I read two posts and a quote yesterday that really set me to thinking. Set me to seeking truth down a slightly different path than usual. Actually, they came to me when I needed them most. They were about perfectionism, vulnerability, and peace in choices. I have been examining myself and dragging much into the light so it can be healed. I might have gone on with these things hiding in m heart and mind except for a little miracle we named Eliana. She is the reason Jason and I are ripping ourselves open and learning different, more peaceful, conscious and loving ways of talking, thinking, acting, and feeling and thus parenting.
Perfectionism is a goal of our culture. I have always admired perfectionism. My mother was a perfectionist and anything less than was frustrating to her. It drove her to become a successful seamstress. It also drove her into constant anxiety and inability to relax and deminished ability to connect with others. It undermined her already fragile sense of self-worth. Perfection was demanded of her and her environment as a child. My grandmother resorted to controlling and obsessive cleanliness and punishments for anything less. Grandmother was trying to make sense of her world and be okay, to have a shield to hide behind, to be safe.
"When our child feels shame in making a mistake, her perfectionism has likely become a shield to hide behind. Healing the pain of perfectionism is partly about understanding who’s behind the shield and why the shield is there." -- Lu Hanessian
I knew it was a protective mechanism but had not seen it as a shield until that post on perfectionism. Lu goes on to write about a moment between her son and a math teacher that has stuck in my brain and heart. There is so much to be treasured in it:
"My son had a math teacher last year whose response one day stunned me with its power.When my 12-year-old showed him his finished problem, asking whether he had gotten it right, his teacher studied it for a few seconds and then said, “That’s the correct answer to another problem.”
I don't believe there were moments like this in the lives of my Mom and Grandma and I know there weren't in mine. I want there to be many moments like this in Eliana's.
My grandmother and mom did the best they could with what life they had to live.It was an era of little outside communication with the world. There were no blogs, online books, forums, no worldwide information that would let them each know that they were not alone, that there was much hope, that there was a way to stop the abuse and a way to heal and move on. All there was for them is a tiny community of family, church, and neighbors where such things were not spoken of because they felt that Jesus would magically take it away and if he didn't then you got what was coming to you because God was getting your attention. Poor Jesus has had so many words put into his mouth as has God. Add that to Southern 'ya don't mess in other peoples business'. Instead of getting help they suffered and I suffered because of it. I am actively working to heal these generational pains and end them. I am so thankful for the internet that links us all together.
To heal eventually requires so much openness of self that I have to become vulnerable.
"Vulnerability has nothing to do with weakness. Vulnerability is what allows for a true soul connection to be made between two people. Vulnerability emerges from the hearts of those who are powerfully anchored in who they are. In this sense, it is closer to power than weakness." - Lilia Birem
Ah. I grew up with an image in my mind of what it was to expose your thoughts, dreams, wishes, and self with others. It was of a wolf rolling over and exposing her throat to the pack, to have it torn out. My parents taught that our own families were not to be trusted, we were told to act happy and put on an act. If someone sensed unhappiness they would destroy the family by discovering our secrets. Back then I thought the secrets were just homeschooling, now I know that the secrets hid much more. I grew up denying my feelings and needs. It took me awhile to learn to even acknowledge that I was cold or hot because I did not want to inconvenience or disturb anyone else. And paradoxically to always think of doing good for others first. It was a strange mix. Vulnerability was painful.
Not all of it was meant to devastate, my parents did the best they could with what they had within and had access to without. But the outcome was what it was. I have hated vulnerability. I have been coming around to the fact that I must be vulnerable in order to be accessable to my daughter, my husband, and my friends and loved ones. Something changed in me yesterday. I think I have now turned to face vulnerability. To turn to it fully and open my arms and heart.
I have been agonizing over some choices I have made. Wondering what could have been done differently or if they were right. I have much guilt tied up with concepts of right and wrong. The truth is, I did the best I could with what I had within. I can't know what is right or wrong when I make a choice. I just have to take a breath and leap, plunge, walk or dive ahead. And the world spins out of my reach if I am looking over my shoulder. That is why I have been stuck in this place so long. A friend of a friend put it very eloquently here. There is such peace in knowing that. Truth in knowing it.
A dear friend told me recently that I spend too much time in my own head. I do. But I have been trying to figure out how so. It is good to be thoughtful,
but I realize that I have always had an internal chess game going on. Reading others, reading myself, judging what to say and trying to anticipate someone's reactions, for fear of either upsetting them or getting my throat torn out. I do it even if I am comfortable with someone, it is an automatic mechanism. Until yesterday it has been a survival tactic I do not often think about.
I am now acutely aware of it. I am working on dismantling it by becoming more vunerable, being at peace with my choices, and realizing that sometimes I have the "right answer to a different problem" because one can't exist fully without the other. I wonder if that math teacher has any idea how many lives he or she has impacted by that interaction? I thank Lu for sharing it.
What, dear reader's, are your thoughts on perfectionism, vulnerability, and peace in choice making?