Monday, April 4, 2011

Aren't we amazing?

When I say "we" in the title of this post, I'm talking about all of us. Everyone reading this. And everyone else, too. When I ask, "Aren't we amazing?" I'm talking about the amazing way we all find ways to talk ourselves out of something, before we've even begun. Most times before we've even finished the thought of that something.

It goes something like this (this just happened to me, right before I sat down and logged into this blog account -- after avoiding it since January):

Me (thinking to myself): I need to be writing.
Me: Why do I suck at sticking with writing?
Me: I know it's so good for me. I know it's what I'm supposed to be doing. And I'm not doing it. Ever. Not even at work anymore.
Me: But I'm so tired from work (where I sit all day, by the way), I can't deal with getting back in front of the computer after work. I need to veg out. I need an escape. That's what the Kardashian's were made for. I need that.
Me: This is so lame. This is so weak. What a sad excuse for not writing. You're a sad excuse for a writer.
Me: F this. I'm going to write. Right now.

And here I am. Writing right this very moment! (I can hardly believe it myself.)

But even in the time between thinking, "I'm a sad excuse for a writer," and getting my laptop, I'd already started this little dialogue.

Me: Here I go again. "Starting up my blog again!" How many times have I blogged about this? How bored are people with reading that? How many eye rolls are these words going to get? I am a sad excuse for a writer.

But I still got online and am writing this, anyway. And the reason is not just because I'm trying to feel like less of a "sad excuse." It's also because I know, for sure, that I'm not the only one having these talks with myself. I guarantee my writer friends have almost the identical one. I know my other friends have a similar inner critic about their lack of time for doing things they love, like hanging up photos they've taken, planting that veggie garden they've been talking about, taking their dogs for enough walks. We all do it. We all are amazing at it.

Someone: I should take Comet for a walk. She looks so sad over there. Ugh, but I'm so tired. I need to relax.

Someone else: I should actually use my camera. I'm so happy when I'm being creative! Maybe I could get paid for it! What am I thinking? No one would pay me out of all the other photographers out there. Anyone can point and shoot a camera. Oh, "Family Guy" is on. Click. (And I'm not talking about the camera.)

My point here is not to be depressing, or to give a long dissertation about how we're amazing at being lame. My point is that yes, we are amazing at being lame. But that's normal. Even more amazing is when we let ourselves not be lame. And not worry about what's next. This is very hard for me, but I busted through tonight and put something down despite it all. Something that I think is important, and something that I think can help that tiny sputtering spark in all of us to ignite ... if just for a night. Or an afternoon.

Maybe this way, the gaps separating us from our dreams will narrow just a bit. Here and there. And maybe we'll keep watching reality TV and inappropriate cartoons. (OK, definitely I will.) But we'll know that there's always the next moment to act. Even if it's after your favorite Bravo lineup. It's there for the taking. So when you think about taking it, just take it. And when you are cool enough to take it, enjoy it. And don't wonder what's next.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This isn't working

Admitting that an endeavor you've embarked on is not working is not easy for a perfectionist. The difficulty of admitting this may be a close relative to the trait of not being able to admit you're wrong. This is just occurring to me as I write this.

Today was a day in which I was forced to grapple with the realization that a job I took on was just not working out. And realizing this did not go well. Though, if asked whether said endeavor was working out by any old person, I would have admitted that, no, it really wasn't. But when presented with this notion by the person with whom I'd embarked on this endeavor, I was not happy to hear this.

Now, I know this thing wasn't working out. (I haven't yet decided whether I want to reveal what this "thing" is, so for now, it will be called, "Thing.") But, to be told by the person who was counting on it working out that it was not, I found myself indignant and upset.

There are a number of reasons for my upset reaction to this, but they all fall under the one umbrella of, "I'm a perfectionist." Sigh.

You see, I'm the go-to girl. At work, anyway. I'm the girl at work whom you seek out when you have something that needs to be done -- done right, done quickly, and done, well, perfectly. This has sort of become my identity, I'm realizing, and when I do something outside of work and it doesn't turn out this way, I get, well, mad.

And then I get analytical. "Why didn't this go well?" I wonder. "Were the conditions such that it even had a shot in hell of going well? Why, no! They weren't! Ah ha, that's what happened. Poor conditions. It's not me. It's ... the conditions."

This makes me feel better for a moment. But then that moment is gone, and I need to ensure that it's not just me who feels this way, and I start asking questions in hopes of getting the same reassuring answer.

Those reassuring answers would sound something like: "Oh, no. There's no way you could've done that well with all of the responsibilities you have a work. Come on! You just didn't have the time."

Or: "Your job is so stressful. You need time to unwind from that. You couldn't just go home and then start working all over again after a nine-hour day!"

