I wrote a blog about the facade of being perfect six years ago. It is below these words of wisdom I recently read in The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. Her insights about artists and perfectionists are applicable to anyone and life in general.
Julia says, “Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop - an obsessive, debilitating, closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details.....and to lose sight of the whole.”
She adds, “The perfectionist writes, paints, creates with one eye on her audience.
(Or one eye on the boss in the case of business) Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results…..The perfectionist is never satisfied. The perfectionist calls it humility. In reality, it is egoism. It is pride that makes us want perfection”…..
“Perfectionism is not the quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough - that we should try again. (Or no one is good enough for us, so keep on searching).”
Julia further comments, “A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places. A book is never finished. But at a certain point you stop writing it and go on to the next thing. That is a normal part of creativity - letting go. We always do the best we can by the light we have to see by. “
The same could be said about anything in life. We do the best we can by the light we have to see by. There is the figurative light but also the light of knowing. At different points in our journey, our inner lights shine based on what we have learned and experienced in our lives. The painting accompanying this blog is another of mine that I share with you. It is far from perfect, if I am wearing my art critic hat. Yet for this point in time, it is perfect. It was done with the light of my life’s experiences and my beginner's painting skills.
Perfection and Facades (blog from 6 years ago)
From the time I entered grade school, my “thinking cap” was securely on my head and on high alert. I raised my hand so fast with answers that it became a game for others to try to beat me. Rarely did others succeed. Not that I got called on by the teacher all the time, but my hand shot up knowing the answer every time. My challenge at that time wasn’t knowing the answers.
As my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Wallman, reminded us often, “anything worth doing was worth doing well”, and to her that included silence from her students, unless called on. Now for me, That (silence) was a challenge!
The first row, first seat in our classroom was reserved for the “Best” among us. 100% correct papers were required, and that part was pretty simple for me. I was lucky enough to have a last name that started with a “D”, and that gave me pretty good positioning to start out. So, I rather quickly moved into 1st Row, 1st Seat “Best” status.
That is, until 1st Row, 2nd seat, Peter poked me in the back, and I turned around to ask what he wanted. Mrs. Wallman snapped to attention as I turned in my seat and quickly proceeded to inform me that I had to move out of my cherished spot for talking. Usually this talking mess-up meant going to the back of the row I was currently in - so back of the 1st row.
But, such an ‘injustice’ to me warranted argument and telling my teacher just how unfair she was being and advancing my insistent plea of innocence because 'it wasn’t my fault that Peter poked me'. I’m not sure just how brazen I became, as my memory recalls much more of Mrs. Wallman’s penetrating looks and pointing with her finger to show me which seat I was now entitled to take - and thus I was booted to the last row, last seat. Arrrrrgh, I was so angry with her.
Not a quitter by nature and with a ‘born in me’ determination beyond reason, I focused on working my way back to “perfect” and that revered seat in the front of the room. Each day I controlled my natural talkative and playful self to prove to Mrs. Wallman that I was the ‘best’ in the class. I realized in those first few months of first grade, that if I worked hard enough and did exactly what I was told, that I could be “perfect” and be in Row 1, Seat 1.
Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised that I worked my way back to “perfect”, only to bounce in and out of that seat numerous times that year. I’ve always liked to talk. Though never again did I return to the last seat, last row. My arguing and my standing up for “injustice” were held at bay the rest of that year.
The takeaway that was decided by little Mary in first grade was that “perfect” was indeed possible. I also decided that I wanted to be “perfect”, and that if I worked very hard and did exactly what I was told to do, that the end result was “Perfect”.
I have chased perfection my entire life. Not altogether a bad thing, since that striving for perfection led to high grades, numerous awards and accolades, high achievements, high level positions of leadership and accompanying salary - AND very high expectations for myself and for others.
I also lived my life with a “Perfect Facade” shown to the world, while having inner feelings of ‘never being quite good enough’. I knew all my imperfections and was fearful that if others looked too closely, they’d see the real, less than perfect Me that existed behind my own Wizard of Oz curtain.
Luckily for me, I’ve experienced transformation through my taking the weekend immersion of Landmark Forum. My past hasn’t changed. It will always be my past. Though I now realize that “What happened?” and our stories about What Happened? are rarely the same. So, to be a little more accurate, my version of my past will live on. The transformation comes from my perspective having changed and my focus being much more on the present and actions of today that can impact the future.
Why does any of this matter to you? I am sharing as I work to figure things out - even though Landmark basically debunks our need to keep ‘trying to figure it out’ and urges we keep taking action instead of thinking about it so much.
With that said, and I agree on Landmark’s point. For those of you who are ‘trying to figure it all out’, sharing my stories and experiences and what conclusions I’ve come to for me…just may be the advice or message you needed to hear today.
