Thursday, February 9, 2017
This little girl, in all her triumphant glory, still shows me how to keep things real.
(photo credit: The St. Catharines Standard)
Generally speaking, I consider myself to be an observant and relatively intelligent person. Then how is it that one of the most liberating pieces of wisdom came as a surprise to me? "There is more than one way to do a good job," I was advised. So simple, so obvious, and yet I was gobsmacked. You see, as an admitted lifelong perfectionist, I had conditioned myself into believing that there was only one way to accomplish a task. Anything less than perfect just would not do. This thinking, I've learned, is counter-intuitive to living a fulfilled life. In fact, it's paralyzing. When you put most of your energy into searching for that one golden path, you end up spending more time procrastinating or beating yourself up than doing the thing you are intending to do. Don't even get me started on the self-induced stress and anxiety that consumes you.
Interestingly, my young self seemed to understand that living is about exercising options--plural. Sometimes those options are as simple as what feels right at that moment. You can see that realization in the above photo. Here I am at age four, participating in a track-and-field day, attempting the high jump at a whopping 14 inches. Athletics were never my thing, but a zest for life has always been so I enthusiastically followed my friend Robbie to the high-jump. "What fun!" I thought. What happened next has become legendary. It just so happened that a photographer for the local newspaper caught me in the moment. The captions explain it all: "Lore charges to the bar." "Becomes frightened." "Turns away hiding." "Changes her mind." "And steps, not jumps, over the bar." Granted, I did not win any ribbons that day, but I demonstrated what I knew instinctively--that I would find my own way through (or in this case over!).
Flash forward forty-plus years and here I am again, still trying to find my own way yet again. In the early days of a new year, this quote comes to mind: "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” I feel like I've been paralyzed, staring at the high bar in so many areas of life---career choices, health matters, relationships with family and friends, to name a few. Maybe, just maybe, running and jumping is not the best for me right now. When I look at little Lore: she knew to follow her instincts and find a way to complete the task. She reminded me to look at my path from from other angles--taking stock of where I am and find a good approach for me to make it over hurdle. Not necessarily the best but good; and, apparently, sometimes good enough is what's best.
Will I lower my standards? Probably not. I am still a perfectionist. "So what will change in my approach?" you might wonder. Well, I'm open to the possibility of failure. I'm learning to accept that failure at a task doesn't define who I am. I'm willing to be more flexible as to what my standards are, situation by situation. I'm creating my new mantra: Life is a process. Sometimes I'll succeed and other times not. The point is that I am willing to rethink my approach. Hey, you never know where your risk of failure might take you. In fact, these personal choices might just allow you to end up on the front page of the newspaper, with a look of utter triumph and satisfaction on your face for having tried your best at that moment and got the job done your way.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Thursday, February 14, 2013
|In my winter's solace, I dream. From my dreams arises outlook. And from my outlook I take action.|
Image from morgondagg.tumblr.com
Undeniably, I am a romantic at heart. And in the depths of winter, especially during this very blustery one, I naturally return to my romantic tendencies. "Oh, what a lucky spouse you must have," you might say with a wink and a sly smile. Ha ha. Well, I do give fabulous hugs. In fact, I'm known for them. But such divulgences are not the true intent of this post. The romantic tendencies of which I write follow suit with those of the great Romantic Movement of the 18th-19th Century. (Okay, here is where I need you to stay with me.) Romanticism, as described by The Oxford Companion to English Literature (rev. ed.) is in part an expression of "an extreme assertion of the self and the value of individual experience...together with the sense of the infinite and the transcendental." (Are we still good? Excellent.) Akin to my own mantra, everyone has a story worth telling and being heard. And it is with and from these experiences and stories, especially those that abound from our emotions and imagination, that we grow. In essence, the individual self and its creations matter. You matter. I matter.
And so, winter fills me with a private joy. Beyond the shovelling and re-shovelling, the piles of wet outer (and inner) clothes, and the bitingly frigid elements, I choose to see winter as a gift to myself and my sense of self. It is those same harsh weather conditions that enable me to go inside--physically indoors, yes, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually into the heart of me. Winter offers me the ever-elusive and precious opportunity to be silent and still. In this state, I become ready to listen. Introspection and intuition, those trusty allies, loyally join me in my quietude. They offer me their company, and I gratefully accept. Together we consider ideas and points of view. We take time to contemplate the books we have just read rather than becoming prey to serial speed reading. We listen, truly listen, to music—how the melodies build and recede and what the lyrics might mean. We make time to capture it all in our journal. We reflect. From this state of recognition, I can face the next wave of consorts--possibility, determination, and risk--when they come to call, as they invariably do. These three are more adventurous, assertive, and worldly. Were it not for the depths of winter, I might not have the wherewithal to fully appreciate their presence. Wondrously, this season of the year and my life is preparing me for the gifts they bring so I welcome them in, too. Together we will plan for the rebirth that is spring.