Health, Personal

To blog or not to blog

Today is one of those days when I want to blog, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea.

I want to blog because I want to whine, complain, and rant.

Those are usually not good reasons for blogging.

But, since my fingers are moving so quickly, I will respect the urge to write.

Read on at your own peril.

It all started with the brave goal of standing on the scale this morning after a weekend of too many indulgences.

Stunned by the number staring back at me, I went on a what-is-wrong-with-me, why-can’t-I-do-anything-right mental rant.

I spent a good amount of time over the weekend planning healthy menus for our upcoming beach trip.

The problem is I went to Pinterest for ideas.

English: Red Pinterest logo
English: Red Pinterest logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Really? Pinterest?

Who ever thought Pinterest was a good idea was crazy.

Pinterest is where you go to either dream your time away, plan things you’ll never do, find foods you should never eat, and see all the things other people are doing that make you feel like you are the most untalented loser in the world, living in the most drab house on the planet, and wearing the dullest wardrobe ever created.

(I told you I was going to rant and whine, didn’t I?)

Seriously, pinners, do any of you have any business making homemade Butterfinger candy bars or Caramel cream cinnamon puffs? And who pinned the recipe for one-minute peanut butter syrup?

Butterfinger
Butterfinger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why does anybody need to make one-minute peanut butter syrup?

And who in their right mind puts something so fattening and artery clogging on pancakes or ice cream anyway?

That’s ridiculous.

What’s in a one-minute peanut butter syrup anyway?

Oh, peanut butter and honey in equal portions. You microwave it for a minute and it melts together into a gooey syrup.

That’s disgusting.

But, of all the miracles in the world, I actually had peanut butter and honey, so I plopped a tablespoon of each together in a bowl and off it went into the microwave.

Just like the recipe says, it’s the consistency of syrup and for some unknown reason at 9:30 at night, it looked delicious.

With no pancakes and no ice cream available, I remember one little delectable brownie I didn’t send home with the missionaries after we had them over for dinner.

I rarely make desserts because Doug and I are the only ones around to eat them,  but I heard the missionaries at church talking about how they craved chocolate.

So, for the missionaries, I hunted for the Miss Piggy recipe book for the brownies that requires only unsweetened chocolate, which is the only chocolate I had in the house.

IMG_2295

So, there I was on Sunday night with one Miss Piggy brownie and a bowl of fat-laden Pinterest peanut butter syrup.

Do I have to explain what happened next?

Suffice it to say, it all came back to me this morning on the scale.

Yep, Miss Piggy and I are soul mates.

And, it’s all because of that stinking Pinterest.

As I ranted about the scale, my insatiable sweet tooth, the lure of Pinterest, and my lack of self-control, I thought of the book Daring Greatly. (I’ve mentioned this before in other blogs.)

I remember how Brene Brown’s research showed that women feel overwhelming pressure to be thin, beautiful and perfect. (Oh really?)

And, when we fail at those ideals, the “shame” tapes of self-doubt and self-criticism start playing loudly in our heads. (Another,Oh, really? These conclusions are not new, are they?)

I thought of all her tips on shutting down the ninja-warrior gremlins that move into our heads — talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend who is in the middle of a meltdown — you’re okay, we all make mistakes, blah, blah, blah.

Clearly, that wasn’t going to work. Not today. Not after the one-minute peanut butter syrup on top of the appropriately named Miss Piggy brownie.

Sometimes, I think we just need to own the anger and then, get it out of our systems.

We can practice all the positive psychology garbage we want and we still just feel mad, disappointed, or frustrated.

And, you know what?

That’s okay.

Sometimes it’s harder to wear the “everything is okay” mask  or remember the self-help tips from some expert than it is to just have a little tantrum and move on.

So that’s what this blog is really all about — wallowing in my Pinterest peanut butter syrup melt-down and the resulting Miss Piggy-ness of it all.

And, you know what?

I feel better.

I feel better because I’ve ranted, admitted my foolishness, and haven’t even pretended to be something I’m not.

If you are a regular reader of mine, you know I am trying to embrace the reality that I will never be perfect, and neither will anybody else, so why not admit it, lose the shame over it, and get on with what looks to be a beautiful day ahead?

It’s not Miss Piggy’s fault I made the brownies. And, it’s not Pinterest’s fault I made the syrup.

It’s time to lace up my walking shoes and make this a better day.

Oh, and in all my negative ranting, I failed to recognize that I hiked around Roosevelt Island and went for a bike ride… See I’m working on those negative tapes in my head. Are you working on yours?

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Uncategorized

Forget Perfection

I’m starting to feel like someone is spying on me, noticing how hard I can be on myself for falling short in one area or another because targeted messages on the dangers of perfectionism seem to be coming at me from every angle. 

It’s like when I send emails, search a particular topic on the internet or buy something online, and then suddenly I get Google and Facebook ads related to those exact topics. I hate being watched and monitored so closely.

In Church, we talked about perfection and how expecting to become perfect “at once” leads to disappointment. “Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today,” we were taught.

Then I got an email from a writer’s group with the headline, “You Have to Be Okay With Less Than Perfect.”

It included this poem:

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in”

–from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”

Then, another email arrived from Oprah about Brene Brown’s “Four Totally Surprising Lessons We All Need to Learn.” http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Life-Lessons-We-All-Need-to-Learn-Brene-Brown.

Brene-Brown-On-Being-Graphic-Recording
Brene-Brown-On-Being-Graphic-Recording (Photo credit: On Being)

It quoted the same poem about perfection I’d read in the writing group email.

Brown’s lesson number three was “Perfectionism Is Not About Striving for Excellence.”

