Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Exorcism of Perfectionism

Humility is a strange and wonderful thing.  Obtaining it is invariably painful as all get-out.   However, the peace that ensues (not immediately, mind you) is life-altering.

I crashed and burned on my quest to be perfectly weigh and smoke-free.   It took about 3 months, alas, I bottomed out.   It was neither terribly pretty nor fatal.  It just set me back a little.  And made me drag my head around in a bit of shame.  Shame sucks, by the way.  Just ask Brene Brown. 

Now, mind you, compulsive behaviors or obsessively thinking about things (yeah, that would be OCD) are/is (generally) triggered by something (generally) external.   My flip out, backslide, fall off the wagon or whatever you want to call it was no exception.  I came across a book and a website that triggered some deeply un-felt and un-thought things.   It took me by surprise.  After decades in a shrink's office, I thought I knew it all.  But the experience was extremely unsettling and let me tell you, my fear response looks like a rabid member of the wolverine family.  Again, not terribly pretty.  Rather than strike out for the Ohio border, I turned my angst on myself.  I'm always my favorite target (think Dobby the house elf in Harry Potter).

The precipitating event was a questionnaire I took about parenting styles.  It was very revealing, and not in a good way.  When I came to the realization that I was being unduly hard on my kids and not really enjoying them at all, I felt trapped in my own very human skin.  And when I say human, I mean that in the pejorative way not in the 'oh-she's-so-human-and-down-to-earth' humanness. But more like 'she's a damn-narcissistic-bi**h' kind of human.

No, I'm not being too hard on myself.  I was being way too hard on my kids and my husband and only to a very small degree on myself.  I needed a dose of humility and a knock upside the head.  I needed to fall from my little cage's perch.

I started this whole blog thing and a 'recovery' process without the key element: My Higher Power.  I was trying to do it all myself.  There's a great saying in 12-Step programs: Let Go and Let God.   I like my brother Peter's take on that saying better:

Let Go or Be Dragged. 

 I was dragged alright. It took me about 5 months to get some perspective and get my head out of my butt.  I had finally arrived back at the beginning of my quest: I decided to let go.   Just let God do the heavy lifting.  And to say 'Thank-you' and 'Forgive me' and 'Make and Instrument of your Peace' and 'Please Bless ____', etc. (everybody, really). And then 'Thank-you' again (and again and again). 

I am now almost magically girded with the love and support of that Crucial Element.   I've also decided that weighing myself once every two weeks or once a month is probably a pretty sane and do-able alternative to the perfectionist route. It's certainly better than twice or three times a day.

I wasn't just trying to stop weighing myself.  I was trying to stop the chronic negative self-reflection and reroute (to something more meaningful and long-lasting), the energy I was using in the misguided quest for self-approval and self-acceptance. I just forgot to buy another Map or get a GPS. Thus the concentric circles I continued to travel in.

I'm not sure I'm going to try to do that every-two-week thing with smoking.  I think smoking is a thing of the past for me.  I had a few slip-ups but all in all, I did better in the time period 5/1/12-to present in both weighing and smoking than in any other time in recent history--I probably smoked 1/15th as much as the previous year and I weighed myself 1/3 as much.

While it is statistically significant progress,  it is not perfection.

Progress, not perfection.

That is a great AA/Alanon slogan which I have to repeat to myself numerous times a day lest I wash my kitchen floor until there is no more polyurethane left on it.
I believe I gained a lot this past year.  I gained the ability to be vulnerable--to show people my struggle so they wouldn't feel so alone in theirs maybe? Who knows?  I became more human (in the good way).  I also learned to fail rather publicly and survive it.  Most importantly, I also gained friendships with some really nice folks.

A year of steady progress (and about a month of hanging tighter with Jesus and God).

Milestones worth celebrating.

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