Life is a Verb Thursday is a summertime meme that I have decided to follow as a result of reading the book by Patti Digh. I found that book to have so many profound statements of how to live – that I have decided to meditate on one statement each week during my three months of summer vacation.
Last week I focused on the concept of perfection and why we often have the unrealistic expectation that we need to do something perfectly the first time, when in reality it is only through practice (and analysis of what we need to do differently the next time) that truly allows us to perfect our craft.
In my journaling of this topic I realized that I have a very warped definition of the word “practice” To me practice has always had very negative connotations, that is, I have internalized “you need to practice” with “you are not good enough” OR….”you need to practice” with “you cannot do anything fun until you finish practicing” I have decided that I need to wipe the mental slate clean. I need to remove these negative connotations and replace them with truth. Practice is not to be viewed as punishment; it is quite simply a journey.
Also, I have learned that I need to remove the word “perfect” from my vocabulary. I have always associated these two terms together, as in “Practice makes Perfect” but for a perfectionist — there is no such thing as absolute perfection for there is always room for improvement. Instead, this perfectionist needs to modify that expression to something along the lines of “Practice yields Improvement – but also allows for joy in the journey.” Anyway, that is what I am going to strive to do the remaining weeks of the summer.
This week’s meditation requires some back story. Patti Digh spends quite a bit of time telling us that she has kept the same pair of jeans in her closet since high school. She thinks that these jeans will serve as proper motivation to lose weight. One day her incredibly fit and trim adolescent daughter comes to her complaining that she has no clothes to wear. On a whim Ms. Digh gives her this prized pair of jeans and tells her she can have them. A few minutes later the daughter returns with the jeans in hand saying that they are “too small.” Patti is dumbfounded! She has berated herself for decades that she has gained too much weight only to discover that the jeans do not even fit her well-proportioned daughter.
So, with that anecdote in mind, here is the statement to ponder over this next week:
Why do we punish ourselves with unreasonable expectations, putting life on hold until we reach them? What is the real danger of such pressures? They delay living, the real life in front of us. “I’ll do that when….” we say to ourselves. “I can’t do that now because I haven’t yet done this….” Are the jeans the real goal, or is the simpler, more active life, a less stressful way of living, a life unencumbered? Perhaps those are goals to be reached for, not the jeans.” (page 113 in Intimacy section)
This is even more timely now than it was a month ago when I first read it. My mom is still in the hospital and constantly bemoaning the fact that she cannot do the same things that she was once able to accomplish. For the last five years my mom has chosen not to live in the present, but simply to exist. I do NOT want to make these same choices in life. I want to learn to live in the present – in the here and now – and enjoy all that life has to offer. So I ask you, and me, What undue pressures are we putting on ourselves today that need to be removed in order to experience joy and peace?