I’m a recovered perfectionist. Much as I tried to meet the impossible standards I set for myself, or the standards others had for me, I had so many epic fails, ultimately I had to give that old program up. I deleted the old 2.0 version of me and exchanged it for an upgrade which was more real, more tangible, more messy and complicated. Things don’t drop neatly into perfect little boxes in my life anymore. I used to believe if I controlled all the outcomes in my life, there would be fewer bumps in the road and the comfort of predictability would allow for smooth sailing every step of the way. How I wish I could go back and enlighten that old perfectionist me, but nothing could shake me out of my fantasy except the sometimes brutal circumstances of my life.
Back in early 2012, my younger son who is a classical guitarist was auditioning all over the country to get accepted into some great Music Schools. Northwestern, Ithaca College in upstate N.Y., Pepperdine. I had arranged all the auditions and travel and packed the suitcases for our great adventure. Auditions require dress slacks, shoes, white button down shirts and black jacket. I knew he was going to nail the auditions. We arrived in Chicago during lake effect snow and freezing temperatures. Being from California, we had to google lake effect but could tell by being out on the streets it meant extremely cold and snowing hard in layman’s terms. About 9 p.m., we had just come in from a great dinner and I was about to iron his clothes for the auditions the next day. To my horror, I realize I had packed his dress slacks from 8th grade. Literally 3 inches too short and tight! I was freaking out, I mean his entire future was riding on this and I packed the wrong pants! In a full snowstorm at 10 a.m. the next morning I raced out to buy new black slacks, which of course were way too long. My son is 5’3”! My husband buys this cheesy sewing kit from CVS and I’m trying to cut these pants with like kindergarten scissors, you know the ones, plastic handle and rounded edges. I’m cutting and sewing up the pants as the minutes tick by for his audition time. Meanwhile, my son, cool as a cucumber says “Mom, once they hear me play it won’t matter what I’m wearing. I could wear jeans, stop freaking out”! It was one of those moments, where I had to catch myself and realize, you know what? He is right! He was so confident in his playing abilities and I was so convinced he had to “look” the part, that I was forced to look at my behavior and just kind of surrender. He made it to the audition, the hem job was uneven at best, we all survived.
What I realized was, the more uncomfortable I was about a situation, the more controlling and freaked out I would become. There was a lot riding on these auditions. It was snowing, it was cold, my California son refused to wear gloves and opted for a sweatshirt instead of a winter coat for god sakes. I knew his fingers were going to freeze or he would get frost bite or pneumonia! I knew packing pants from 8th grade was an epic fail on my part! Honestly, I don’t know how my son and husband could handle my stress as I couldn’t handle my stress at all. Here I am 5 years later, a completely different person. My son graduated from Ithaca college. He decided to make a go of it with his band, Imperials, which you can check out on Spotify or Band camp (maybe Itunes, I’m not sure). The old me would have been stressed about his future, how might one pay rent as a struggling artist? The new me is much more relaxed. I have surrendered completely to the Universe knowing that all is as it should be. The experiences my kids are having are exactly where they need to be to get where they need to go. I have no idea where that destination is, and I’m fine with it. As long as they are happy, as long as they can pay their bills, I don’t really care what they do. My value and self-esteem are not tied to the accomplishments of my kids. I know who I am and what I came here to do in this life. I have control over me, that’s it. I have no agenda around what my kids do with their lives, that’s their business.
There are some whose self-worth is based completely on external circumstances. I was on Facebook last night, and we all have the one friend who works so hard at painting the perfect picture. Every photo is of her beautiful kids, with comments like “I’m so proud”! The gorgeous photos of sunsets and amazing vacations, the perfect glass of wine perched on a ledge overlooking a vineyard. The holiday letter with all the accomplishments of everyone in the family, it’s all so nauseating. Behind that I see a totally insecure person. Someone who doesn’t even know who they are, but feels the need to be what everyone expects her to be. A woman so out of touch with her truth and her soul, she couldn’t tell you who she is or what makes her happy. She has spent her entire life being what others want her to be. She looks fabulous, she is in shape, she has great hair, a successful husband. She has “everything” except the one thing that matters the most, truth, authenticity of the soul. Truth about her marriage and her relationships. Truth about her relationship with herself. I wonder at some point when she will surrender or have a breakdown because it’s so hard fighting to be seen when in fact she is invisible. It’s emotionally hard keeping the illusion of a perfect life alive. I know it’s all bullshit. Life can’t be a Kodak moment every day. I know mine isn’t!
I love helping people come back to their authentic self, but she has been living the lie so long I doubt she even realizes it’s a lie. It’s an old program, it’s comfortable, it’s safe. Being your authentic self takes courage. Accepting the imperfection of our relationships, the bumps and challenges that come our way in life, owning the truth takes courage. I no longer care what people think. When you align fully with your magnificent self, you realize the opinions of others are merely a reflection of their own insecurities. I have no time for that. I must focus on showing up in my life as the highest and best version of me, I must be who I came here to be. There are no excuses, there are no lies, there are no Kodak moments on my Facebook page. It’s reality. It feels amazing to be free. I encourage you to live your truth. Be authentic. Stop trying to paint the picture and become the artist! Surrender!