How I spent all day reading: thoughts on guilt

Today I fully intended to write a follow-up post to yesterday’s thoughts on happiness. I even have part of the post pre-written. Instead, today, I read books. It’s the perfect sort of day for reading, dark, rainy, quiet. I was alone in the house all day except for the dogs, who love nothing more than to curl up next to me on the sofa. Since I have quite a few books que-ed up right now, I gave in to my base desires. I spent the entire day reading. It was completely delicious.

True, when I go on vacation, I spend entire days parked in a chair by the ocean reading book after book after marvelous book. I find it harder to indulge this way when at home. Here I can always find ways to be busy. Or to lose myself in the million responsibilities tied to parenting and wife-ing and life-ing. You can fill in the details, we all have lives filled with them. It’s easy to tell ourselves we don’t have time for the things we want when there are so many things and people that need us.

It’s almost a drug, this illusion of being needed. We want to matter, to know we hold an important position in this world. We measure our worth by how many people depend on us day in and day out. So we pile it on, the duties and activities and responsibilities, making ourselves important, believing ourselves invaluable. Then we look at all the appointments and responsibilities which fill our lives to the limit and beyond, leaving no time for self-indulgence or rest.

Or maybe that’s just me. But I don’t think so.

I’ve spent the better part of the last five years feeling guilty for failing to measure up to an arbitrary, shifting standard. I’ve signed up, cleaned up, cooked up and shown up to the point of exhaustion. But about six months ago I came abruptly to my senses. I realized I’ve wasted innumerable hours chasing after ill-fitting recognition for something I don’t want after all. I’ve chased acceptance and value in a vicious cycle, constantly falling short, constantly trying harder.

So I stopped. Yes, just like that.

And then I felt guilty…again, maybe more than before.

But instead of fighting the guilt with more busyness and activity and fixing and forcing, I just leaned into it. I leaned in and listened to what my heart was telling me about how I really saw myself. At first the image was distorted, almost unrecognizable. But the longer I looked, the more still I became, the more my inner vision came into focus. I began to recognize myself again. Day by day, slowly finding the real me, buried under the ways I tried to make myself bigger, better, more…whatever thing I suddenly thought I needed.

I still get caught up sometimes in the belief that I need to do more or work harder to be worthy of love or acceptance or …insert whatever thing is poisoning your soul here. Guilt for not measuring up lingers, and whispers, telling me to go, try, work, do. But I’m less inclined to listen now. When I’m not chasing every urgent detail, I can actually handle the important things and leave the rest for someone else, or no one else. It doesn’t really matter.

Which is why I’m perfectly content about my choice to drift around the house today, snuggling dogs and reading books and drinking tea. I accomplished nothing of consequence to anyone but me. Because I’m worth. I’ve always been worth it. Even when I was too busy to realize it.

Bruce Hornsby makes me happy; an unlikely path to holiness

Right now I’m listening to Bruce Hornsby on Spotify. Do you remember him? He slips off my radar for weeks at a time sometimes, and then one of his songs pops up again. I think to myself, “Why don’t I listen to more Bruce Hornsby and the Range? He always makes me so happy!” So today, even though I have no idea what I’m going to write about, I’m happy.

I spend quite a bit of time thinking about happiness lately. Not just my own happiness (though I’m frequently the subject of my ponderings), but the nature of happiness.  I think happiness gets a bum rap in religious circles. We subscribe to dying to self, sacrifice, and piety but often at the expense of our own happiness. We say really holy things like, God is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness. It sounds good, very spiritual but honestly, I don’t believe this is an accurate picture of God.  The creator of quarks and sub-atomic particles is more complex than such a binary holiness equation. I’m not denigrating piety or sacrifice or even suffering. But maybe we’re cheating ourselves out of something by believing they are the singular signs of higher level spirituality or perfection.

