Lately I haven’t done much of anything. In the week after finals and before Christmas, I had a long list of books I should read, internship searching tips, budget pie charts, and schedules for structure. Well, after the rush of Christmas, I stopped drinking coffee to catch up on sleep. Every time I picked up a book, I fell asleep within the first chapter.
Finally, New Year’s resolution week, after catching up on sleep, I began hour-long workouts and structured reading times and what I thought would be my dream routine. Dream: not as in fun, but as in equipping me enough to succeed.
Succeed how? I didn’t know. Since I didn’t know, I knitted scarves and stared at a blank wall for a few days.
I liked it–for the most part.
The thing is, I am in decent health and could do everything I want to do, but without a reason, I have no motivation. Without motivation, I am a slug. Slug, slug, slug. Christmas break comes once a year to remind me that without deadlines and pressure, I am a slug.
If you procrastinate on your work, and/or have an all-or-nothing mentality (like me), or are obsessively a to-do list checker, or are obsessed with accomplishing anything and everything with your time, you are a perfectionist. And perfection, my friend, is another word for fear; not good.
Perfection is a double-edged sword. We fear that we will not be loved or have the best life (we only have one life here) without perfection, or at least some sort of pride-respect-earning accomplishment. We fear that when we do accomplish these things we will only be loved for our accomplishments. What a rollercoaster. How human-like.
My life is a rollercoaster. By recovering perfectionist, I could say recovering all-or-nothingest. I could say recovering control-freak. I could say, simpering coward.
I just cleaned my room for the first time in a month. I was waiting to clean it because I wanted it really clean which meant a big chunk of time. I earned $28 from Half-Price books (kind of a big deal), recycled three paper bags worth of paper, donated a garbage bag of clothes, and I still have enough stuff left over to messy my room into a tornado sometime soon. I have enough materials to knit a blanket, paint five canvases, and write a book. However, I don’t do any of these things. Why? Because I can’t see the finish line when I start them.
This problem of perfectionism goes beyond materials and projects, it seeps into relationships. I’ll admit that some days I pray about marrying my boyfriend. We’ve been together five years now. I pray “God, if he’s the one, let’s figure this thing out. Seal it or break it. Bring it on.” Sounds courageous right? What usually happens after a prayer like that is that my boyfriend and I get in a huge fight where I’m thinking, “Oh no. We’re breaking up. No no no no no” then nearly turn to an iceberg…that lone little island that rarely melts and peeps its happy face out of its luminously dangerous body.
BUT then, almost as soon as the argument began, it miraculously wraps up neatly with some sort of solution or confirmation. I didn’t do much besides show up and talk about it. Speak and listen. So I stay in the relationship because I love my boyfriend, not knowing what God’s opinion is on the matter.
Maybe God doesn’t work in direct answers and quick-fixes like we expect him to.
I had some help today from a teacher, mentor, friend. She asked me what I think about God. I’m a Christian and I know a lot of information about God—He’s all loving, He is righteous and holy, He gives grace to those who repent and shows grace to all, He desires a relationship with his created people. But “He is vague to me,” I said. I told her I read the Bible for solutions and usually don’t find them.
“Like how to build an entertainment system. Once it’s up you don’t need it anymore.” She suggested. She was right. “What about reading it as a long love letter?” she asked.
Nope. I know I’m supposed to, but I don’t. She told me that Jesus was asked many questions in the New Testament, but he very rarely gave a direct answer. It’s normal though, isn’t it? We crave to have people in our lives more than solutions, yet ironically, solutions/step-by-step processes are much less messy than admitting our dependency on people. People are messy—this includes me, and you, and your person-of-interest.
Lucky for you and me, we are built for relationships, built for messiness. We can’t control it. This should bring a sense of freedom as well as a fear of chaos. Chaos is inevitable, crazy emotions will happen, you might get your dream life but it may only last 1/100 of your life.
I don’t think God cares whether we are flipping burgers or managing corporations. It doesn’t matter if we feel happy every day, or miss reading the Bible. I think what matters is if we show up. I think what matters the most is if we are honest with ourselves and with Him.
When’s the last time you did nothing with a friend or spouse? Just sat and enjoyed each other’s presence? I’m beginning to realize that the best antidote to perfectionism is honesty and wasting time with loved ones. It’s about giving up control to build up trust. This my friend, is a long process with who-knows-what at the end.