Saturday, January 29, 2011

Get Real

"The key to unlocking this dilemma is recognizing how the ego activity of judging divides the self into judging and judged parts, thus destroying the unity of the self. It is only from unity, from a whole and complete contact with all of the self that we are able to embody and recognize perfection."-The Enneagram Institute

It turns out that I chase perfection by judging myself. According to this little nugget, my methodology is so flawed that I won't be able to even recognize the perfection to which I aspire.
I don't speak in metaphor--here is an literal picture of perfection from one of the magazines I am obsessed pretty.

These two photos come from sites I have spent time on the last few weeks; a beautiful home site and a bad dog site

The vast ocean between how I think my [house, body, family, life, etc etc] should look and they way they actually look are driving me to drink. I'll leave you to guess which looks more like my home. (hint, it's I would ever actually cook when I have all that Coke and frozen pizza)

We claim to have moved on from a time and place where we had to be perfect. It's now okay to confess to all kinds of "bad mommy" moments. The feminist movement was supposed to release us from society's shackles--freed forever from an expectation on how we should be living. But sometimes it feels that there is just a new kind of shackle, a different variation of pressure that is coming from each other (and always, always ourselves). It is a an oh-so-very-beautiful, wabi-sabi, more-organic-than-thou kind of shackle.

There are just so many books, blogs, and people showcasing these messages of perfection and purporting to have all the answers on topics ranging from organization to fabulous parenting. They certainly don't promote questions, conversations, and curiosity about others making different choices--rather they read as self-congratulatory manifestos.  And yet... I just CAN NOT look away. Are these monologues and monuments a symptom of the pressure we feel, or are they why we feel so much pressure? Is it some circular combination of the two?

Real Simple; perhaps neither simple nor real--but I never miss an issue! >>

What if we all just got a little more "real" with each other AND, most especially, ourselves? I have built an image of myself as an eschew-er of culture, societal mandates, and rampant consumerism. But I am beginning to realize that there are many ways to "buy-in" to messages. The cost of this buy-in equals missing the magic and beauty of my life as it is right now, at this very moment. (see my New Year's unresolution post for proof there is actual content threading and continuity in these rants!) 

So if I continue to see some parts of myself as bad and continue the incessant inner-commentary, then I lose. Worse than lose--fissure and break apart my divine self. Yikes!

What are the crazy making splits in your life? Are you at peace with your life exactly as it is or do you reach for idealized version? I am considering making a bumper sticker that says "Live like no one is judging". It feels like a nice variation on the old saying, "dance like no one is watching". 


  1. Love the bumper sticker idea. Also read "Real Simple" magazine although D always comments "If it were real simple, why do you need a whole magazine every month devoted to it?"

    I think in striving to be perfect and put together we sometimes miss opportunities to connect with people. I can't tell you how many times I have made real, genuine, life impacting connections with people over mistakes, misunderstandings, moments of weakness, crisis, and imperfections. By allowing someone in during that moment, by asking for help, by receiving love and support and putting aside all thoughts of what someone might think of me, I make room for humility, grace, and the "real" me with all of my glorious imperfections to peek out. And if someone does not make the sign of the cross and run screaming, I know that they really want to be with me, really like ME, and are willing to stick around through the messy parts. And honey are there some messy parts.

    On the flip side, when I act like I have all the answers, have my act together, and everything is just swell when it truly isn't, I miss the opportunities presented there. Not just the connections, but the growth, the lesson, the experience of living in the moment. The moment right now as it is, not as I wish it were. The reminder that we are all in this together and we can either spend our time putting on our acts, and proving how great we are, or we can laugh at our mistakes and imperfections and hopefully have someone great to laugh with us.

  2. ummm, this is beautiful. Now that I am reflecting I must say that all my real moments of growth and connection have also been in very vulnerable and messy moments. In fact I had just had such a moment with a friend last week, it even included me getting snot on his shoulder. I am willing to bet that is true for most people (maybe not including the snot) which makes one wonder why we put out so much energy into looking pulled together. Do we value image over connection? And if so, why, where does that come from?