Much has transpired in my life since that blog post was written, and those recent lessons and experiences have added to my understanding of myself and my nature. Knowing that each day, each moment brings its own version of perfect that we can accept or not. The 'not' alternative is to stay stuck in the details of what we deem as less than perfect, spinning like a whirlpool that never ends. I've spent much time in life's spin cycles, and they aren't much fun.
Let's choose this moment of perfect, exactly as it is! .............and then move on to the next perfect moment.
May you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy,
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of seeing the world through the lens of scientists, politicians, medical ‘experts’ and main stream media. From the daily onslaught of coronavirus “news” comes a very dim outlook on life. It is a depressing outlook with so much controversy and undependable information, that it is difficult to determine who or what statistic to trust.
I hope you’ll stay with me for a few minutes and allow yourself time to bring to mind magical places that you’ve been. Perhaps the seashore, ocean, a waterfall or lakefront is magical to you? Maybe it is a hike in the woods or up a mountainside or walking in an open field of flowers or seeing a rainbow? Or is it playing in the park or walking in your neighborhood, soaking in the beauty of nature?
What makes a place magical? What do I mean by magical? To me, a place or experience is magical if it causes me to wonder and be amazed! I’m not seeking scientific principles or any kind of explanation - I want instead to Feel the magical qualities - the wonder and amazement of the world we live in.
When we were children, we all had lots of ‘wondering’ questions. Some of those questions were answered along the way, and others…. well we just knew to keep quiet about not knowing the answers, so we could appear that we were among those who claimed they did know.
At this moment, let’s just wonder and try to not think about answers. Right now, answers are not important.
At the ocean, have you ever wondered how all the water got there? Or Why does it look like the water and sky meet when you look far away but it doesn’t up close - there’s just air that we can’t see and water. The horizon in the distance is so beautiful to witness. Don't think about it for an answer, just imagine it and wonder.
When you go to a park or hike in the woods or walk in your neighborhood, have you ever wondered why grass, bushes, trees are green and not blue or orange or purple? Have you stopped to wonder how a single seed can grow into a huge tree? Or how do the perfectly symmetrical lines in leaves and some flowers appear? And have you ever noticed that every tree, bush, flower is unique and different, even within the same species? How does it happen that when the same kind of seed is planted, every single tree, bush, flower is a little different and special in its uniqueness? If you don’t believe me, spend some time really looking at nature. It’s amazing the variances that are there for us to see.
In one of my past blogs, I wrote about how my daily walks and the trees I saw on those walks inspired me to first begin drawing with charcoals, oil pastels and then markers. After about three weeks of drawing, less than a month ago, I began painting. I’m a beginner in all mediums of art, and in order to learn, I did some reading, watched a couple YouTube videos and listened to teachers/artists as they showed how to use the art supplies and make their pictures come to life.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to draw and paint through researching and allowing the vibrancy and beauty I feel about nature to come out in the pictures. It’s fun research, as it involves paying close attention during my daily walks to what a tree, flower, bush really look like - the markings, the shape - What are the proportions? What shape are the leaves? Where do I see the sky, and how do the clouds look with different color skies? What can I see behind the tree, bush or flower? Next to the tree? What does the ground look like at the base of the tree? So many questions and lots of research - all just by looking at the trees, flowers or bushes themselves. I like to paint water too, and since I lived near an ocean for most of the past five years, views of the ocean in various seasons and times are embedded in my mind.
(A beginners attempt - the painting above is one I've done.)
I used to do walks or runs solely for the fresh air, exercise and to clear my head by playing in my mind past or future conversations and thoughts or creating plans - always thinking. Often, I’d talk on the phone or send texts. I’d walk or run past the nature in a rush, while appreciating the overall view, yes, but not really immersing myself in the magical wonders of nature - rarely did I allow my mind to just be.
Today, I know an experience that is completely different. When I take a walk now,
I notice the differences seen through the markings, colors, shapes, sizes and ages of the life around me, and these observations cause me to wonder and be amazed.
I see more vividly, nature’s beauty. I also notice that nature adjusts and lives in harmony with other nature - and this too is magical and makes me wonder about how nature is so strong, beautiful and adaptable in its diversity. If only humans would follow the lead of nature!
I feel the hand of God or if you prefer, Mother Nature, touches life and is the very spark in this beauty. It is not man made. The seeds that become plants in our beautiful world are truly magical. In nature, I am overcome with feelings of gratitude.
Please give yourself a gift - you deserve it! Take a 30-60 minute daily escape that may change your life and will certainly be a boost to your immune system by improving your mental health!
30-60 minutes outdoors in nature, with no cellphone - anywhere with an abundance of nature.
By giving yourself permission to experience the magic, treating the time as moment after moment of wonder, really noticing how amazing it is, life itself will renew you with energy and vitality.
May you be healthy and safe,