My sister has a bumper sticker on her Facebook page that says, "One of the toughest things in life is deciding when to give up and when to try harder." A shameless perfectionist, I can totally relate. Somewhere in my early years I developed an unwavering policy, an absolute refusal to participate in any activity that I did not clearly rock at. You can't make me roller blade, just try! I tried it, I sucked at it, I moved on. (I can do a great jazz square, though. Like Ryan in HSM would say, "Everyone loves a good jazz square!") "But Angela," you say,"what about practising, improving, being proud of your progress, however meager?!" Uh, no, sorry, couldn't possibly.
The razor edge of this vain and impatient side of me drives me to madness. I have spent the majority of my life telling myself that if I just work longer, try harder, everything will be...perfect. My sisters and I share a strange personality trait. We have a tendency to plan everything out in our heads so intricately, in such minute detail down to what will be said and who will say it, that every accomplishment, every event, party and important moment can only pale by comparison, falling flat in the shadow of our lovely fantasy world.
Painful and frustrating, these "lacking" moments incite me to push ever harder until I break, only to begin the cycle again almost immediately.Even now that I recognise this behavior as the self-torture that it really is, I spend far too many moments struggling against an invisible brick wall, because while I know that this will not bring me peace or happiness, I do not know how to re-wire my brain. My husband tells me to, "Stop. Let it go. It's okay." A dear friend of mine has a saying that was a revelation to me the first time that I heard it: "You're just gonna have to love me where I'm at!" she said, stepping over kid's toys and a plate with buttered toast on her living room floor. It felt like I'd been struck by lightening upon hearing it. My brain quickly translated: "The people who are most important to you love you regardless of all this external crap, and the people who don't can go f!@* themselves!" Wow. In trying to be all Mary Poppins-like (Practically Perfect in Every Way) I'd overlooked that at the end of the story she is alone (unless you count the sarcastic talking parrot's head on her umbrella, which I don't.) No Bert. No Banks' children. Right.
I used to hear, "Let go and let God" and sneer. I've always been more of a, "God helps those who helps themselves," kinda girl, but now I realize that the moments when I stop trying so hard, when I sit back and let it go, let it flow, when I stop selfishly focusing on my own expectations and desires and look to the people around me (you know, the people that I'm trying to be perfect for, because I love them so damn much) is when the magic happens.
Michael J. Fox says, "I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business." I'm trying, Mike, I'm trying. (Seriously, how great is this guy?! First he provided the women of my generation with Alex Keaton and Marty McFly to moon over, and then he matured with us into this amazing example of strength, intelligence and wisdom.)
I'll end by saying that I know these things are true:
1) The more/better you do, the more those around you will expect of you, leading ultimately to the high likelihood of disappointment all around.
2) There is no such thing as "getting everything done," and I should be grateful (I'm trying to be grateful) because each new day and new goal brings purpose to my life.
3) Those who've come before me have already developed concepts to see me through. Embracing concepts such as hozho, a Navajo-honored quality that incorporates intentional imperfections in textiles and more as a reminder that only the Divine is perfect, can bring a measure of peace and grace to my reaching heart.