She said, “For some of us (including me), what I’m about to say is horrifying: Perfectionism is not about achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.”

She said, “Somewhere along the way, we adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. A ticker tape began to stream through our heads: Please. Perform. Perfect.”

According to Brown, research shows that perfectionism hampers success and often leads to depression, anxiety, addiction and missed opportunities, due to fears of putting anything out in the world that could be imperfect or disappoint others.

“It’s a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight,” she said.

So I’ve wondered, “what 20-ton shield am I lugging around that I think is protecting me?”

I don’t believe I’m a perfectionist. I’ve never cared about being perfect. I’m fine with my cracks.

Or so I thought.

But, then I thought more about those three words: please, perform, perfect.

I realized that while I don’t expect to be perfect, I do expect to improve and get better.

I’m learning there’s a fine line between obsessing over being perfect and feeling driven to be better.

If we’re not careful, they end up being the same thing and putting us into the same destructive cycles that create feelings of never being good enough.

Because of my health history, it is vital for me to diligently take care of myself.

So, I do my best to move more and eat less. I expect to see results from those efforts. Yet, week after week, the scale doesn’t budge and my clothes fit the same as the week and months before. Then I wonder, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? Other people succeed at this. Why can’t I?”

Those questions never lead me to a happy place. They only lead to frustration, disappointment, and insecurity.

So, I try to concentrate on improving my behaviors. I tell myself to forget about being perfect in this area because it’s impossible. I want to be happy doing what is best for my health even if nothing changes. 

This is not easy.

It requires me accepting that I am a cracked pot — you know, the flawed pot that couldn’t hold any water and the water leaked out through the cracks while being carried by its owner from the creek?

The poor little pot hated its cracks and wanted to be perfect like the other pots around it…until it notices the flowers that sprung up on its path. Everywhere the pot was carried there was a trail of beautiful flowers.

Public Flower Garden in downtown Seattle
Public Flower Garden in downtown Seattle (Photo credit: FallenPegasus)

This has to be one of life’s toughest lessons because it means we can’t stop trying to improve even though we don’t see progress being made.

A little self acceptance may sooth my feelings about all my cracks.

I’m hoping that if I give myself some slack, I’ll notice the flowers I’m watering along my path without even realizing it.

It’s worth a try.

Change, From my Bookshelf, Memoir, Uncategorized

Bulletproof

Have you ever done something you thought was brave and exciting, and then recoiled in regret because you felt like an exposed nerve?

Mel Brooks “High Anxiety” movie comes to mind.

High Anxiety
High Anxiety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I experienced this kind of high anxiety a couple of months ago when I sent query letters to literary agents.

I stepped into an unknown arena to try something new.

The minute I hit the send button, I seriously had a seismic panic attack.

Every flaw in the book suddenly flashed in my mind in glaring high-resolution.

Laurie, what were you thinking? The story arc wasn’t strong enough; it covers too much time; it’s too personal, and not nearly dramatic enough. Seriously woman, what were you thinking? Call every agent that expressed interest and tell them ‘never mind.’ Tell them to forget it. You hit ‘send’ too soon and you need to spend the next several days contacting agents and apologize for wasting their time.’

I yearned for a reset button that could erase the entire day and every last email.

Doug stared at me, baffled by my anxiety, especially because many agents expressed interest and wanted to see either parts of or the entire manuscript.

“Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?” he asked, totally perplexed by my racing pulse.

Yes, and no, I thought.<;/em

I didn't realize how desperately vulnerable I would feel having so many agents reading and critiquing a manuscript I knew wasn't perfect. And, I couldn't control anything after I hit that "send" button.

They could hate the book, detest my writing, criticize my family, my religion, me, my life, my values, and everything from my sentence structure to my hair color.

Everything that matters to me was on the line. Talk about an epic fail!

Brené Brown, the author of Dare Greatly, calls these feelings of embarrassment and regret, "vulnerability hangovers."

When I stumbled upon her book and read that description, I immediately glommed on it.

(If you haven't heard of Brené Brown, check out this speech. http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html)

English: Photo of Brene Brown
English: Photo of Brene Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book title, “Daring Greatly,” comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizens in a Republic,” given in 1910.

“It is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the triumph of high achievement, fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Writing a book and taking the first step toward getting it published was my attempt to “dare greatly.

In the book, Brown asks, “How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness?

23 - Brene Brown quote
23 – Brene Brown quote (Photo credit: justmalia)

I wish I knew the answer to that question.

She wrote that, “vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our own purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

If we go through life trying to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, what do we get?

If we don’t take some chances, we end up with very little that really matters to us.

Are you daring to fail greatly?
Are you daring to fail greatly? (Photo credit: Chris Pirillo)

If we can’t love because we’re afraid of being hurt, won’t write because we might get rejected; or refuse to go for the job we really want, or not run the race because we might come in last, we are living in a place of fear.

We might believe we are choosing to feel safe, but we are really choosing to live a life void of passion, energy, and exhilaration.

After giving myself this little “be strong, have courage, try things” pep talk, my anxieties have mellowed. My vulnerability hangover has eased. My perspective is clearer. I still wish I had hired a professional editor to help me strengthen that story arc, but I’ve gathered my senses again.

I love Brown’s comment that, “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk out into the arena! We must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”

Thank you Brené Brown for helping me see that writing a book, sending it to agents, receiving rejections and suggestions for improvement do not add up to failure, but represent my effort to walk into the arena, show up, let myself be seen, and dare greatly. And, I know what I need to do better in case I ever try again.

How are you daring greatly? I’d love to know!