art · dreams · expansion · perfectionism · self-compassion

forget frida.

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When I was sick (that phrase again!), I wrote a blog
entitled Frida. I was questioning why I wasn’t putting into action all of the
passions I was saying I’d staved off for so long, asking why I wasn’t engaging
in music and art during those long swaths of empty time laying in bed. Why wasn’t I
being like Frida? Creating from my place of weakness and also of determination?
Of course, the feedback a cancer patient gets when they say
something like this is, Molly, be gentle with yourself. But, it’s hard to do
that when you feel riled up in the manic thrall of fear and impending death.
You want to do everything right now. You
feel you have to. And yet, of course you can’t. Because you’re sick.
It’s nearly two years since I wrote that blog, and the
patience I wasn’t able to give myself then, the compassion and forgiveness of
being in a situation that didn’t allow for movement like that is finally
arriving – because I am and have changed.
I, of course, couldn’t change so much then; it was a “hold
onto the ropes and try not to fall overboard” moment and series of moments.
But, the storm has passed, and I have,
despite any chiding I may have toward myself and judgment about where I am in
life, I
have moved to someplace
different – I
have implemented
the changes I begged myself to take.
Of course, too, it’s hard in its own way to show up for
yourself differently, to put yourself on the line – to put your dreams and
goals out there, in black and white and in the real world. It’s
nerve-inducing, it’s uncertain. As you’ve read recently, it means that I battle
self-questioning, and “compare despair,” and still a nagging sense of “You’ve
got to live your best life NOW!”
Well, in retrospect and with perspective, I get to see that
I am. I am on that path I longed for. It’s become a bit more clouded (for me) since
I’ve made the decision to leave my steady job at the end of the month. But, I
have to trust that these actions and decisions are the outcome of a woman who
started walking out of the dark when she wrote a critical, demanding blog about
needing to be like Frida Kahlo, and who has taken impetus from that by engaging in
those things she thought were too late.
To quote Galaxy Quest:
Never Give Up; Never Surrender.
If I can hold the compassion of acknowledging where I am in
comparison to where I was, I have to celebrate myself. Hard as that is for most
of us.
But how many times, too, have I written that we never give
ourselves the chance to acknowledge our successes? We climb and grapple and
trip up a mountain, and once finally to the top, we pause for maybe a
millisecond to look around and take in what we’ve just accomplished before we
charge up the next mountainhead.
So, I take this moment to look around from the top of this
place, at my bass I sort of know how to play now, at the script sitting on my
kitchen table, and I thank myself and the opportunities around me for allowing
me and helping me to get here.
The only person I can rightly compare myself to is myself.
And today I whisper through the veil of time to that woman in a hospital bed –
demanding she be something different – that she is. We are.

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ambition · community · courage · encouragement · fear · perfectionism · perseverance · self-love · stagnating · trying · vulnerability

Perfection is the enemy of the done.

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Well, if I haven’t told you yet, I’ll tell you now: I’m
reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
She’s a researcher on the topics of shame and vulnerability, and how the first can
keep you from embracing the second, and thereby keep you from “daring
greatly.”
Particularly, I’m (*air quotes*) “enjoying” the part when she’s quoting
from some of her interviewees. This mantra, cribbed from Voltaire, is my favorite so far: “Perfectionism
is the enemy of the done.”
There is always one more thing to do. There is always one
more spot to scrub, one more hair to fix, one more jiggly arm skin to poke, one
more class to take, one more edit to make.
In the pursuit of perfection, nothing is ever finished, and
satisfaction and contentment are perpetually elusive.
My aunt sent me an email a few weeks ago in response to one
of my blogs. She reflected that she always admires my writing, but this one in
particular should be submitted. To the New York Times.
She’s a life-long professor of English, a stellar mind and
woman. And she would be someone to know what she’s talking about.
So, I’ve sat with this idea since she sent me the prod. I
looked up the submission guidelines, and promptly forgot them.
Until I read that quote about perfection and the done. So,
this morning, I printed out the blog, and edited it. Then went back online to
see the guidelines: 1500 words. Mine is currently 700. I need to double
my article!
BUT. It’s out. It’s printed on actual paper. I can carry it
around with me to read and make notes of what parts I’ll focus in on to expand
the essay.
When I decided to finally join a band last year, it was
precisely this perfection that cracked. I was no better or worse than I’d been
for years. I had no more or less experience than I’d had before. What cracked
was my commitment to perfection. “When I practice, then I can play. When I’m
better then I can reach out to them. When I get lessons. When I …”
A few years ago, I put together an art project whose purpose
was entirely to eschew perfection. I
used paint on paper…without sketching it out first. There were no “mistakes,”
even though the lines aren’t perfect. There was no starting over, even though I
wished I could. My entire purpose was to put something down on paper, and to be
done with it. I’d had the idea of this art piece for quite some time, and I was
finally willing to do it imperfectly. And it hangs up on my wall, with lines I still fantasize about perfecting, my idol to “done.”
The same will have to be true for my essay/article. It’s
taken these few weeks to look back at it, because I have those gremlin thoughts
that say, “The NEW YORK TIMES?! Are you out of your MIND?! Who do you think you
are??” That say, What’s the use, it’ll never be used. That say, If you don’t do
it perfectly, you’ll always be a secretary.
Yesterday morning, after my phone encounter with my dad the
day before, I reached for a coffee mug. I dug behind the enormous ones I
usually use, to find a modest sized one with something printed on it.
I HEART ME. (Could be “I heart Maine,” but that works, too!)
In the sprawl of brain chompings and perfectionism. In the
shadow of habits that draw me back into being small or angry or disconnected.
In the face of a choice to let myself be seen, as imperfect but good enough as I am, I reaffirm something preciously true: I
Heart Me.