I’m pretty sure Jesus was a laugher. I like to imagine a great, ringing belly laugh, the infectious kind. I can see him now, head thrown back, eyes twinkling, or bent forward, grabbing his knees and trying to catch his breath as His followers chortle around him. I’m not a historical scholar, but I know few things about life in Jesus’s time. First of all, for your typical Jewish man (which most followers were), life was hard. You worked hard; you paid a lot of taxes, and sacrifices, and offerings. I won’t even begin to detail the hardships women faced. As an oppressed people, day-to-day existence was fairly scrappy for the people of Jesus’s time. Anyone peddling more of the same- suffering, hardship, sorrow- probably wasn’t gaining a huge following.

So when Jesus spoke to them of something different, better, new, the expectation was a path that led to a better life, including, you guessed it, happiness. Here’s where I lose some people because you’ll say, well obviously Jesus was talking about HEAVEN, not life in the Roman Empire (insert eye roll if you’re feeling sassy). Except, Jewish people didn’t have a construct of Heaven the way we do today. That’s a pretty modern construct, and not entirely Biblical.

What Jewish followers believed, and a large part of what we need to understand is the Kingdom of God takes place here, on this very earth. On this very good earth as Abba has declared it, we usher in the Kingdom. Not an army of scowling, self-righteous followers, but a smiling, gracious, self-effacing welcome crew, pulling out chairs and passing out refreshments. When our joy is contagious, when what we offer is beautiful, we reflect the very heart of God. Those of us sitting around waiting with sour faces for the sweet-by-and-by are missing something – a very large piece of the Jesus picture.

This is what I am coming to believe as I deconstruct and reconstruct this wild and woolly faith. Happiness is part of the divine package. We were created in joy, for joy.  I simply do not believe the God who handcrafted penguins and kittens and sea turtles didn’t delight in the creation process. Why? Because it made Him happy and He knew it would make us happy as well! Why are strawberries so sweet? For our pleasure! Why does the autumn breeze smell divine? For our pleasure! Why are hand-holding, and hugs, smiles, and a gentle caress part of the universal human experience? Because the universal human experience is rooted in happiness. From the beginning of time our Abba, whose greatest joy is expressing His love, meant for love to bubble over with delicious, delightful happiness and joy.

Oh but the fall, you say?

But the CROSS, I respond.

If we are restored to our former glory (if we ever actually lost it), then why are we afraid to be happy? Why do we feel guilty when we pursue the things which tickle our souls? Why wouldn’t I turn on a little Bruce Hornsby and the Range simply for the simple thrill of delight it brings to my soul?

I’ve wasted too much time trying to twist myself into some pious image I cannot be. I’ve despaired to the marrow that I’ve failed to live up to some ideal I simply will never attain. But I’m learning now. Learning I can pursue happiness and be closer to the Man from Nazareth than I have ever been. My smile makes Him smile since no one across the universe desires my happiness more. Holiness is overrated if it comes at the expense of a belly laugh, a warm hug, a space at the table. I choose happiness, and I believe with all my heart, that holiness will follow quickly, if it can only follow the sound of my laughter.

On fathers: when one day holds so many big emotions

It occurred to me this morning while walking the dog, this is our twentieth father’s day. It’s hard to imagine this is true. Granted, we celebrated for the future that long-ago, first fathers day. Our oldest was a bump of possibility, only beginning to make herself known. But we celebrated, dreaming of a lifetime of fathers days to come.

I feel a tinge of sorrow today as well. I had only twenty-five fathers days with my own father, nearly as many have passed as were observed.  It’s funny to me, looking back over celebrations with our children, twenty years seems a lifetime, and remembering how many I have missed, it seems far too few. Time is such an elastic and untrustworthy construct.

My husband had only four fathers days with his father. He isn’t here for me to ask, but I imagine he has no memory of them. And yet, when it comes to fathering, I can’t imagine anyone who loves with more care and consideration than he does. His love in action is beautiful. Even now, it brings tears to my eyes. In my life I have received two great gifts, one of experiencing a wonderful father, and one of watching a man become a wonderful father.

