As soon as I pull out my computer to write, my brain literally goes blank.
I’m writing that sentence because it is the only thing floating around in my mind. I have to get it out. I have to start somewhere. The perfectionism stops me, so often, from even starting. And then those times I do start, it’s deemed not “good enough” so I stop. Sure…I save it but never come back to it. I have fourteen saved drafts as we speak. And if this one doesn’t make it to “publish” then it’ll be yet another in the started-but-never-finished category.
Story of my life.
This has been my MO since I was young. I remember having a stack of journals, all with one or two pages written on. I’d have a spelling error or cross something out that I didn’t like and because the page was sloppy I’d have to start all over. Journal after journal.
It wasn’t until I was 26 years old that I filled a journal, cover to cover. And then many others after it. When I was at Renfrew to get help for my eating disorder, it was suggested to me to start journaling. My mind flooded with the memories, you’re not a finisher ED (my disturbing inner critic) would say. Why even try that again?
Why? Because to get out of the place I was in, I had to start doing something different. So I held an empty journal, stared at it, and said out loud: “This doesn’t need to be perfect. This is for me. I’m not writing this for anyone else but me.” And I picked up a pen. Purposefully, a pen. No erasing. If I wanted to cross it out, fine. But I was not going to tear out a page or start over in a new journal because it was sloppy. This is my life. It is sloppy and unedited. And I would no longer settle for starting but never finishing. I am a finisher. Well…I will be.
I find myself in a similar place. Needing to say those words aloud to myself.
“This doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be. This is my life. Messy and unedited.”
I can’t honestly say that I don’t want to be perfect. A more accurate statement would be: I want to not want to be perfect. I don’t want perfection to be what I strive for but yet…more times than I can count that is what I come back to, the motivation behind my actions. Being a [perfect] wife, a [perfect] sibling, a [perfect] parent, a [perfect] friend, a [perfect] athlete, a [perfect] daughter. I want to do things the right way but being consumed by the “right way” keeps me from welcoming failure, it keeps me from welcoming the type of growth that can only come from trying. I’m sure some of you reading this would laugh because you know I’m not any of those things. I know I’m not but when I start, gosh…it’s my desire to be. Then I fall short, way short and get so discouraged that I give up. If this cycle is not broken by something, that is the hamster wheel I’m spinning. I’ve lived that narrative long enough to know that’s not where I want to go.
After pausing for a few deep breaths, I continue to write. I thank Jesus that He is always willing, able, and mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17) me from that life-sucking cycle. “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) That is still true for me. It’s not a once and done act. It’s a continuous, daily salvation that reminds me of who I am and whose I am.
I have tasted how good God is. I have seen Him be so present, so close, and so alive in my life. And yet…because of emotional exhaustion, because of fear, because of justified anger that I choose to hold onto I fade away. I harden from the choice to hold it all on my own. I fall away from the closeness of God and become indifferent to getting back there again. Sitting at home texting instead of calling, watching instead of reading, sleeping instead of stillness become my go-to. It hasn’t been because of one choice that I find myself here – combating the pull to quit – but a series of choices over time.
Pain has always been my greatest motivator. I sit here overwhelmed with thankfulness that I’ve learned some things over the years – That I don’t need to wait or sit in the emotional pain as long in order to do something different. That choosing dependence on my Savior over the pursuit of perfection by my own actions is not weakness. Acting as if I can do it on my own is not strength…it is pride. And I…you..can choose today, right now, to welcome surrender instead of striving; to finish writing instead of quitting & saving it as a draft, turn off the tv to pray and spend time with God instead. We can choose to put down the phone (after reading this of course) and look into the eyes of those around you. We can choose to try again.
Life is happening, right now but how often do we miss it because of our terribly slumped and protracted posture, with our eyes inundated with blue light. My hope for this moment, for you and for me, right now is to be prompted to make a different choice. We all have a sphere of influence that our choices affect. Why not choose to be light in their lives? Why not choose to be love?
“Choice not chance” will forever be ingrained in me (thanks Dan) and I am so grateful. Grateful for the reminder that I have the choice to embrace mistakes and learning instead of pursuing perfection that sucks the life out of all people and all endeavors. Ginger Spice (yes, of the Spice Girls) says it beautifully:
“Perfectionism kills art. I find that if I criticise myself, it spoils the fun. You can get paralysed by analysis – it takes all the playfulness away.” – Geri Halliwell
So…today, on this 17th day of December 2020, while in PA lockdown for COVID, in-between shoveling out cars and driveways from the snowstorm, will you join me? Will you choose life, creativity and play instead of putting your energy into striving for perfection? We can start today, in our own homes, in our own hearts making the choice to be real, to be vulnerable, to be love. Now is the time. “For, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” I want today to be another fork in my road. Deciding that when I fall..and I will fall…that I will choose to boast in my such obvious weakness. I won’t try to cover it up or make excuses or quit altogether. But I will boast in Him who makes me strong. Strong enough to get up and try again.
I choose You, Jesus. Perfection found fully in You, not in any part of me.
This Jesus who is life, who pours out grace, and gives me grit to try again.
I choose You.
I choose grace and grit.
What a time to be alive. I’m praying for everyone who reads this –
It is hard to see good with all the fear, sickness, and instability swirling around us but I promise you…it is there. Finding our differences is easy. Look for the similarities. Search for the things that unite us. Being active in the pursuit of love is not for the faint of heart. I’m praying this finds you, encourages you, and strengthens you to love like Jesus.
This is officially a finished post. Happy day for it not becoming draft number fifteen. I’m celebrating the little things.
Be safe. Be well. Be love.