Friday, March 14, 2014

I NEVER SENT MY CHRISTMAS CARDS, PERFECTIONISM, 2014... AND CHANGE


(note: started this post 2 weeks ago)
I never sent my Christmas cards. I tried, but then they turned out grainy. And I just couldn't bring myself to send grainy. They are sitting right beside me, in a box, on my desk as I type. I thought, sending Valentines could be fun?! February 14th came and went, and I completely spaced it... kind of. I thought about it, and realized that I just, didn't have it in me. First time I haven't sent a holiday greeting in the almost ten years I've been married. Ten.

Also, looking back at my last post here on this ghost town of a blog/website, was the 8th day of Christmas, of the infamous 12 days of Christmas Give aways that pretty much turned into the 10 days of Christmas Give-aways. Yes, 10 is the new 12. Never say never, but I might never do a give-away ever again. I'll tell you my heart was so in the right place in orchestrating the most overwhelming give-away during the most overwhelming, I mean wonderful time of year, but it kind of was a disaster.  Sorry about that. Some people are really good at give aways, and math, and sports and letting go of unimportant stuff. I am good at none of those things. 

There is generally a part of me that really gets worked up on the inside over dropping the ball on items such as Christmas cards and give-aways. One day the worry police in my brain were on my case about both things, plus a few others that maybe were more important...  and I really got to feeling crappy about it all, and that's when suddenly I decided, it was not worth feeling crappy about. I decided! For once I could kind of grasp the silliness over the obsession with doing Christmas Cards, when I was reminded that everyone has seen and heard about my family, pretty much everyday for the last ten years. Thanks social networking. But wait, they don't have the paper version that comes in the mail and goes in the trash in three weeks, or in my case on the spot, because it arrives mid to end january when everyone has already ripped the dear things off the back of the door?! That sounds so bah humbug and cynical. That isn't my style. But sometimes you assert reality to get you through.

Really what I was hung up on was the idea of Christmas cards, or Valentines cards, and give aways. But in reality the act of sending Christmas Cards is one of the most time consuming expensive tasks of the season that kinda sends me over the edge every year. Like I end up having to go to the post office twenty times for more stamps because half of my family is Canadian and I never account for the extra postage... never, every time. Of course I want to design my own and have them printed on very fancy heavy recycled card stock paper for like one million dollars for 50. But then to save a little bit of cash I opt to go find my own envelopes (instead of having them made) for that custom card that is a really weird size, because I needed to be "artsy" and or "stupid", in which I will run to Staples, Office Max, Target, Wal-mart, Michaels and that other expensive stationary store in the mall to realize, yeah so they don't make envelopes this size. So I settle for envelopes that are bigger, and as I put each card into the envelope a little part of me dies, that it doesn't fit like a glove, that it's jiggling and floating around in there. I think of it shifting from side to side inside the monster envelope as it's traveling in the mail. Like fingernails on a chalkboard. Yeah, really, it's hard for me. As I write this, I'm embarrassed to actually say it out loud, or write it out loud. Because I don't think twice when other people send me pre-made cards, or smaller cards in bigger envelopes. I think "Yay! So nice of them to send me a Christmas Card!" Honestly I don't hold anyone to my ridiculously high personal Christmas Card standards.  I wonder why I can't go to Costco like all the other normal sane people of the world and just buy like 100 cards + envelopes for $15. 

I will tell you why, because deep down I am chained to the pursuit of perfection. Like, Pinterest Perfect, ya know?  And remember that whole, "done is better than perfect" thing? Yeah, I still just can't seem to get into it. Still aiming for "perfectly done", which really means "never done". So I thought about all of this and realized that, indeed I was more emotionally invested in the thought of Christmas Cards, then in the actual sending of Christmas Cards.  I should say, and say with em-phasis, that I love Christmas cards, receiving them is magical, and sending them is a kind gesture. But I realized that a big part of it for me, was for me, and that's kind of selfish and not what Christmas cards are supposed to be about. As of 2013, it will go down in History as that one year that I didn't send out Christmas cards. Maybe next year after I reform and simplify my Christmas card mentality, or just my mentality, I will get it done. Which brings me to 2014.

