The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. —Anna Quindlen
I just had an aha moment. Oprah would be so proud. This time of year I always think of my high school friend Christy and what we came to call the New Year's Eve Curse. Every year, bless our little naive hearts, we had big hopes for the perfect New Year's Eve. One that would find us at the right party and getting kissed at midnight by the boy of our teenage dreams. And every year, those hopes would get dashed into a million sad little pieces. It was comical really. It seemed we had a knack for always being at the wrong party, while our friends, and—more important to the success of the night, the boys we liked—rang in the new year somewhere else. The most notorious of all our New Year's Eve fails was the year the clock struck midnight while we were racing from one party to the next. We pulled the car over and laughed until we cried.
Which brings me to my aha moment: I'm afraid that New Year's Eve Curse is a metaphor for my life. I'm in the car (both figuratively and literally), racing from one task to the next, while the big stuff—the important stuff—is happening elsewhere, without me. Or if I'm present, I'm only partially present, with a million to-do's racing through my mind at any given moment.
If Christy and I had stopped chasing after the perfect New Year's Eve, we probably would have had some pretty great ones. If I'd stop letting society's, and in turn, my own, unrealistic expectations dictate how I live my life, I'd find that while my life may be far from perfect, it's pretty dang good. If I'd just slow down enough to enjoy it. Shift my focus. And give myself and all my glorious imperfections a much needed break. Learn to live with my whole heart, rather than my current standard of living: distracted, harried, and overwhelmed.
My aha moment and shift in thinking is brought to you...or really me...via Brené Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection. I can't recommend it loudly enough. I needed this book. I don't have time to write and you don't have time to read all the reasons I love this book. Especially when you could, and should, just be reading the actual book. It is a book that will change the way you think.
I'm new to the Brené Brown party, and I'm an instant fan. I love that this isn't a self-help, how-to book—we have plenty of those. Rather than describe what makes this book different, I'll let her do it. Is that cheating? It feels a bit like cheating. Maybe it's really just more of accepting that I don't have the words or the time to explain it as well as Brown does. How's that for embracing my imperfections?
"How-to" is a seductive shortcut. Why cross the swamp if you can just bypass it? But here's the dilemma: Why is "how-to" so alluring when, truthfully, we already know "how-to" yet we're still standing in the same place longing for more joy, connection, and meaning?
We know how to eat healthy. We also know how to make good choices with our money. We know how to take care of our emotional needs. We know all of this, yet...We are the most obese, medicated, addicted, and in-debt Americans EVER.
Why? Because...we don't talk about what keeps us eating until we're sick, busy beyond human scale, desperate to numb and take the edge off, and full of so much anxiety and self-doubt that we can't act on what we know is best for us. We don't talk about the hustle for worthiness that's become such a part of our lives that we don't even realize that we're dancing.
If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way—especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.