    Of course ego plays a huge role in both what we put out there and how we are interpreting what others put out there. I am VERY willing to admit that sometimes I find all the know-it-all-ness and perfection off-putting because I am the one comparing and feeling less than. Ever since I wrote my New Year's Post I have been reflecting on what prevents me from enjoying my real life, this life. I am just constantly seeing the unfinished, the imperfect everywhere I look, and thinking "I will be happy when (fill in the blank)."

    I take a lot of responsibility for this but I also think a huge piece of the puzzle is cultural, but I don't have to buy in. I can choose what media and messages I consume and subscribe to and I can seek authenticity with myself and in my most important relationships. Like this one, you won't catch me making the sign of the cross and screaming at you. Well I might, but it would just be for fun.
    Thanks, love you!

  3. I love that you point out that we're supposedly in a confessionistic not perfectionistic, "we're not perfect, we're parents" era. Dare we expect more from our slacker-turned parent generation? I've watched grunge become hippie-chic. It's what happens when commercialism gets a hold of anything and squeezes it into another case of the haves and have nots. The 'real simple' answer is that we can't possibly have the picture of life that magazine is selling unless we have a lot of cash or a lot of time on our hands (which probably means someone in the family has a lot of cash) and even then, there would still be smelly trash in the trash can.

    I've been on the elusive search for a simpler life for some time now. A January full of snow days and sick days that kept us at home served as an interesting peek at what it would look like to close the outside world out to some extent. But stuff and bills and the life we've bought into still seemed to overwhelm us, even in our cocoon. I've been romanticizing Little House on the Prairie... days which were filled with hard work and uncertainty, just as our days are... but days that were connected to the earth and each other and the simplicity that comes from having little and appreciating much. Of course I know the grass on the other side of the prairie is always greener and I do enjoy indoor plumbing, but I can't help but think we've got it all wrong and as I try to raise children in this culture and watch the undeniable impact it's having on them... it definitely gives me pause.

    I think I may have stumbled off-topic, but I'm basically agreeing with all you've said. I had a friend a few years back who always flaked on me. It really bugged me at first, but once I got used to it and realized that I could flake on her too, it was actually quite liberating. It feels good to say, "sorry, I can't make it tonight because... I don't feel like it," rather than dragging yourself out somewhere out of obligation. There's a fine line I know, and part of friendship is being there for the other person, but I think we do so much out of some strange sense of obligation... and it probably has more to do with our ego, our own desire to feel needed, than anything else.

    So many days, it's as if I were a pinball hit by a plunger, sent aimlessly bouncing around my day from one task to the next... right when I begin to lose momentum, a giant flipper comes along with a scolding pep-talk, "c'mon get back in there." It is not intentional living.

    That is my goal. It requires asking of each activity, each moment... What really matters here? Why am I doing this? Who is my focus on? I was reading about John the Baptist this morning. His followers were all bent out of shape because Jesus was baptizing more people than they were. Business wasn't looking so good. But John selflessly replies, "He must increase and I must decrease." I think if we can have that attitude, one that seeks to find a place in life that is content with little or plenty, one that does not buy into the lie that we are here merely to satisfy ourselves, our lives would look radically different. And when circumstances, people, culture, what-have-you, try to flip us some where we don't want to go, we simply take a deep breath and remember we're living breathing creatures who CAN make CHOICES, not just hard steel balls at the will of magnets and gravity.

    Thanks for a great post and keepin' it real, yo.

    :) anj

  4. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your insights and feedback. I love the place you took this. I actually have a rough draft going of what our generation is doing with parenting and it seems we share many sentiments. I don't think it is all bad, but you are so right on with the commercialism. And commercialism designed to look shabby-chic, hippie-chic, etc is still commercialism and buy-in to an image.

    Living with intention. That is what I have been getting at. I love that you said "the lie we are here to merely satisfy ourselves." The guest author who wrote the ego post spoke about being too concerned with having more and not concerned about those who have less. In your good example John puts himself in a humble, one-down position and I suspect life does look much different from that vantage point. Perhaps after wagging my finger at culture I should also look at what I am doing for others. Volunteering and giving of oneself are classic, tried and true ways to keep it real and gain perspective--truly eschewing circumstances, people, culture that try and flip us. We don't have to go anywhere we don't want to go. Choices. Scream.