Whenever we, as a culture, celebrate these identity specific holidays, it seems we enter into a minefield. Fatherhood isn’t always beautiful or empowering. For some it’s an empty space, or filled with difficult, painful memories, for others it’s grieving someone lost. There’s room for all of these feelings, from great joy to deep pain. There isn’t one way to feel about fathers, just as there isn’t one fathering template to follow.

For me, today, I’m making room for great, big emotions, the swell of love and pride for the father who shapes our lives, the ache and emptiness for the one who gently shaped mine. There is room, room for both. One does not negate the other. The joy isn’t better or more important than the grief. Both are valid and together they make the day more beautiful still.

Maybe you have complicated feelings this father’s day. It’s OK. If you are looking for permission to feel however you feel, here it is. Feel your joy, your gratitude, your grief, your pain, your loss, your pride, your heart. Celebrate what is worth celebrating, for there is so much to praise in this world. Mourn what is worth mourning for there is so much pain in this world. Be generous with your love, for your fathers, for your children, for each other.

It’s an amazing thing to be alive, and I am so very grateful for my experience in this world, the beautiful and the sorrowful as well.

How to connect with your soul: Self-care adventures

Lately I am all about self-care. The more I journal about it, the more I realize it’s been years since I invested in myself. I don’t say this as a point of blame since I am solely responsible for self-care, from boundaries to application. Exploring ways to connect with my soul has turned into an adventure and a challenge this summer. Every day, I’m engaged in understanding myself better which in turn benefits everyone around me.

However, I  receive a lot of push-back when I talk about self-care with others. Most often I receive the ‘I could never do that‘ response. From healthy eating choices to the Month of No, there is a general reluctance to swim against powerful cultural currents.

Honestly, I believe we see self-care as a frivolous indulgence especially in religious circles. If we aren’t sacrificing ourselves to near burn out (or often past the point of burn out) then we certainly cannot be “good enough.” Or maybe it’s just me who absorbed this message.

Popular culture is no friend to self-care either. Our fervent pursuit of busyness, constant activity, pushing forward, get-ahead, stay-on-top, win-win-win mentality is quite literally killing us. Even though I stepped out of the consumer race several years ago, I still worshiped frequently at the ‘altar of should.’ Constantly working at things I should do, who I should be, ways my life should look, I lived the busyness mentality quite well even though I practiced minimalism.

Granted, some seasons of life simply are busier than others. Children, family needs or other personal responsibilities often make demands beyond our control. However, more often we make our loads into burdens with poor boundaries, ridiculous expectations and subscribing to the American dream. I don’t believe it’s only me who is guilty of these things. Ask the next person you see how they are, and it’s likely their response will be “Busy!

Oddly, I find it harder to answer people when they ask what I’ve been up to now that I can no longer claim “keeping busy.” How do you tell someone that occasionally, you feel downright bored. Mostly, I have enough to keep my mind working, but when I use self-restraint and stay away from time-killing distractions, I do sometimes find myself twiddling my thumbs.

What I do notice more often now is a general sense of well-being. Even when I am busier than I’d like to be, I can still feel it. By creating margin for my inner voice, my circumstances have less influence on my general demeanor. I haven’t perfected this state, but I am certain it will be second nature the longer I pursue this less-than lifestyle.

Recently, I actually made a list of things which I consider self-care. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious, I choose an item, or two or three, and indulge in some self-care. I’m even incorporating self-care as part of my morning and evening routines. Creating self-care habits is high on my priority list this summer.

Some of my practices include:

  • Reading (who didn’t see that one?)
  • Browsing at the library
  • Taking care of my succulent garden
  • Meditating
  • Running
  • Snuggling the dogs
  • Drawing
  • Sitting outside, breathing deeply and doing nothing else
  • Burning candles
  • Yogi Tea
  • Journaling

As you can see, nothing is complicated or expensive. For a free practice, self-care may be as effective as a year of therapy was a few years ago. If nothing else, I like myself a whole lot more than I did six months ago. And I care a lot less about situations I cannot change or control as well.

