Monday, July 2, 2012

Christy Turlington is 5'10" and Rufus Wainwright is 5'11"

I'm going to say something radical today.  I'm going to say something I've known for 30 years but have resisted knowing just as long because it really got in the way of my psychoses of perfectionist OCD:  I don't change until I feel worthy of it and until I let go of unrealistic goals.  I won't feel sufficient to change something until I feel, well, sufficient.  I won't feel sufficient until I craft realistic expectations for myself based on my God-given strengths and talents.  E.g., calling myself an old, fat, middle-aged pig is not going to result in my becoming Christy Turlington. Ever. And Christy Turlington is a Super Model.  She's 5'10".  She's a genetic anomaly. Not a realistic goal.  I bet she doesn't even poop. 

I think that's why the contestants on the show the Biggest Loser never keep the weight off.  Shoot, they've been trying to gain the prestige of the moniker "Biggest Loser."  Uh, yeah, no thanks.

I won't lose weight, tighten my abs, stop drinking 2 drinks instead of 1, start doing more yoga, learn German or start treating the kids and Jeff with more love and gentle, understanding kindness until I do the same for myself.   I'll just keep treating them the same way I treat me: with a mixture of scorn and contempt,  pity and shame for being such an insufficient insert noun here.

This concept of sufficiency has recently come to light for me. Sufficiency and perfectionism cannot coexist.  Additionally sufficiency and shame cannot either.  The idea that I can carry sufficiency to the shittiest possible outfit, hair-day, plight, misbehaving child, etc. and stick a feather in it and call it "good enough" has just opened up my heart and my brain to a whole 'nother way of living.

I'm still digesting it.

Good enough.  Hm.  Who knew?

The reason that this has come to my attention has to do with Henry's grace prayer.  Elliot's, too.  If they get interrupted while reciting them, they start over from the beginning.  As you can imagine, this can make for some cold food by the time we get around to finishing grace as well as settling the various spatial violation disputes that arise and then, finally, on to the actual business of dinner.

I remember doing something similar when I practiced violin.  I would start from the beginning of a piece.  So I'd be great at the first 8 measures where it would invariably get more complicated and I'd start to make mistakes.  So I'd go back to the beginning and start over, get to the same place and again flub up. Of course I would lose heart after playing the same shit for 20 minutes and invariably give up the entire endeavor.  I'd go to school and make just enough mistakes to end up in the back of the first violin section-where I stayed.   I arrived at the somewhat erroneous conclusion that I just wasn't very good.  Not at violin or any other thing I ventured.  After all, 8 measures in,  I always tanked.  When really what it was was basically a flawed method of practice.  I didn't need to practice the 8 measures I knew.  I needed to painstakingly and slowly go through note by note what I didn't know.  Instead of wasting precious time going back to the beginning, I could have just learned to stink at stuff more gracefully.  Pick up where I left off and just keep going. Preferably in the basement away from the other 7 members of my household.

The interesting thing about this is the following:  I came away from this and all other academic situations with the understanding that I just didn't have the X factor.  When in reality, I didn't because the X factor was not something that is assigned at birth.  It's not JUST God-given.  The X factor is the mixture of talent plus a belief in oneself that one could practice and get better at something.   Then, of course, there is the business of the thousands of hours of practice that follow.  Being awesome at something is predicated on being okay with not being good at it in the beginning but instead just plain old good enough to learn it.  Good enough. Sufficient to withstand the burden of making countless mistakes while slogging through it.

But fragile egos are fragile because they're not resilient not because they're not big.  Resilience means you can take it if you suck because you're already enough.  Worthiness is off the table.  You were sufficient before you woke up in the morning.  Sufficient with a zit on your forehead. Sufficient with bad breath. Sufficient.  Sufficiency breeds resilience. Resilience breeds feelings of sufficiency. You see where I'm going with this.   It's not self esteem either.  It's much bigger than that.

Therein lies the rub. The belief that one is sufficient regardless of accomplishment becomes foundational for learning. More specifically, it's foundational for surviving the rigors of practice. And being okay when you suck. And being okay with starting from measure 8 if that's where you made a mistake.  Just cover the ground of the entire piece.  Focus on the difficult areas.  Take it from the top and string it all together, sure.  But do it only when the challenging bits are untangled, messily and kinked as they may have ended up.

We went to see Rufus Wainwright Saturday night. Yes he is uniquely imbued with monstrous talent.  He went to Interlochen so I am quite sure that he also learned to practice his ass off---for years.  He screwed up the first song about 10 measures in.  He restarted it from the top and made a similar misstep at the same place.  But he kept going the second time.

You could almost hear him say it as he shrugged his shoulders "eh, good enough." Then he joyfully completed his song. The rest of the set was not entirely mistake free, either. But it was masterful, beautiful and real. 

Like he said, "eh...good enough."

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