Monthly Archives: February 2016

Perfect…in a moment

I write a lot on Handprints about my struggle against being so caught up in my pursuit of perfection that I miss my life. Just recently I blogged about how my birthday was “ruined” and I realized it was only ruined because it wasn’t perfect. That was a painful realization for me, because it feels like I’m not succeeding in my attempts to be content in the midst of the everyday moments of my life.

Yesterday, the kids and I were in the car on the way to meet some friends for a spontaneous coffee/breakfast date on a day off school. We were listening to the radio and chatting. Jubilee smiled at me in the rear view mirror with her top-toothless smile and I blew her a kiss. Romeo’s favorite song came on the radio and he got all excited and started to smile and sing loudly in his off-key 3-year-old way. In the rear view, Melody showed me the face he had made when he heard the song come on and we both chuckled at how silly he is and I just took a second and admired her sweet woman-child face, still capable of silly expressions, yet so mature in some ways. And for the first time, I experienced it. Or maybe for the first time I realized it. Either way, I felt it wash over me. For about 30 seconds, I felt a surge of contentment mixed with thankfulness mixed with joy mixed with peace and love. In that half a minute, there was no sadness or regret or anger. And I saw it and took a deep breath as if to breath it in deep and savor the taste of it.

Perfection.

I chatted with a friend who has been having a very hard time with her teenage daughter. She described a few moments where her girl snuggled up next to her in bed and she was able to just hold her and smell her head and kiss her soft cheeks and savor. And said that no matter what has been or what is to come, for that moment her heart was all in. And she felt the love she has for her daughter wash over her in a moment of beauty and deep abiding love.

Perfection.

Perfection is possible. It does happen. But not in the way I always yearn for it. I’ve been looking in all the wrong places. It’s there hiding in the ordinary. Like a beautiful pearl waiting to be hunted out and discovered. Or waiting so obviously right around the next corner. Like the sunset you’re not really looking for as you drive down the interstate that suddenly makes you stop and suck in your breath at how beautiful it is.

And I’m endeavoring to slow down and start noticing it. Because it’s worth it.

In Pursuit of Perfection

I turned 40 last week. And the day of my birthday was kind of crappy. Actually it was just sort of an ordinary day with evening plans that didn’t pan out according to plan. But it felt like a horrible day. And being the can’t-stop-analyzing internally examining person I am, I felt like I had to figure out why.

On the surface, the day was just normal. Running kids to and from school. Doing the normal household routine. My kids said they were going to make me a birthday cake, but didn’t start it until late afternoon. Which meant a delay in getting to a much-anticipated dinner out at a favorite restaurant. Which led to arriving at a time at the restaurant when there was a 90 minute wait. Which led to eating at a burger joint and trying again the next day. Not a huge deal, right?

High points? My kids made me a cake. My husband gave me an awesome gift. I ate out with my loves. I stretched my “big day” out over 3 days. So what was the issue? Hold on to your seat, folks. I figured it out.

My 40th birthday wasn’t perfect.

Are you as shocked as I am? I realized that the real source of my feeling like my birthday sucked wasn’t the actual happenings or not-happenings of the day. It was found in my expectations. Your 40th birthday is supposed to be the perfect day, right? I mean, you’re turning “old.” It’s a big milestone. Who wouldn’t expect a perfect day?

Likely anyone who lacks the particular brand of OCD-all or nothing thinking that blesses my mind. And so as usual, it took me a few days to come to terms with my birthday. But I realized that my pursuit of perfection “ruins” many experiences for me. Examples:

-Family pictures. We rarely get them done. When we do, I want perfection. Which leads to much stress and anxiety in attempting to make that perfection happen.

-Special occasions. Christmas in particular can be a trigger for me. I NEED things to be “good memories.” And often lose the warm fuzzies in the process.