What ways do you engage in self-care? How can you create margin to do them more often?

 

Not your typical New Year: life evaluations in high summer

Do you know how much I love New Year? It’s only 205 days until it rolls around again. I know this because I have a countdown app on my phone. I love it for several reasons. First, I love a clean slate. Whether it’s a new day, week, month or year, they all hold the magic of possibility. I also love starting something new. Granted, my record of follow through isn’t spectacular, but I am slowly changing that this year. Finally, I love it because after what tends to be a month of festivity and busyness around here, followed by a week of intentional rest nestled between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it marks a return to routine. I love shaking things up, trying a new thing, when push comes to shove, but I rely on routine to ground and settle me.

By now you are no doubt asking yourself, why in the world is this crazy person writing about New Year in the middle of June. Well, first of all, it’s the middle of June! You do realize this means the year is almost half over, right? How crazy is this nonsense? But perhaps more relevant to my current line of thought are changes I am considering for the rest of this summer season. Since I have a few personal projects ongoing, making changes runs the risk of experiencing overwhelm. Honestly, I think this is why most new year’s resolutions fail. We take on a boatload of change without considering the effort required to maintain them. I know this is my problem, anyway.

However, one of the benefits of this little writing project is better clarity of my life values. Writing things down helps me know myself better. Sharing them publicly makes me feel a sense of accountability, whether or not anyone is really watching (probably not). Writing helps me see and understand my values; the public forum makes me examine whether my lifestyle aligns with my words. Both are important steps in whole-hearted living.

So in light of this mid-year evaluation, and the self-awareness writing has brought about, I feel compelled to make a few shifts. Perhaps you might call them resolutions, but I prefer to think of them as experiments. After all, until I try them, there is no way to know whether the benefits I imagine will actually come to pass. They look good on paper, anyway.

So I’m making plans and arrangements to determine if these shifts are feasible and practical for me right now. Even the best idea is doomed to failure if it’s implemented at the wrong time, like starting a diet at Christmas. I need to determine if I am just grabbing at random change due to my restlessness, or evolving current patterns which work for me but could be even better. Anything generated from restlessness is likely to fizzle out anyway, so better to conserve effort for those things which matter.

So that’s what I’ll be working on this weekend. No doubt, as these shifts settle into routine, I will be writing more about it. In a month, my one hundred days of writing is over, and I’m already making plans so that shift happens smoothly rather than my usual all or nothing approach. How about you? What’s going on for your weekend? Do you think Mid-year Experiments will be as popular as New Year Resolutions? Or am I just one of those weird introverts who loves any excuse to lose herself in introspection?

*Speaking of shifts. I shifted a chunk of my book talk over to goodreads. You can follow me here. Eventually, there will be links to take you from here to there, but that’s a project in the making, and not one under consideration this weekend.

The power of Possibility: What I learned in 60 days of writing

Do you know what I love? Possibility. The clean slate, the new page, the unwritten day.

Do you know what sometimes terrifies me? Possibility. The huge mistake, the wrong choice, looking silly, foolish, stupid, wrong.

I’ve been writing and sharing for sixty days now. Sixty. According to everything I’ve ever read about habit, I’ve more than established one here. (Though truth be told, this weekend I thought to myself, “ohmygosh I cannot wait to take a weekend off from having to write something.”)

For sixty days I’ve sat here and looked at this blinking cursor. Some days I can’t wait to use it. To share and consider whatever lays uppermost in mind this particular day. The space is mine; the internet is mine. The whole dadgum universe is mine to shape and create in any way I have the courage to shape it.

Then there are days where the cursor mocks me, daring me to speak, assuring me that someone, somewhere is waiting for me to say the wrong thing. Waiting to denounce, silence and shame. Each and every day is a coin toss daring me to open the lid and place my fingers on the keyboard.