But despite all of these logical notions that should make me feel better about giving up the "thing," I just can't feel good about it. I don't like giving up.

"What could I have done differently?" I wonder. "Why don't I have endless stores of energy like so-and-so?!"

And hence the battle commences. My indignant self against my guilty self.

This battle happens inside my mind a lot. But today, something changed for a moment and I tried to cling onto it: I saw it happening, and I said, "Screw this crazy thinking and beating myself up. This is dumb."

And so I'm writing this post to air out this nutty internal dialogue, to free myself from the chains of the endless circle in which my over-thinking entangles me. And I'm coming to this conclusion: So it didn't work out ... so what? I'm obviously not meant for that "thing."

(And then ... I'm being really honest with myself, and am really closing the chapter on this by thinking, in the way-back of my mind, "I was too good for that thing. I just don't have time for that kind of nonsense. I have bigger fish to fry." And to that thought I give myself a pat on the back and say, "Hey, whatever gets you through the day.")

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ouch ... dates don't lie. It's been six months. But I'm going to write this anyway.

Most people would be embarrassed to have started a blog, let it go for a few months, then started again ever so enthusiastically, only to once again let it go for even longer. Six months, to be exact. But strangely, not me.

I feel a little lame, of course. Actually, a lot lame. But I know this blog is a good idea, so here I am again, Feb. 20, 2010, a whopping six months since my last post, getting back on the horse again.

If that doesn't inspire you to go ahead and do that thing you've been avoiding for so long, well, maybe something else will. But feel better knowing that you're not alone feeling lame about not doing something that you know is so good for you. You've probably let it go for so long that you're thinking to yourself, "What's the use? I'll just drop it again another time." That's what I've been thinking about this blog, anyway, for last three months or so. So, know you're not alone.

Naturally, it's that thought that makes me stop thinking about this blog and avoid doing it. We make ourselves feel so bad about not doing what we've set out to do, whether it's keeping a journal, cleaning out our closets, or reconnecting with a loved one we've lost touch with, that we just keep on not doing those things, and keep on feeling bad about it anyway.

Big or small, once we mess up -- or give up -- it becomes an easy excuse to keep up with the giving up (or the messing up, or whatever masochistic habit or lack of habit it may be).

Why are we like this? What's the secret to not being like this? I think the secret might be to have no shame. I thought I felt lame about starting this blog back up for the third time. But as I write this, I'm starting to see what I really feel lame about. And it it's not about starting this blog back up.

It's sharing that I've started this blog back up -- for the third time -- that makes me feel lame. It's thinking about what my friends and family will think when they get my enthusiastic e-mail that, "It's true! I've started my blog back up for the third time!"that makes me feel lame.

And so, the secret to not feeling lame, I've decided, is just have no shame. That's it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Being practical is overrated

I've always described myself as very practical, because I am, and think I've worn that trait as some sort of badge.

I'd imagine a lot of people who describe themselves as perfectionists would probably also consider themselves practical. Practical generally means being useful, and I doubt many perfectionists would do something that wasn't useful. Being useless would definitely not be perfect.

But I realized recently that being practical -- just like being wasteful -- can get totally out of control. I realized my practical tendencies had gotten out of hand when I found myself not knowing the immediate answer to this question: "Should I drive an extra 30 minutes out of my way in order to have my friends in the car during the two-hour ride for a weekend away with them? Or, should I just meet them at our destination to keep from adding 30 extra minutes onto both legs of my trip?"

Granted, I'd come up with this non-dilemma after back-to-back, extra long days at work with little sleep in between. But, the fact is, I did find this to be a dilemma for a short while.

Looking back at the laughs we had riding down together -- car somehow packed to the brim with five girls' belongings for a one-night stay (I believe someone held a watermelon in her lap the whole ride, and I definitely had no use of the rear-view mirror) -- I can't believe I even thought twice about whether the extra travel time was a good idea.

But I did think twice, and now I realize I've thought twice about -- and opted out of -- tons of other random scenarios because they weren't "practical." Thinking about how much time and how many memories I've likely missed out on with friends and family because I was being so practical with my time and my "to do" list is heartbreaking.

I'm happy to say this road trip was the wake-up call I've needed, though. Since realizing there's nothing perfect about missing out on fun just to make the most of my time, I've already begun to allot much more space on my priority list to spending time with my friends and taking time to be with my family.

It doesn't always feel immediately comfortable to abandon my schedule to just have some fun, but the more I do it, the easier it gets. And, as if having fun wasn't enough of a reward in itself, I've found that when I do return to my "regularly scheduled programming," I'm much more productive, and much happier doing so.

I guess the old saying -- as usual -- is true: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Renee a dull girl? No thank you!