So first, Happy New Year! You may be thinking "hey brooke you know it's like March". And right you are. Here's the thing, you know that feeling you get at the start of a New Year? Like you are starting fresh, that you have a new vision, a sense of clarity, a burst of real motivation, the world is yours for the taking feeling?! As if that one singular day that transitions us from one year to the next, magically makes us able to change all the things that we were just completely incapable of being  able to change just days before. It's all mental, isn't it?

Well I didn't have any of those feelings. As a matter of fact, the dense Christmas fog hadn't lifted. The over-committments of 2013 woke up with me in 2014. And I was just... tired, confused, unmotivated and quite frankly absolutely unsure how to change any of it. I was very Eyore-ish. And that just isn't like me. But I think that my old ways have caught up with me and I can't pretend like it's working anymore. 

So I didn't write that "ready to conquer the new year" post that so many of us feel compelled to write. Because I was so very un-compelled. And much like the Christmas Cards and give aways,  I was worried that I wasn't compelled, or motivated. But then I also had the moment of being okay with not being okay with everything. I don't know if I gave up those worries because I just had no brain space for it, or I just became indifferent. I have to tell you I have a fear of indifference. But once you become indifferent, well it doesn't make a difference. Yay for the most redundant paragraph of all time! 

This is where I was, most of January. I tried to break free of my exhaustion and indifference and decide that even though I didn't know how to change, that I needed to start wanting it. And change is hard until, staying the same is harder. Bam, so I prayed to know what I needed to do to start the change process. So I made several lists. Listing things that I needed to do, commitments that needed to still be fulfilled, unfinished projects, emails and texts that needed responding, people that needed thanking, and lastly, things I desperately wanted to do... like paint, read self help books, take guitar lessons and practice the piano, finally plant a garden in my old greenhouse and take London to the beach. Then I just let it all sit there on the paper for a while, extraordinarily daunted. So I took out the scissors and cut about three more inches off my own hair for starters. Long true story. That's when anxiety hit, for nearly all of February.


(Part 2: Here is where I am picking up tonight, Thursday, March 13, 2014)

It is hard for me to remember where I was going with this blog post 2 weeks ago. My headspace has actually changed quite a bit since then. So I am going to try to pick it up from here. The list wasn't magically crossed off. That's when I realized that in addition to the things I needed to do, there actually was a list of things I needed to not do, or stop doing. I wrote those down. I also looked at those for a while and wondered how I would stop doing them, this was going to be hard. I realized that many of those things I needed to stop doing were standing in the way of the things that I needed to start doing. And thus here we run into the struggle of change. I decided there were five things I really really really wanted to do, become or change, and essentially if I could change them, then the mass of to-do's on my to-do list would likely take care of themselves or just be done.


1. Be on time: My due date was May 20th... I arrived to Earth two weeks later, June 2, 1983, my poor mother. Truth be told I haven't been able to catch up since. Being on time, or should I say running late, is a chronic problem in my life that effects many opportunities and relationships, and ultimately my self-worth. So much of my internal disappointment with myself stems from never being able to keep up and letting people down. I'm hard on myself about this. Others are beyond frustrated with me about my tardiness, and yet I am still late. Some people might cut me some slack saying "having kids slows you down", and while it's incredibly true, I have to own the fact that I was slow, and falling behind long before London. It is a real problem, it's a wonder that I have accomplished what I have. Despite my sincere efforts to get out the door on time, I have failed. Essentially, this is an issue rooted in my character, this is where my focus is, which leads me to number 2.