Who will greet me and how will she feel about possibility today?

When I was in college, I minored in psychology. I loved learning about the ways we think and what motivates us to say and act and be who we become. As I have aged, that interest has evolved into a fascination with people’s stories. When someone allows me the privilege to see their life through their eyes, I understand a little better. I am able to climb into their shoes and walk around a little bit. Even reading a story from someone else’s perspective, fact or fiction, reveals a side of life I hadn’t known before.

It’s precious, this gift of story. When we share the hidden parts of ourselves, we often do so with someone we trust, who we hope will respond in affirming ways rather than condemning ways. I have those people.

It’s another type of risk to release a story into the world. Ask any author and they will tell you that words give birth to stories, and stories are as precious as a child. We weave from soul and air, and sometimes from blood and bone to create something we release into the world. But once we let it go, we cannot control whether the world will embrace or reject our creation, our story, any more than we can with our flesh children.

Perhaps it’s because I am in a season of releasing, launching children and letting go of expectations and dreams we cherished that I find the courage to release these words and stories every day. Maybe it’s easier to let go once we stop holding everything so tightly.

I wish I knew what the formula is which makes me embrace possibility rather than cowering under the covers certain that no matter what I do it will turn out wrong. Failure is always a possibility, right?

Sixty days of writing haven’t made me any more certain of the outcome on a day to day basis. Each day the cursor waits for me to sit down and begin while possibility unrolls before me.  I haven’t tamed my dread at all. But I’m learning to sit with it. There’s as much room for my discomfort as there is for my enthusiasm. I’m learning I’m strong enough to live with the possibility of disaster without being swept under to drown.

Hopefully, sharing my story will bring more joy than pain. Even if it doesn’t, sharing is the real point. Stories are how we connect, find belonging, and realize we are not alone. Other brave souls have rescued me with theirs, and now I’m adding my own voice to the song. It isn’t pain or failure or fear which negate the gesture. Only rejecting possibility can do that.

I’m telling the story to myself as much as to anyone listening. A story of hope, of change, of healing, of the possibility that all these things which have happened, were only ever meant for me to create something beautiful from the pieces.

Anything is possible, right?

Shaking it Up: Evolving to make life work for me

Since I started this one hundred day project, I’ve been sort of winging it. I began on a whim, and since then, writing every day means I don’t have much time to plan ahead. But it’s June now. The month of No. Yesterday I identified several things which make me grumbly. I know because I was grumbly. Since then I’ve journaled and meditated, read a book and had a run. These are all things which make life work for me rather than against me. In my journal this morning I wrote:

Evolution is the natural process of staying with something. Sustainability depends on change; nothing growing is static. Essentially, you have to shake it up or let it die.

Even in just three days of margin, I see things which don’t fit the life I’m working towards. These things are simple choices which change the tone of my day drastically, but which are hard to identify as lode bearing choices when life is busy. Eventually, these choice will serve me when I say yes again as well. Hopefully, by then they will be habit.

I actually started thinking about change last night in relation to reading. In my effort to read one hundred stories this summer, I’ve opened myself up to a wider range of book types than I normally choose. Doing this has not only helped me realize how many different types of literature I enjoy, it also has given me a better understanding of techniques and tropes which work (or not) for different genres. Changing my reading has changed how reading works for me.

Granted, I could possibly have gone another twenty years reading exactly the way I always have, reading the types I always choose and been perfectly happy. But allowing an evolution, of sorts, in my reading life has created something I enjoy more than I was already. Who doesn’t want to enjoy something they love even more than they already were?

Of course this got me thinking about any number of choices I could intentionally change, and how those changes might also make life work for me even better than it already is. How can I write better, plan better, relate to others better? Not more quantity (that’s the rat race) but more quality. I don’t necessarily want to produce more, I want to better perform and enjoy what I already know I love. And then for fun do some completely new things as well on occasion.

