Category Archives: Perfectionism

And when the rule book dies, so she must live.

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I’ve been living in the Land of Juicy Memoir Writing as of late.

When not traveling, or booking brews, or frolicking around with a mail crate, I’ve been hanging in a land where sleep barely ever scratches at the window. And unicorns don’t prance in chocolate fountains (I know, I’m shocked too!). And inspiration wakes you from a tousled mess of dreams at 2am. And you begin to wonder if your skin will ever know sunlight again or if you’ll just resort to prehistoric grunting when the last shreds of human interaction you hold run dry in your soul.

Some days you cry. Other days you ball your hands into fists and march around the room when you finish a chapter. And most days you have to schedule out slivers of 30 seconds to keep your sanity with the Harlem Shake.

But alas, it’s an amazing little blessing to catch your story on a page. To finally put it down to rest in some sort of peace and pieces. And I hold all the power in the world to make it look better than it actually is on Instagram. 

 

In purging the nitty-gritty of my existence, I stumbled upon my “Rules for Being a New Yorker.”

Yes, you may absolutely pause in your reading to point and laugh at me when I admit that I wrote this little ditty and all its awesome glory before I moved to New York in Summer 2010. People, this thang is thick. And it’s a no-messing-around Rule Book. The Do’s & Don’ts. The Yes and the No to City Slicker Habits. 

The Rules for Being a New Yorker, well, they shimmied their way into existence at the point in my life where I realized the rules had poofed and disappeared in the summer air… The diploma was passed, the leadership positions were gone, college had ended. And suddenly I was left to forge for myself in a world where no one cared if I showed up, if I brought my A-game or my G-game. And I couldn’t imagine a life that was Rule(less) and Wild. And so I forced the rigid boundaries. And I made the boxes to stuff myself inside. And I begged for the sanity that comes with saying Yes & No to yourself. 

 

I wonder what we are so afraid of when we construct these rules for our diets, and our dress codes, and our schedules. I wonder what we are really petrified will happen if there be a little less boundaries and more breathing room. Would we spiral out of control? Would we become carnivorous and start attacking the passing cars? Would we feel threatened by the freedom that mingled in our limbs? Do we need the flimsy little rules to convince us that we are too fragile for the alternative? That we will, in fact, break without self-inflicted restrictions?

 

I only write about this topic because it’s been all over my scattered, little brain these days. And I recognize myself as a girl who has often felt like she needed rules. Like she needed to be tamed. Like she needed someone to stop her. 

In tandem with the Rules of Being a New Yorker, I also inflicted another kind of rule book upon myself entirely. It was the rules that I would endure when it came to the plates placed before me. The calories I could consume. The meats I could eat. The sugars I could intake. And I set up a lifestyle that was very much fragile, and very much restrictive, and very much tethered to the rules that kept me in check.

“What would happen if you broke the rules?” My mother asked me one day over black coffees– as my life had been sucked dry of creamers and sugar.

I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to speak of the monster who would wreck through all the cabinets and chomp down all the cereal and eat & eat & eat until the sun came up. She was bad. So bad. And she needed to be told NO. And limits. And a muzzle on her mouth. And rules in her pockets. 

But the rules took out the joy. And the rules made me the counter in the corner. And the rules took the fat from my cheeks. And the rules turned me into a vapid little girl, shriveled and shrunk in the body of a woman who everyone else thought had all the world at her fingertips.

 

I’m breaking the rules these days.

I’m finding more joy. I’m trying to let the laughter in. I am wearing the red lipstick whenever I damn please. I am eating pastries with the sunrise & I am having wine to celebrate the fact that this life is turbulent but tremendous. I am being kinder to myself. I am touching my skin and repeating with a gusto, “That’s Ok… That’s Ok…” And, truth told, I am finding that I don’t really need the rules so much as I need to trust myself a little in the morning. And a little in the afternoon. And a little in the evening before I say my prayers and fall to sleep. 

And I don’t need to sabotage myself with the Do’s and Don’ts so much as I need to realize that “failing” just might mean “trying” with a little less frill and a bit of a harder crash.

You see, like all things– the flowers, the bees, the birds, and my sweet soul– the rule book dies eventually. She gets buried in the ground. She gets forgotten & remembered & reforgotten & reremembered. And she’ll be back one day. Oh, oh, certainly she will live again before my feet are propped up in a blue suede coffin.

But when she comes on back I will be ready. I’ll be know that she can be broken & she can be morphed & she can be rewritten. Rewritten & rewritten, with a soft velvet pen, like a melody that hasn’t learnt to be a love song just yet.

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Filed under Happiness, Perfectionism

Girl on “Wire”

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They said grace and let the soy sauce roll.

Rows of sushi stuffed with salmon and avocado lined the plates in delicate, little rows, ready to be prodded by the chopsticks of girls gone hungry for communion & conversation.

They settled in their chairs, relaxed into the rhythms of one another’s stories. They were old friends, all too familiar with the way that distance could rap on the door frame.

“My girl wire got the best of me… it definitely did this time.” 

She stared down at her plate and looked up for some kind of forgiveness from her friend.

The two turned to laughing. They cleared the air of apologies. It wasn’t too late. No, it was not too late. 

 

One of my best friends and I refer to it as the “girl wire.”

The girl wire is best defined as “the ability to lose one’s footing, balance, and sanity, in a frenzy of obsession over a guy.” It’s a common prince charming syndrome. It’s acting out of emotion, out of carnal “accept me” motives, rather than grounded soul & assurance in your own worth.

