A few days ago, a friend tagged me in a picture on Instagram.  I quickly reviewed the picture (see below) and ever since the phrase has been ruminating in my mind…

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It’s a mantra whose humming rhythm won’t quit.

Write hard and clear about what hurts.

                 Write hard and clear about what hurts.

                                    Write hard and clear about what hurts.

Write hard and clear.
(heard: it won’t be easy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated)

About what hurts.
(heard: Know what hurts and articulate your heart around that)

Gulp. Gulp. G-u-l-p.

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Then I came across this writer’s summit online and began to take a listen.  The very first author I heard was the lovely Edie Wadsworth and as she spoke about her own memoir that is coming out in September, the theme I kept hearing was to write the hard stuff.  In her own words, “The thing you’re most scared to write about is probably the very thing you should write about.”

Gulp. Gulp. G-u-l-p.  Here we go.

I AM A RECOVERING STRUGGLING PERFECTIONIST

Some of you may laugh.  “Haha… that’s not so bad!” you may think.  Oh, but I’m here to tell you it is when you are on the receiving end of my perfectionistic tendencies.  My kiddos have been on the receiving end, my husband and more often than anyone else, myself.

Lofty ideals.

Expectations of self and others that were never meant to exist.

Striving.

And then rolling up my sleeves and striving some more.

Shame.
(And just to be clear, when I say “shame” I adopt the renowned shame expert, Brene Brown’s definition: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging)

Shame because I didn’t meet said expectations that were never meant to exist.

Anger.

Anger because I don’t know how to deal with the shame that exists because I didn’t meet said expectations THAT WERE NEVER MEANT TO EXIST.

It’s a vicious cycle.  One that I have to be aware of constantly.  And one that I have to CHOOSE to combat.

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I’m listening to podcasts.  OK, well, technically I’m listening to ONE podcast.  My first podcast EVER– for those of you who think I might know all about podcasts, and all things technologically advanced, I do not.  My friends give me a hard time because I still have a yahoo email account.  That is a telling testimony in and of itself. And podcasts are actually kinda old, right?  Not really so technologically advanced in the normal, “more connected to the world,” human’s life.

But, I found a podcast.  And I love it.  And I listen to the same 5 episodes OVER. and OVER. and OVER.

And in one podcast the authors are sharing about “Unlikely Writing Teachers” and they talk specifically about a bit of microphone feedback that was left in a live recording of a Bob Marley song on his classic Legend album. They continued to talk about the way it actually seems to make the song better with the feedback there because it “humanizes the process.”  Yes, indeed, even legendary rockstars, and their teams of people, make mistakes in their craft.

THE ART IS MADE IN THE MISTAKES.

There is truly something about living in the tension of knowing these 2 things:

1. Perfection is not a possible or even worthy goal and…
2. There is great beauty in the growth process

 Growing up, I feel like I heard (in various words and actions) from many adults all around that, “Ho-hum, life happens!”  There was this general attitude that life happens to you and you have no control over it.

Perhaps it’s a generational thing–the disparity between beliefs.  But now, we tend to take on a “control your destiny” mentality.  “Work hard, attend this event, sign up for this activity and MAKE your life beautiful” is the mantra I feel surfacing within my own generation. I feel like my own resolve to never believe I am a victim of my own life circumstances and combativeness to falling prey to that belief, has at  times led me to swing to the other side of the pendulum.  The “take charge attitude” of my own life has left me wanting for more peace & stillness and less busyness & action.

Brene Brown, in her book I Thought it was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough,” says this,

Our culture is quick to dismiss quiet, ordinary, hardworking men and women.  In many instances, we equate ordinary with boring or, even more dangerous, ordinary has become synonymous with meaningless.

And therein, lies the rub.  What I believe is often the root of our struggles with perfection.

WE ARE AFRAID OF BEING MEANINGLESS.

Gulp. Gulp. G-U-L-P.

We lead busy lives.  We strive for the perfectly clean, organized and polished home.  At times, our motivation to work out, diet and seek to alter our bodies is because we want to fit the “culturally acceptable body type.” We often can’t walk our children through the process of deciding what they truly love to do, so we plug them into dozens of various activities.  All in a hope of providing them with some sort of MEANINGFUL life.  And in the midst, we too are scrambling ourselves to find our own meaning and make our own mark in the world because we deeply fear leaving this life unmarked, as an ordinary individual who did not achieve great things.

And yet, I look not far from myself and see these sweet reminders.

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THEIR SWEET,
AMAZING PERFECTION LIES IN THE
VERY FACT THAT THEY ARE INDEED IMPERFECT.

 The peanut butter and jelly smears in the crevices of their mouths.  The Greek yogurt smears across their foreheads that WILL NOT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ever come off.

The way they readily admit they need help– even take comfort in asking and receiving help.  Jesus, help us learn from them.  May we become like the little children.

They have no problem expressing their true feelings.  Letting it all out, so to speak.  And a successful day in their eyes, is not one measured by how many items they were able to check off their lists.  It’s measured in play.  How much fun was had?  How much did I laugh?  Amidst the piles of laundry and dirty floors, what friends did I connect with?  What playdates occurred?  What yummy foods did I eat and what funny things did I see?

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Oh sweet friends.  I am on a journey.  Looking back in my own Instagram feed, I found this gem of a reminder:

At the end of each day, I hope I’ve loved better than the one before.  Sometimes I have.  Other times I fail miserably.  I am thankful for grace.  I am so glad that perfect is not the goal.  I am learning and growing and changing… Hopefully becoming better.

But a lot of days, I find that I’ve forgotten.  In the midst of working so hard to FIND peace, and trying so much to BE better, I forget that it’s all around me.  I don’t have to work hard to achieve it.  Or look forward to it at the end of my day.  It’s there.  It doesn’t always look the way we envision it.  But, it’s there.  Waiting for me to stop trying so hard and just fall into it.

These little people are peace carriers (even when they are crazy chaos).  They are real and they carry Him.  And they wait for me to stop, to slow, to breathe, to fall.

And so I will.  Each day I will remind myself and I will grow because of it.  As sweet author Amber Haines writes in her book, The Mother Letters,

I push away that woman in my imagination who tells me who I’m supposed to be if I want to be ‘good,’ to be doing it right.  I push away even what I think another mother’s life seems to be, the vacuum lines in her carpet.  But here gather, mother, women who are for you, women confessing how little any of us know and how precious it is to be right where we are and who we are.

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Breathe deeply friends.  Perfect was never the goal.  Your life is meant to be enjoyed–as you chase the dreams, as you plan and set goals– find the peace and fall into it.  It’s there.  And the marks you are already making, as ordinary as they may be, are oh, so deeply meaningful.  Of that I am certain.

Your delicious perfection, your unique imprint, lies in the very fact that you too, are an imperfect, beautiful person, capable of love and difference-making, right now, in your present state of being.

Embrace the imperfect friends!  It’s so lovely.

  1. Shelli Mitchell says:

    This is so packed with truth and so beautifully written. The more you write, the more similar i see we are. Thank you for your courage to write what’s on your heart. It brings breakthrough for so many others.

  2. jayne bak says:

    YUM!! such a beautiful example of several moments where your response exemplified “each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” Galatians 6:5 (the Message)

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