2. Say No: I have made the connection, that number one is a close relative of number 2. Generally my inability to be everywhere I said I would be on time, is because I struggle to say no. I overcommit. Overcommitting has been a life long habit. I don't know where it came from, trying to be everything to everyone has been how I connected to my own approval. Do things right a couple times, make people happy, and before you know it you're addicted, addicted to yes. There is a quote floating around saying something like "say yes and you'll figure it out later". Because People that say yes are go getters! movers and shakers! ambitious! working! rich! Famous! Followed! Commented! Popular! Liked! Loved! This is the mentality of the business I am in. This is the mentality of the society we are in. We all work so hard to get a break, that we just say yes, in fear of the lost opportunity, in fear of lost approval, of lost "love".  Truth be told, Yes can ruin your life.  I am discovering with each passing day that while yes is easier to say it is so much harder to do, and while no is so hard to say, it's much easier to do. This isn't about taking the easy way, but being real, being honest, with others and ourselves. Will we really be able to follow through? How will saying yes to everything cause conflict with other commitments? If we say no, what if we disappoint? Will we still be worthy, valuable, important, love-able... to others, to ourselves? Seems extreme, but I think this is the stuff we sometimes don't want to own as real, the truth, the root. I know I don't, but I am ready to change, so I am trying.

3. Be decisive: Wouldn't you know that number 3 is a cousin to 1 and 2. Indecision is paralyzing. Nothing stalls one quite like the inability to make a choice. Everything from detergent or toothpaste, to a set list, or what to say on the caption of an instagram, to how to respond to a text, what task I will complete during nap time, what I am going to wear to church, should I stay or should I go, should I be quiet, should I speak up, was that right, was I wrong? Too many options, so much second guessing, not enough trust in my instincts, in the spirit. Scared I will make the wrong choice. Often by the time I do choose I am out of time and forced to just settle on something. Settling, sucks. Settling generally causes regret, which causes less confidence in our ability to choose, and around and round we go.  Sometimes it's a choice of yes or no, will you do this? No could rock the boat, no would ruin my reputation of being dependable, being the hero, being a super human, just say yes. I have decided (look at me!) that a great deal of indecision comes from a fear of what others will think. Again, all of these changes are rooted in character. These are the hardest changes.

4. Listen : You may have noticed that I have a lot to say. Sorry, working on it. All this time I've thought that I was this great communicator, turns out I am a crap listener. Just because I know how to express myself, my feelings and emotions, doesn't make me a good communicator, it makes me kind of  self centered. Talking isn't communicating, sure it's part of it, but it is the lesser part. If we truly hope to connect with someone, it will be because we listened to them, heard them, empathized with them and sought to understand them, with out making it about ourselves, with out thinking about what we are going to say next, with out having to tell them how they should be different. Yes it is important to respond, and yet responding with validation is a delicate balance, without turning it into something about us. I fail at this hard. My mom is one of the best listeners I know, she listens, asks questions, repeats the thing you said to be clear that she understood correctly. When she meets someone she immediately asks them questions about themselves, and then she listens, with her ears, with her eyes, with her heart. People love my mom, because she listens. I want to listen. I want to shut my big yapper and open my ears and my heart, and take it in, and just be there, and maybe, if I am asked, respond with something from my story that helps the other feel not alone. Listening can change our lives, marriages, friendships, businesses and spirituality. Listening doesn't come easily to me, I want to listen.

5. Mindfulness: In other words, put the damn phone down. I don't say the D word, but sometimes it's necessary. The impulsive phone checking, in the middle of a sentence with our spouse or a friend, while we are with our babies. Being here now, such a test of our day. We see people in the cars swerving down the freeway, staring at their phone. Day after day, it seems we're all putting our lives, our relationships and our families on the line, in danger all for what's in the phone, and the psuedo-connection we find on the internet. Does it scare you like it does me? I'm dependent like the rest of them. It's fun, and it's an escape, and at times totally helpful and necessary. But, I worry about it's influence on my life, my family, my daughter. She is 21 months, she knows how to get to youtube and flip through videos of elmo. Is this a life saver in Target? Yes, but does it frighten me that she isn't even two and all day she just wants to hold my phone and press buttons and stare at the screen? Yes, yes it does. We're always looking down, in a trance, in restaurants, in the check out line, in bedrooms and dinner tables. I want to be in the moment. Instead of always checking, comparing, always pinning, wishing our living room looked minimalist but colorful, understated yet eclectic, that if we did these 5 moves our butts could look like victoria secret models and that if we just had that pair of leopard booties our wardrobe and life would be complete. Consumed by consumerism. I spend more I want more, and it never ends. I want to look up. I want to spend less, I want to get more out of my real life with my real family. I want to see it, feel it and realize as often as possible, how grateful I am. Documenting is wonderful, connecting is awesome, but where do I draw the line. Working on it. Mindfullness.