  5. Jeez after all these beautifully articulated comments I feel like I will open my mouth and only donkey sound effects will come out. I will still try, but I am certain my input won't be as eloquent as ya'lls. Wow, ego driving the bus! BEEP BEEP!

    I cannot think of a better follow up post to the whole guest blogger thing than this one. It ties in so nicely with the idea of living in the now and not letting ego get in the way.

    I am quite content with my life and wouldn't change a dang thing about it. Not a dang thing. Are there things I would change about me as a person? Sure, but I'm a work in progress. I wouldn't want to instantly change any "broken" aspect about myself because there is great value in the journey itself when it comes to self-improvement.

    Commenting as anonymous because my computer is being weird, but this is Tara.

  6. You wouldn't change anything? Anything? Um, aren't your counters blue? I kid I kid! Wow, that is so great you feel that way. Very few people can claim that. And seeing yourself as a work in progress is such a nice way to look at it, everything is perpetually in a state of flux and if you look at it that way rather than "not finished" it changes up the whole perspective. Ga, that is not donkey-ish. Or really any barnyard sound at all.

  7. Haha. You is funny, as usual. Well when I said I wouldn't change anything I sorta forgot that I live in Wichita. HAHAHAHAH! So maybe I'm full of crap, then?

  8. Ok, so it's not often that I don't have anything to say or add to a conversation, but this is one of those times. You've all said everything so well, I'm not sure what I could possibly add to this conversation. Even Tara beat me to that sentiment!

    I've started to comment several times, but the right words don't come.

    I guess I will just highlight what others have already mentioned. I am a brutal perfectionist, even though I *know* it is counter-productive. I am also highly aware that perfection is an abstract idea that isn't possible to attain because it means different things at different times in different circumstances to different people. What is "perfect" for dinner tonight certainly won't work tomorrow night because we just had it.

    I also COMPLETELY agree that my fondest memories, biggest growth spurts, and best lessons come from the times when things were the most difficult.

    I know 20 years from now we'll be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, and my kiddo will be telling her friend (because she can't date until she's 35) how mom would randomly fly off the handle things. We will laugh and's our imperfections that make us who we are. Thank goodness my desire to be perfect is such a comical imperfection! That will bring us great joy someday!

    So, ladies, I think if we look back through our conversations, the same theme continues through nearly all the posts. We're all ok, and doing your best is good enough. Sit back, relax, and laugh.

  9. Nothing to add? I beg to differ. "We're all ok, and doing your best is good enough. Sit back, relax, and laugh." I love it when I super verbosely beat a subject matter to death and then my beloved commenters come along and do some thing with succinct brilliance.

    I have the perfect storm of events and realizations over the last few weeks. It has been a time of enormous personal growth for me. I had several events shake me to my very core. It lead me down a very dark path and then something inside me just clicked. All the ego stuff and some long buried knowledge of cognitive behavioral therapy coalesced. I have become aware of tons of cognitive distortions in my thinking (a HUGE cog distortion is perfectionist thinking) and realizing that ruminating, catastrophizing, awfulizing and rigid thinking are the source of much of my frustrations. Not situations. Wow. My best IS good enough and I have the power and the choice to frame things differently and move forward. And as you may have guessed there will be a blog about the whole thing in the future. I just wanted to add the preview because I think it fits so perfectly with what you just said.

    And I love your ghost of Thanksgiving future. There is a famous story in my family about how when my Grandma was a young mom and super frustrated she would throw an object on the ground and then scream "PICK THAT UP!". Okay-that is super crazy. And awesome and funny and touching. My dearly departed Grandma is the stuff of legend in our family. Dearly loved and sorely missed--and I tell you that everyone laughs at that story and my mom and her siblings give no hints that they were ever traumatized by these strange episodes. So YAY "We're all ok, and doing your best is good enough. Sit back, relax, and laugh."
    Thank you!


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