Saturday, September 22, 2007

Declaration of Imperfection

I cannot and will not be perfect.

Ah, so easy to type, but so difficult to live. Especially when you are impacted by the following:
- Catholic church - where you must recognize and atone for every mistake in order to get into heaven
- Catholic school teachers - who ask you why you are not as well behaved as your brothers and sister before you, and why you do not get as good grades as them
- Parents - who, when you come home with an A- on a test, ask why you didn't get an A
- A family life that focused on catching others' mistakes and rubbing it in their faces.

The quest for perfection has impacted my entire being. I have had a tendency to think through a situation 15 steps in advance, and try and anticipate what might go wrong so that I can take proactive steps to ensure that things don't go wrong. I can be afraid of making mistakes because it seems like a character flaw, which stifles moving forward. For a long time I was afraid to express my opinions or feelings, lest I not say something right or hurt someone.

Let me tell you, it's exhausting to be that way, and I didn't realize how much until the past several years. I always whine about my weak body, but to a certain extent, it's pretty damn strong considering all the stress I've placed on it over the years in my quest for perfection. But note that the above are all the extremes, because somewhere in high school I started consciously letting go of the quest for perfection and wanted to learn about being imperfect and the joys it might bring. I have chosen activities and jobs that I knew I could not be perfect in. For example, I should have been an engineer or some sort of scientist, but I went the humanities route. (Of course, choosing to do this brings its own kind of stress!)

Over time, my activities have brought lessons.
- rock climbing - it's the relationship between you and the rock that matters. You are not someone else - e.g., you aren't tall and can't reach that hold, so how can YOU get there? each part of the journey is important and exciting, and you must concentrate enough to ensure your safety, but enjoy otherwise
- quilting - people see the whole, and it's the whole that matters. Usually only you can see the mistakes. But the mistakes are what also give it character.
- sky diving - Relaxation corrects most mistakes in freefall. Fear will always be there, but you must learn how to manage it. If you are alive, it's been a good jump.

But there are times in my life when I forget the lessons I have learned about imperfection and I fall back on the old expectations. Usually in times of stress. I'm thinking about all this because I came home last night with a migrane, and had to lie in bed instead of going over friends' house as planned, which I so wanted to do. I'm a new supervisor, and thus not perfect, and it's been driving me nuts. I have too much to do at work and don't have the systems set up to keep track of everything that needs to be taken care of, and I want to immediately know how it should be done. My marriage is not perfect, and never will be, but what type of imperfection do I want to live with? And that's driving me nuts.

There's been some discussion of faith over at Fringes' place. For some, faith in a higher being sometimes does help you get through difficult times, and is sometimes very difficult to hold on to. Faith in oneself is equally as difficult, for some, like me, but equally as important. For a time I lost almost all that faith, and it led to the extreme of wanting to give up all and kill myself, but thankfully there was a kernel of faith left that led me out of that hole. Some may call it perseverance, but I like to think that it was a kernel of faith. What helps build that faith for me is a belief that it's ok to not be perfect, that you can ask for help, but that's still so hard sometimes to believe in. The journey is a source of joy and growth, and while pain is a part of that process, it does not need to be held onto.

And these are some of the lessons I'm trying to learn.

While this post was for me to figure myself out, I'd love to hear in comments what it makes you think.


Tera said...

I had a little conversation with myself last night about many things. Among those things, and between the tears, I thought about my disappointments (in myself), my regrets, my shortcomings, and areas where I truly need to improve. I have to get to that little place where I learn some acceptance, and have a little faith that things will get time...I suppose...they will.

NoRegrets said...

Yes, I am sure they will...

squirrel said...

Very insightful... apart from the Catholic upbringing, your entry rings true for me too. I share that need to plan everything out 15 moves ahead of time, and to hedge every word or opinion (and for similar reasons). I've thought a lot about faith too. I've never felt drawn to believe in powers on high, but I think I understand the desire to believe there's some sort of ordering principle at work. Faith in self is more concrete and immediate; easier for me to think about. Also, it requires humility (for me, anyway) - I don't always know what I'm able to do until I've tried to do it.

Tera said...

Well looky there...I have commented on this one! FYI...I am still trying to find that know, acceptance...

Susan said...

How on earth did I not comment on so many of your posts? I'm normally a comment stalker. I really like the seeing things as a whole...