Brene Brown, in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” talks about her Breakdown/Spiritual Awakening in 2007. It was the point when the perfectionist part of her fell apart and she was really required to examine her life, when the break DOWN allowed her to break things apart and then rebuild. It’s really exhausting being a perfectionist. I know, as it’s something I struggle with – not doing so much because it has to “be just right” or I have to “know it ALL” before I begin. In a previous life, I was perhaps considered to be an angel (or even a bloody angel!) That’s not how I set out to be; it’s just that over time, I lost my centre. I became aloof, cold, put barriers up, forgot who I was, and found myself living a big fat lie because of the different masks I kept wearing.
Outside, all was sweet enough: inside, there was sourness from judgement and anger, bitterness, pride and jealousy, from feeling ignored and unloved. You may find you are put on a pedestal – however you get there, it will be for all of the wrong reasons, for you can’t be still be real and be there. It’s a hologram, an illusion, a mirage. But let me tell you; it’s almost impossible to get off without crashing and burning. You smash into so many pieces, it seems life has ended. And it has – or at least the life that you knew has ended.
So at that point, you have some big decisions to make. You can choose to just lie there, or you can pick yourself up and start gluing your Kintsukuroi pieces together. You’ll need to handle your own pain and maybe try to handle others; chances are, you’ll do neither successfully. At some point, you’ll have to stand up again – and then, since you don’t remember who you are, you’ll have to try on different personalities to figure that out.
There will be wild swings backwards and forwards, until you can end up knowing – and liking yourself again. Looking back, I don’t much like some of the immediate ones that I became (and I didn’t much like them at the time either), and I dare say people from those previous periods wouldn’t recognise who I am now. That doesn’t matter. I know me, and that’s enough. For a long time, I worried about the people in my past; now I know that it really doesn’t matter, for they did not know I was a caterpillar training to be a butterfly.
It wasn’t easy to pick myself up, though. I couldn’t just climb up and dust myself myself off – because I didn’t WANT to be that person any more. It probably took at least two and a half years, and it was often very lonely (I’m thankful for the friends that stuck around and the new ones who found me). I had no self esteem, I still had a voice that wasn’t heard, was struggling financially, in a dark place where I could see no options -and I didn’t want to be so desperately unhappy anymore.
Like any journey, there were good times, and the less than totally positive ones where I was exhausted, in tears, taking wrong turns and finding myself on steep learning curves, as I struggled still to be brokenly perfect. I had climbed into a black hole, and found it wasn’t so easy to get out – but I was determined to do that, find new ways of thinking and behaving. I kept going, making adjustments as I went along.
And then I found that I was healthier, happier, in a loving relationship that gave me wings – and surrounded by spiritual but imperfect friends who inspired me. My anxiety was greatly minimized; I no longer needed to sleep on my stomach to calm my nerves. I slept reasonably well most of the time. I stood up for myself and could set boundaries. I found I started to find my voice. I could be okay knowing I can’t please everyone – the perfect wife, daughter, mother, friend, colleague. By trying to be, I only exhausted myself.
I chose not to see life as hard anymore, choosing instead to see it as an adventure. From 2005, I started to give the year ahead a theme, with the theme usually coming out of the experiences of the year before. There were no rose tinted spectacles, though I’m pretty good at looking for a silver lining in any situation, but I no longer lived in a bubble – or wore masks. I practiced feeling my emotions, knowing they wouldn’t last for ever, and I focused on healthier ones. If I was sad, I allowed myself to be sad, but not unremittingly sad. If I was angry, I didn’t feel rage, but I allowed myself to be angry; really angry, not “this is how a perfectly controlled person does anger.”
There comes a time when you realise, with some urgency, that life is much shorter than you think. There are no dress rehearsals, as my dad used to say, so get on with living the best life you can, as THIS is it. And IF this is my life, then why would I hold back from following my heart, from choosing to be happier and making choices that suited me (with a view to the longer term of course). Why would I choose not to live from a place of authenticity, a place where it doesn’t matter whether people like me or not, or if I was in their tribe or not? Why would I waste any energy on worrying what others thought, or on blaming others? It meant I would take responsibility for my life, and if I failed, I failed – and always learn something useful in the process.
