Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Perfection of Life's Messes

I have never exactly struggled with perfectionism, but rather with guilt, and I'm certain the two are directly connected, and for me, it is simply another one of my 'isms, joining the others I seem to have had for longer than I can remember. I'm not complaining. It's who I am, and I've learned to thrive not in spite of, but because of these challenges.

When I was a student I took a course called, Personal Philosophy, at the University of Prince Edward Island. We could pick a topic of our own choosing and interest, that we wanted to explore and construct a paper and present it to the class. I chose the topic of guilt, and I read a book by C. Allison Fitzsimons, Guilt Anger and God - The Patterns of Our Discontents.

This book helped me to understand the where, what, why, when, and how these attitudes and feelings occur, which in turn helped me too overcome the power they had in dictating much of my unhealthy thoughts.

When it comes to writing, I do it because it makes me feel good,  can't seem to help but write and writing makes sense of life's messes. If my writing helps another feel good, well that makes me feel good too.

Having kept journals as far back as 1970, I have had the pleasure and dismay of looking look back on my life's messes, and often have some good laughs at the young girl I was, and in some ways I still am. I have always been an observer of people, and of life. I like to know what makes people, including myself, tick. I have an analytical personality.

One of the reasons I am so attracted to Anne Lamott's writing, is because she seems to understand herself with all her character defects, her messes, and does so with gracious acceptance, humour, and humility, apparent in all of her books. I think of in particular, her book, Bird By Bird  where she gives a clear demonstration and outlook on  her attitude toward life and writing.

" Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft."

 " I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it."

“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived...Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation... Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”  - Anne Lamott

I especially love this last quote. It makes me feel wonderfully happy, and makes me want to celebrate life's messes! Lets dance!

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