Because I find comfort in routine, I can hang on to something far too long. Because my perfectionist freaks out that I might not do a new thing perfectly, I can be reluctant to change. But what I shared from my journal is a sign that I am breaking free from those worn out patterns of behavior which don’t serve me well anymore. Those three little sentences are new pattern of thought an internal revolution which could lead to me enjoying life even more than I currently do.

Inevitably these changes start out a bit awkward and uncomfortable. They will change and shift, seeming to stutter before they hit a familiar groove. But the more I shake things up, the more I find routine is good, but it’s better when it’s balanced with a few edgy things to keep me on my toes.

I’d love to hear what or if you are doing anything to shake your life up. What things have changed to make life work for  you even better than before?

 

Bailey Bash: Something fun Sunday, Episode 7

Yesterday was all about this girl, my Bailey. Normally, I try not to tell my girls’ stories here. Their stories belong to them, to share or not as they see fit. But it is also true that my story and their stories are entirely intertwined. Sometimes, I can’t tell my own story without their part in it.

BaileyMuch like any parent, I’ve second guessed a million decisions. I’ve desperately hoped that I’m not making a complete mess of the entire parenting business. Hopefully, they won’t spend too much on therapy on my account in the future. But yesterday was one of those affirming days. This whole parenting thing happens completely imperfectly, but even so, it’s pretty damn good.
Baile
We’re so lucky to have so many people who love us and who took time from their day to be present with us celebrating my amazing girl.  The weather even greeted us with darn near perfection for the end of May.

We made the most of our photo booth (Craig may have enjoyed the raspberry beret a little too much!). We held cut throat games of cornhole where my brother earned the right to hold Olivia’s stuffed monkey, William, for one entire hour. This life long feud between Matt and Olivia stretches across states and decades. Perhaps they have finally come to some sort of agreement as they both begin to mature into adulthood…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bailey and her friends, and sisters and sister’s friends (when you are this close in age, you drift in and out of each other’s lives easily, the relationship lines are blurry) moved from front to back, food table to carport to hammock as people came and went. Some moments are kind enough to kiss you softly and whisper, Hang on to this, it’s the only thing that matters in this life anyway.  And so it is.


The gift of Here and Now: learning to be in the present

This window of time right here is the calm before the storm. As I type grandparents are flying and driving, brides are having their hair and nails done, wheels are turning for the wedding we will attend and which Hunky officiates this evening and for Bailey’s graduation party tomorrow. But right now, right in this moment, I’m not part of any of that. I’m simply here.

This week I’ve written about perfectionism and slow, often invisible change. In a culture addicted to the quick fix, we constantly look ahead. While true change, soul deep change takes time. Often more time than we are willing to give before moving on to the next shiny quick-fix. I know I’m guilty. I’ll probably be guilty again in the future, but in this moment, I can actually trace long winding ribbons of behavior evolving over time, bringing me to this point right here.

I keep mentioning this moment because here, now I feel calm, content and hopeful, despite all that is happening around me. My inner voice isn’t leaping about telling me all the things I must do to prepare for this evening and tomorrow. My perfectionist isn’t nagging me about things forgotten or left out. Instead, just over the top of my computer screen I see tiny, new arms growing on my cactus. Squirrels are racing around the tree outside my window while one of the cats waits hopefully on the ground. My candle burns. And I am right where I am meant to be, doing the only thing that matters in this moment.

Learning to be in the moment has not been something that comes easily. My mind prefers to be busy planning, analyzing, perfecting. Like so many people, pausing often means staring at a screen waiting for the next ‘ping’ of dopamine when I see a piece of news drop or a comment from someone who normally sits at the cool-kids table. I’m as susceptible as anyone to zone in and tune out. For years, I’ve been altering behaviors in an attempt to focus my awareness on what’s happening here and now.

Most days I don’t think I’ve made any progress at all.  But today tells me change, although slow, is happening. It tells me there’s plenty of time for good enough.  It’s put on it’s last lovely show of spring just so I will sit and simply be. Be here. Now.

