfectionism
haunting me, menacing me,
at least not as much as before.
And just that tiny bit of space
shows me how much I can do,
how much I already am.
This is how I know
that I have made progress
on the path of
extricating myself from
the prison of perfectionism:
created and sent out my son’s birthday party invitations
wrote entries in the journals I got for my kids years ago
and I pried some cute stickers off of their Valentine’s cards
and stuck them on a page of their journals*
I wrote in my own journal,
read some of my fellow bloggers’ work,
wrote multiple comments,
and dreamed of what else I might do tomorrow.
In the past,
it would never have been
the right time for
any of this.
The perfectionist procrastinates
waiting for the perfect state
in which to create.
But the one who creates
sees through this mess
and breathes and picks up a pen
*Note: the last time I had written in my daughter’s journal was 2013. It has been almost three years since the last entry. Tonight was the very first time I have written in my son’s journal. He is almost four. I’ve been meaning to write something in his journal for almost four years, and I’ve been beating myself up intermittently for not being a better mother and documenting all of his landmark moments. Do you build up the importance of a project in your mind and then pummel yourself for succumbing to perfectionism induced procrastination? That’s painful, isn’t it?