This phrase is from a song by one of my favorite musicians, Ray LaMontagne.
To some, quite a few of his songs might sound sad, but I find them touching and poignant, and so true to things I never would have otherwise realized I feel or do.
The lyric is, "I never learned to count my blessings, I choose instead to dwell in my disasters." (It's from my favorite song on his 2006 album, "Till the Sun Turns Black.")
The reason this speaks to me so deeply is that, frankly, I do this, but never realized it until I heard this song.
It’s not that I’m bummed out all of the time, or even a lot of the time. I’m a pretty happy person. But when I’m sitting quietly in the car, or with my dog, or looking out the window, I’m probably worried.
Who knows what it is I’m worrying about. It’s so often, it really could be about anything. It could be something as huge as the health of a family member, the safety of my loved ones, or as stupid as, “Did we shovel out the mailbox enough? Or am I going to have to deal with standing in line at the Post Office again?” (The thought of dealing with the Post Office brings me more anxiety than I think is normal. I blame it on a certain postal worker in a certain small-town Post Office. That’s all I’m saying.)
Obviously, I’m not as upset about the Post-Office-type worries as I am about the really scary ones, but the point is, they’re all there, swirling in my mind, obscuring the brighter things I could be thinking about – the blessings.
And there are many. I am blessed. Very blessed. I do realize this. But it’s not the natural course of my thoughts. I don’t linger on how lucky I am to be happy, healthy, have steady work, a real home, an abnormally awesome dog, and equally awesome spouse. I do think of these things often and remind myself, “Hey, this is pretty awesome!” But it’s almost as if that thought takes me by surprise. It’s not the more comfortable thought in there. It’s the, “Ooh, I like having this thought,” thought. The, “Why don’t you come around here more often?” thought.
I think this is (surprise!) tied to the perfectionism thing. Here’s why: No life if perfect. What does perfect even mean? It’s an impossible goal, an impossible ideal. And do you know what the definition of ideal is?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, ideal means, “a: existing as a mental image or in fancy or imagination only; broadly: lacking practicality,” or, “b: relating to or constituting mental images, ideas, or conceptions.”
Yep. Ideal is not possible. It’s in the “imagination only.”
So for many of us who have this perfectionism in our personalities, we’re so hung up on the ideal – which is, by definition, impossible – that the real is kind of an afterthought.
Now back to the song about dwelling in disasters. (I didn’t want to bring this up earlier, but I will now that I’ve made my point.) Do you want to know the name of that song?
It’s “Empty.” Ouch.
(I actually didn’t even know the name until I began writing this post. Double ouch.)
Perfection is a search that will always leave us empty. It will always have us dwelling in our disasters and forgetting to count our blessings.
But don’t feel guilty about that (yet another issue I suspect is tied into perfectionism). Just hear it. Think about it. And notice how you’re thoughts are going some quiet day. What’s on your mind? If you’re dwelling on some worries, try to consider your blessings. It may not be second nature, but that’s OK, too.
It’s not about changing who you are, but just changing your view.
And only when you want to. Sometimes dwelling in your disasters just feels right. And feeling right is what it’s all about.