So I’m challenging myself this year to find the beauty in the imperfection. I know life is filled with it. Perfection is impossible in almost every case. May the big 40 be a milestone for me in realizing that most of life’s beauty is found in the mundane disorder of real life. And in embracing the joy that can be found when life doesn’t go as planned. Beauty is all around me. Maybe deep and abiding joy is waiting there beneath the illusion that perfect is possible. And maybe finding it is as simple as relaxing into what life is already offering to me.

When The Struggle Is Real

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed today, I see many people posting self-help things on how to xyz, or videos with the title “If this doesn’t make you put down your smartphone, nothing will.” I feel a rise of emotion as I often do when something touches on a nerve. Because I have been striving more and more to put down my phone and be present. And being moderately successful at winning the battle. And I begin to wonder why this stuff bugs me so much when I see it. And as I soul-searched for the answer, I think I found it.

I am MUCH more likely to accept input about how to navigate my struggle from a person that I KNOW has been there. And honestly, more often than not, a person who is still struggling, but perhaps having varied degrees of success in their struggle. When someone overcomes quickly, I doubt how much they were having trouble to begin with. When a person posts something or suggests what my “problem” is when that problem is something they have never personally dealt with or had difficulty being free from, all credibility with me is lost. And the suggestions get filed in my brain under the category of “judgmental” or “does not feel my true pain.”

In a similar vein, empathy is much more soothing to me than sympathy. I lost my dad a few weeks ago to a long struggle with addiction and all the physical ramifications of that struggle. As I navigate the grief and loss and complicated mourning process that comes with the loss of a parent in that way, I find others who have lost a parent they had a complicated relationship with to be those who bring me the most comfort. The “clean” grief I have dealt with before from the loss of a much-loved elderly grandparent does not compare with what I feel in the wake of his death. And only those who have been there can truly understand and offer the “I’ve been there” that makes me feel less alone and less crazy and less odd in my process of sadness.

And as it often does, this thought process has led me deeper, to a place in my soul that lives in resentment of pain and loss and sorrow. To that corner of my heart that feels like life is unfair, and that love should not have to mean sadness. That joy shouldn’t just come after the long night of grieving, but should be foremost and unfettered and gleeful all the time. I know that is not realistic, but I think each of us has that small corner of our inner space that holds out hope of that perfection. Depending on how fully our needs for love and affection and unconditional acceptance were met as children, that wish exists at different levels of intensity in every person.

As much as I would like to escape from pain, I realize that those who bring me the most comfort in my pain would not have that empathy to offer if they themselves had not felt such pain. Which means that *I* would not have empathy to offer the ones in my life that I long to comfort and offer support to if *I* had not suffered pain and loss. And I would not have a voice into the struggles of others if I, too, did not struggle. Notice I said struggle in the present tense. I NEED to struggle, now, in order to offer support to others. Moments of victory and freedom are joyous and to be greatly desired. But the process of struggling also has great value. And my emotional muscles are built best by fighting another day. Seasons of rest are wonderful and I love and treasure them when they come. But I grow best when the struggle is real. When I walk through my sorrow to a deeper joy. When I struggle through my fear to a deeper trust. When I swim through the sea of doubt and depression to a place of choosing to believe and keep moving forward. And so I find great revelation in a scripture that previously annoyed me in the extreme:

James 1:2-4 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

I’m pretty sure it takes years of practicing this to get to that place of being complete. And to find the mentality of quickly counting troubles as an opportunity for anything. But today I’m feeling like I’m off to a good start. And someday, the pain that I’m feeling today will come to fruition in the way it is spoken of here:

2 Corinthians 1:4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

I won’t pretend to fully understand why we suffer as we do. But I have felt His comfort firsthand. And it has often come through the empathy of others who have been where I am and survived. And so today, my struggle is very real. And I turn my face into the wind of sorrow with the hope in my heart that someday, I will be a comfort to someone who needs the insight, comfort and hope I gain from travelling this path of struggle. And today, that is enough.