Finding the middle ground, whereas we are not reaching relentlessly for perfection, but we are also not giving into mediocre output and apathy- that is where the work of our soul lies. Don't get me wrong- I strive for mediocre in several areas of my life (cooking and cleaning instantly come to mind), but it is in striving for mediocre about the things that catch our heart on fire that hurts us. I think sometimes we are afraid to work hard at the things that matter to us. We are afraid of doing it poorly. Afraid of loving it so much, but not being amazing at it. I have felt that way about taking pictures and about writing. Doing it is the work of my soul. Not doing it for too long feels bad. But at first, not doing it perfectly made me feel like a fraud. Because how can it be the work of my soul, when I am not some Pulitzer Prize winning, New York Times Best list type of gal? I judged myself by the likes, comments and shares. When you start to judge the work of your soul by any kind of outside force- it is no longer the work of your soul. It becomes the work of pleasing others.
Only in the silence can we hear our soul. We do what makes us come alive because we love it and we need it. When we do it- there is a harmony that goes beyond sensory perception. A harmony that doesn't rely or really care about perfection. On the outside it looks like a kid playing in the sandbox. No rules, pure joy- just happy to be there doing that. It's a harmony that doesn't give a rat's ass if you are perfect at it or not. You just need to do it because it's awesome. The endless brain chatter may tell you otherwise- so instead listen to the silence. When you feel that harmony- that is the real you.
In high school, I envied perfection. I saw a version of it everywhere I looked. I went to an all girls, private Catholic School. The majority of students had money and big homes and fancy cars. Looking back I can only remember a tiny percentage of the inadequacy I felt, but even that tiny percentage is staggering to recall. My family didn't have money, or a fancy home. Also, I was really stinking awkward and unbearably self-conscience .
I think I was in 7th grade here- but this is pretty much what I looked like my freshman and sophomore year.
I was Queen of Awkward. President of the awkward club. Add to that I was a big feeler and over-thinker. I wore a gosh awful back brace for scoliosis. I needed braces but didn't have them yet. I longed to be popular and beautiful. I studied those girls like they were a research project. They were so pretty. They all exuded a confidence I tried desperately to fake. They all took up space I didn't think I deserved to take up. Perhaps if I was pretty enough, I could fit in? I wondered. They looked like teenagers, and I looked like a kid. I stopped eating. Not completely, but a dramatic decline. A rice cake and apple here and there. I lost a lot of weight and got a lot of unwanted attention in the form of concern. I remember a trip to the School Counselor's office. She received an anonymous message from another student or teacher about me having an eating disorder and she wanted to check in. I denied everything, and realized I needed to be better about hiding my issues so no one could stop me from controlling my food intake. Somehow, one day this rigid behavior stopped, and I started to rejoin the eating world. But a few years later, it came back again in college. They say anorexia is about control- but I have never felt more out of control in my life. I weighed about 25 pounds less than I do now, which is a ton of weight for someone who is only 5'2". My period stopped. I got lots of good attention. You look amazing! You are so fit! How did you do it?! I thrived off every comment and every person who asked for working out advice. I did it for me, but I also did it for others approval. Desperate to please others, to impress them, desperate to be amazing at something because the truth was- I felt painfully mediocre. After a couple of years of this, I couldn't do it any longer. I couldn't be this any longer. I was lived my life constantly hungry. The ache was felt in the marrow of my bones. Starving myself was sometimes interrupted by binging on food and throwing it up. I was so exhausted and empty.
Here I am right before graduating from college. I was starving. For food and for connection.
It took years of really hard work, and working with a therapist who held me accountable to overcome this demon. Food no longer rules my life- something 20 year old me never thought was possible. But that need to please others, to strive for perfection and to be THE BEST at something never went away. It just morphed into other outlets like working out- or on my college studies. My first semester in college I got a 1.67 GPA. Yes, 1.67- that is not a typo. The last two years I got a 4.0. I loved being judged by others, when my output was acceptable, even though I hated it too. But when the outcomes were thin enough or a 4.0- it fueled me. It was a high.
Parenting was the first thing in my life that I adored, but was awful at. I couldn't quit it because I was bad. I also couldn't stay up all night to fix it or make it perfect either. I had to learn to do it imperfectly- but to the best of my ability and be ok with that. And wake up with a willingness to start fresh, pay attention to the details, and give myself grace all over again daily.
By far, my hardest role as a parent has been as an autism advocate in the school. I've thought long and hard about why this particular role has rendered me on the couch and useless a few times- sobbing and exhausted beyond any physical exhaustion I've ever encountered. I think it's the first BIG thing I've done that is not only NOT for others approval- but has in fact- made others disapprove of me quite aggressively. I don't write much about the retaliation we've experienced from me being "the mom that writes the blog" as well as speaking up in general, because I don't want to match that vibration and I want to keep my eyes and words on what really matters. Also, if I wrote about that- my intentions would be to make bad people look bad. That isn't pure- that's not the work of my soul. That would give me a temporary hit, and then hurt because it's not who I am or who I want to be. So I just keep my intentions pure and focus on what I need to do- but not on how it will be received. That part just isn't my responsibility.
I always thought if I was ENOUGH (skinny enough, kind enough, hard working enough, empathetic enough, smart enough, understanding enough) everyone would like me. It took me to be this many years old to realize:1. I am already enough 2. No matter who I am or what I do or what I say or don't say- everyone will never all like me. 3. As long as you are doing the work of your soul- with the right intentions- none of the rest of the noise matters. Just keep doing the work, imperfectly with passion.
It's what you were born to do.