Each of these are their own posts. And with all that said, I realize many of these changes, and many of the struggles mentioned in this post are rooted in perfectionism. An addiction and real struggle unto itself. I am reading this beautiful wonderful book called "the gifts of imperfection". It is so insightful, uplifting and helpful and I would highly recommend it. If you are reading this and find yourself in similar struggles, you are not alone. Maybe pick up the book, say a prayer, find some self compassion, seek gratitude. We can change. 

15 comments:

  1. Brooke,
    I'm so glad I found your blog :)
    You are so right! Change is hard. I find myself visiting the same old struggles, again and again and wondering why my prayers aren't being answered.

    But, I think I've realized that it takes ME getting up and actually putting action to my prayers and working to make things change. This is hard.

    Thanks for sharing and being honest!

    Come visit me sometime on my blog:

    http://www.a-million-skies.com

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  2. I struggle with perfectionism...It can bring on depression and the funk because I can't be perfect, I never will be perfect. That is where accepting His grace comes in and realizing we are perfect to Him just as we are. Hang in there, time seems to lessen the need for perfection.

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  3. Well said Brooke! The above said is all in your genes. Share the solutions with us as you find them. <3

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  4. Preach! I swear as we get older, time moves so much faster and we are all just a little more tired and put together we just meet failed expectations. I love your honesty and I think we all need to be a little more selfish and do things for our own piece of mind and not do things all the time or others. People we love want to be with us and not the stressed or angry us. So, cheers for your lovely spirit! I hope your five changes happen, but if not, breathe, smile and laugh. The best medicine.

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  5. I can SO relate to this! It feels so nice to read the things I am feeling that I can't express in my own words, so thank you so much for this post.

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  6. Beautifully said Brooke. All of it. I can so relate. Xoxo
    I emailed you about sending something for London.
    Sewsara@gmial.com

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  7. I am just going to say that no matter what, Heavenly Father loves you for who you are. That is what I have learned. Don't beat yourself up, just do the best you can, and sometimes that's not doing everything you want (even if you think you should). And that's okay.

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  8. I love love love this!!! It's like you took every.single.struggle/thought I have (and yep I just cut 6 inches off my hair yesterday) and wrote it down a million times better than I ever could have.

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  9. I can relate to this quite a bit. My grainy Christmas cards from last year are still haunting me (probably because I haven't thrown them out yet). And I decided this year that perfectionism was the thing to go. The trouble is, you have to be vigilant about it. Perfectionism is engrained and acts before we get a chance to think. But, when I slow down and remind myself, "Oh yeah, that's got to go," things are a lot easier. I wish you luck as you let it all go. Perfect timing on your post. The spring equinox is supposed to be one of the best times of year for release.

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  10. Your thoughts and experiences with indecision specifically struck a powerful chord with me--especially the part about being paralyzed by it. So frustrating, so painful, and so hard to change! I find that I have the same fear of disappointing people, and that is why I am indecisive. The one thing that I have found helps (but is by no means a solution) is to tell myself to assume the best of the other people I'm dealing with; in other words, assume that they will choose to love me and forgive me and accept me for my follies, rather than assuming that they will be quick to judge or quick to anger. I find I can forgive myself a little more easily if I give credit to others for being patient and forgiving.
    Thank you so much for your courage to be honest here. You are an inspiration.

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  11. Brooke, regarding your Part 1 on the Christmas cards effort, I think you would really enjoy the small book "A Happy Trails Christmas" by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. A bit old-fashioned, of course, but there is some really good food-for-thought concerning the action-packed Christmas schedules we try to maintain and the ways we overspend our money during the holidays that implies we really don't understand what Christmas is all about.

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  12. What a beautiful post. You painted an insightful, honest, and accurate portrait of perfectionism. Thank you! I will share it with family members - it's always good to know you're not the only one challenged by these traits. Thanks again...

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