I learned that I could change my life by conscious choice, made on a daily basis. My happiness is at once outside of my control (because I cannot control circumstances) – and yet within my control (because I can control my reaction). Understanding this removed the immense pressure to control things that had left me unhappy and anxious to my core.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilites is risky but nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experences that made us the most vuleranable. Brene Brown
My happiness starts and ends with me; imperfections and all. My darkness AND my light, my sunshine AND my shadows make me uniquely me. No-one else can live my story. No-one else can make my choices. I am the chief storyteller and the chief character, creating the story, characters, and their locations by my choices, and by the boundaries I create, because without boundaries I can’t get mad at anyone for choosing to step on to my patch. It means I refuse to blame people or circumstances any longer and that leaves no room for excuses. It also means I am accountable for my behaviour and I can hold others accountable for theirs – but hopefully with respect, and with grace.
And in embracing my imperfections, and practicing courage, compassion and connection on a daily basis, I did find so many gifts there for the taking. I dared to be happier.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.
Non-being penetrates that in which there is no space.
Through this I know the advantage of taking no action.
One may know the world without going out of doors.
One may see the way of Heaven without looking through the windows.
The further one goes, the less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without going about,
Understands without seeing,
And accomplishes without any action.
Life’s a bitch. Life’s a struggle. Life’s hard. It’s not worth living.
You think so? If this is how you see life, chances are that it keeps proving that to you. So stop! Think carefully about the words you use here, for your words create your life. If your definition of life is a less than totally positive one, choose one of these instead.
…a learning experience for the soul…
…a feast …
…a game …
…a box of chocolates…
Or, as I asked my husband…it’s a map – a journey – where you choose your own path. Sometimes you will hit a dead end, and you have to retrace your steps, reflect and make a different choice. Sometimes you will know where you are going and how to get there. Other times you will park your wee overnight bag and say “right, where are we going today?” You might choose your own path and sometimes you will hit roadworks and you then have to take a different way. Or you might come to a roundabout or a fork in the road where you have to make a choice and then make the best choice that day.
Today, choose your definition – and enjoy the journey to all you were meant to be. And do let me know what your definition is…or might be now…
It is not the easy or convenient life
for which I search,
but life lived to the edge
of all that I may be.
– Mary Anne Radmacher
Every now and again, you read something that resonates so strongly with you that you just want to shout “yes!” I don’t just love this poem. I adore it! I want to live my life like this, and I’m so grateful for those who choose to Sunshine over my Rain Parades !
Thank you, Samantha for allowing me to share it 🙂 (check out her site here)
IN PRAISE OF THE EXUBERANT
And as you stand there
Sunshining all over our Rain Parade
Let us now praise you.
You, the mango-coconut in our vanilla world.
You, the red balloon in our blue sky.
You, the hooray-for-your-new-job (or hooray-for-your-engagement or hooray-for-your-wedding or hooray-for-your-new-baby or hooray-for-your-divorce) party-throwing friend.
Your door is always open
And don’t think we don’t take advantage of it.
Your heart is always open
And don’t think we don’t take advantage of it.
You have a particular kind of bravery:
The not-being-afraid-of-feelings kind of brave
The stand-up-and-be-counted kind of brave
The jump-off-the-high-dive (again) (naked) kind of brave.
We always know when you’re in the audience, because
We recognize your laugh.
And as you sit us down and give us your full-beam attention and as you ask us for every detail of our latest adventure (how do you always lead us to the conclusion that our life is an adventure?) and as we, flattered by your unwavering, bright-eyed gaze, end up going on and on and on and on, we have to mentally waft away the annoying, fluttering thought,
“Yes, but: Who takes care of you?”
Because we know that underneath the nonstop carnival
there is a lot of
Damn hard work and that some of
Is the glitter from the parts that got
We’ve seen you fall and get right back up and assumed
that it must not have been that much of a
Tumble but the truth is
You alone have the
Strength to Rise.
And so it is from you we learn that while we may not always
We can always feel
And as you Gush and Exclaim and Twist and Shout and Wiggle with pleasure and Yelp and Hoot and Swear out loud and Burst into tears and Rush in and Hug and Holler across the room in a way that some might think of as
Bask in your fearless conviction that
No human experience is unlovable.
Thank you for that.
So let’s break out the
Sequins and the feather boas and
Have dessert first and
Grin at strangers and
Let’s do the Hokey-Pokey and really
Put our Whole Self in
And order one more bottle because it’s so nice to all be together
Under the Abundant Sun.
© 2009 Samantha Bennett