Occasionally, I make the mistake of hanging on to this feeling too tightly. As soon as I do, judgement and justification step in and take over. This moment is a gift. I can’t make it stay, nor can I control the next moment coming up. It might not be as beautiful or calm. It might, actually, be the worst moment of my life. To date, I’ve never seen one of those moments coming or been able to avoid them. I can tell you already, I won’t be able to maintain this sense of calm through the entire weekend.

But I can be in this one. Now. Breathing in and out. Listening to the bluebird who sits right outside my open window. I can accept that imperfection and frustration are as likely to make an appearance later as joy and laughter, though I’d rather have only the latter.  I can feel grateful for the creative space to sit right here and share these shining minutes, which are only now, not a promise for all time.

Here.
Now.
Exactly where and who I’m meant to be.

 

Good enough: How to embrace the inner perfectionist

As a recovering perfectionist, I often need to remind myself not to get too caught up in details. Perfectionists can tweak and tweak and tweak….and tweak a thing until we end up doing far more harm than good. I’ve used a simple mantra over the past few years which has helped me immensely: “good enough can be good enough.” It’s a gentle reminder that usually the most critical eye in the room is my own. This week is one when many people will be in my living space. The perfectionist is yammering loud and proud in my head. Criticizing this, critiquing that, generally expressing discontent for the decidedly non-magazine spread style in which I live.

She’s dreadful.

The difficulty in living with perfectionism is that she can never be satisfied. She oozes discontent everywhere she goes, and her appetite is insatiable. She gnaws and bellows and judges. You can see why it’s exhausting to live with her in my head. Over time I have learned to quiet her, but there are some weeks when her strident insistence is ever present.

Lately I practice meditation which is teaching me to observe things about myself without judging them. This is especially helpful in quieting hyper-critical self talk that stems from perfectionism. When she’s reminding me of all the things I’m doing wrong, doing imperfectly, or not doing at all, I am able to say, “Well hello perfectionism. I see you there.” While I don’t reject or resist her, I am not obligated to react to her. I don’t have to force my critical inner voice into silence and submission. Instead, I can simply let them be what they are without agreeing or aligning with their message.

This awareness takes practice, and I am often caught in the spiral of self-critical thought before I catch myself. When I  do, I take a few deep breaths and emotionally disengage. But I do catch myself, before the anxiety settles in, before I plant another layer of deprecating critique on the soil of my soul. I stop where I am, mid-thought and gently acknowledge, “Perfection, I see you there but I don’t have to play your game today.” Resistance merely feeds judgmental thoughts of worthlessness and imperfection, but acceptance frees me from having to play destructive mind games.

It’s possible I will never be free of perfectionism. She’s been with me for most of my life. Un-writing her part of my story would be a long and fruitless endeavor, possibly even unraveling parts of my personality that I am unwilling to give up. Sometimes my focus on detail and fine points serves me well. Sometimes the flip side of criticism is discernment. Often a trait, even one as harsh as perfectionism, isn’t entirely bad if only you can accept it’s darker side along with its better one, and choose wisely who you allow the louder voice.

This non-judgmental acceptance of the flawed and broken parts of my personality is still in its infancy. I nurture it, feed it, and practice it every day. I’m not adept at it or as comfortable with it as I hope to one day be. But every time I stop to breathe, every time I welcome perfectionism to the table without allowing her to dominate the conversation, I experience grace. I am grateful for all the pieces that make up this complex creature I call me. It’s a form of compassion to self to welcome my vices as warmly as I welcome my virtues. This is self-love, accepting every part of my soul as she is. It’s just another step towards wholeness on a long and winding journey.

Speaking of imperfection, I am imperfectly inviting anyone who is interested to a monthly-ish email. These emails will have content that isn’t on the blog and hopefully will grow to include some cool freebies. I’m working on an imperfect plan and experiencing grace in the growing.

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