Saturday, April 2, 2016

Softening Out of Perfection

Perfection is not an easy goal. Perfection takes work.  Hard work. Balls-to-the-walls work.  Don't just sing; belt!  Don't just cry; sob. Don't just work. Work harder than anyone else ever could or would, and never make a mistake.  Figure out what makes people happy and do it tenfold. Stand out. Be exemplary. That's what perfection is all about, right?

Only if you want to be neurotic and drive everyone around you insane. Only if you want to be left wondering why, despite years of working so hard, you are unhappy.

Because of decades of perfectionitis, despite a lack of true happiness, I did garner a few commendable attributes.  I have incredible endurance.  You could give me a project--any project, be it filling up a landfill with a single shovel or organizing a festival or cataloguing 1,000 species of gastropods--and I'll do it unwaveringly, without food or drink or sleep, until it is done, and done perfectly.  I am pretty skinny for a middle-aged woman. That's because I have always been buzzing and working, even during "rest" periods, which keeps my metabolism on overdrive.  I am dependable and self-deprecating and nice (until I blow up from feeling unable to live up to my perfection). I am wholesome and moral.  Yes, perfection has a few superficially honorable side effects.

I have also been hard-edged, easily hurt, overbearing in my energy with others, strongly opinionated, insecure, nail-biting, and limited in my ability to see a bigger, kinder, picture of both myself and the world around me. Perfection had created barriers to the very thing it was striving for.

Thanks to a longtime dedicated meditation practice,  the tight-lipped walls of perfection are beginning to soften, especially in these past  several years, and the process is continuing with tangible results.  In addition to daily time on the cushion, it's a moment-to-moment practice to enjoy less work for myself instead of creating more, to soften and loosen into each moment, experience, thought and interaction rather than tense up and do battle with them.  To lay back with things as they are instead of diving in to and trying to influence everything. To shed the need and tendency to engage--and over-engage.. To stop the need to let everyone know what I can do, have done, or will do. To physically soften--my face, jaw, shoulders, stomach--and feel a new sense of flow through pliant, newly alive joints and muscles.  To really see, hear and enjoy people rather than being intent on being perfect around them.  To allow my kids to be themselves as they change and grow rather than be "my kids." To discover--wide eyed and awestruck--that the whole world opens up and dances with me when I finally relax these gripping muscles and let go of it.  To be utterly, openly, flabbily, softly, loosely, quietly, unapologetically, imperfect. To breathe. To be happy and even better than happy: to be content.

Now THAT'S perfection.