It’s the abandoning of all the confidence & assurance you’ve carved into yourself for the approval of another. It’s letting that approval dominate your thoughts. Your actions. Alter your beliefs. Making you go back on the person you said you wanted to be all along.

Together, we’ve learned the tightrope walk of balance between being completely smitten over the existence of another beautiful soul and what it means to pack up and move straight into the Valley of Gone, Baby, Gone. A Valley of Straight Up Losing Yourself to Another. Checking the phone incessantly. Finding value in his words. Sizing yourself up by the comments he makes and the breath he bothers to take to speak life into you.  

The feminist that sometimes stirs in me would say this desire to be accepted is engraved in our roots.

The feminist inside of me would banter about young women raised to be praised as “pretty little things.” Raised to be small. Raised to be weak. Raised to be waiting by the door for a savior. Or by the window for a prince. And, when that prince comes, we pour out ourselves like a basin. We swab the decks of that Yesterday Girl to be whatever another person wants out of our Tomorrow.

But the plain old girl inside of me, the one who still doesn’t know if she prefers tea or coffee on a rainy Tuesday, would just say that we are all looking to be loved & accepted, and we are willing to give up a lot of ourselves to get there. 

 

Now I ain’t saying love is a bad thing.

I ain’t saying that falling into the arms of a Somebody who devours your quirks like pancakes on Sunday is a sin. I’m just saying that we is human beings. We is fragile. We is broken. We is never prepared to handle all the parts of someone else; we were never designed to be such holders. 

And. yet. we. try. like. the. dickens.

It’s instinct to throw ourselves into another. It’s hope strung like Christmas lights around the barn that another person could be all the arms we ever needed, all the love we ever prayed for, all the acceptance we gave up on giving ourselves. It’s affirmation & confirmation & admiration & and all the other “ations” we crave to keep us from staring in the mirror and finding just what it might take to go weak-kneed over our own reflections and the life that surges from inside us.

Oh, if we stopped shoving off that power. Oh, if we realized that our hands are so very small for a reason; and that a guy can come along and hold our hands, and kiss our hands, but they cannot hold the whole of us in such little hands. Oh, if we only cut off the “girl wire” and just sank into the skins of a girl on fire. 

Know this: I’m not here to pour poetry out onto your soul. Watering your bones with almond milk syllables will never mean a damn thing if I don’t just simply say, in one single sentence, what I have learnt to be true in all these years: your completion does not rest in another. It’s not lock-and-keyed into the heart of another. Or a 6’3 stature. Or the glow of a screen. Or the sounding of a text.

It’s already stitched inside of you, as beautiful as the dust of a Creation Story that knit you in secret spaces out of spiderweb silk. It’s there, there in the deep of you already, no matter how much sludge & hollow & pain & abuse & resentment has covered it up in all these years.

It never goes away. It never buys the next train ticket out and decides to leave you standing on the platform alone.

You might forget it. You might lose the muscles it takes to believe in it. But everything you have ever needed is already inside of you. It’s sprawling like bucketfuls of wildflowers. It demands a watering can that’s only ever craved your fingers wrapped around its handle.

Your completion does not rest in another. If I know a single thing to be true in this crazy, whimsical life… it’s that. I don’t always believe in it but I know it is true. 

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Filed under Love Yourself, Perfectionism

Perfectionism’s Ransom Note

I’m going away today & I’m packing no bag.

& when you come seeking, all you’ll find is this letter: a cluttered ransom note of all the things I won’t ever come back for. Signed by a Retired Perfect Girl.

The Sadness. The Defeat. The Insecurities, they’re buried. Resting in some sort of peace. Ambition be their grave digger & Joy has signed on freelance to write their obituaries; she’s come with great promise of a seasoned Times’ writer.

All you are clutching is this strange note now, Signed & Sealed by a Somebody that you used to know. Just the clumsy, clumped cursive of a Someone who used to think she had to please you.

& others. & everyone. & even strangers who I had never met beyond the shaking of a hand but my hand was already shaking, sweating through the palms, because I could feel them Sizing me already. Assuming already. Writing me off, already.

I’ve left behind a Someone who wanted you to like her. To pick her for your kickball team. To pat your hand down on the seat beside you and invite her to join the lunch table. & sit in the sandbox beside her until the sun went down.

& I’ve held conversations that I never wanted. & drinks I have never liked. & politics that have only bored me. & secrets that only shamed me.

I held that all for you &, all the while, tried to be more laughable. More Worldly. More Exotic. More Intelligent. More & More of a Someone who had begun to wonder, Will I Ever Find the Strength to Walk Away from Fake… & Half of a Wholeness I Still Have Faith Exists… & Unhappiness.  

& truths told, I have compromised. My true self. My beliefs. My real hopes. My values.

To fit your fables. To make you think that I was worthy. That I was someone who could make you laugh & would never cause you trouble.

But I’m a trouble maker… one who has never fit into your Little Box and All Your Ex. Pec. Ta. Tions.

And here lies my Sorry, rooted in the ground within a Graveyard of Regret.

Sorry because I should have told you I was stronger. Than this.

Better. Than this.

Wiser. Than this.

Should have told you there are days when I feel lovely just like this. & I would have walked away from you on a Friday but I just found the strength on a Sunday. & that even if it is hard to feel it on a Monday, I am a child of God on the Every Day.

& because of that, you cannot wedge me.

Mold Me.

Make Me.

You can only Watch Me:

Walk away. Turn new leaves. Build a stronger faith. Seize something that I have wanted. Empty out the oldness & find the cocoons of this chaotic, crazy life. & Still know that it’s ok to harbor a fierce wanting to be a butterfly. I have always had a fierce wanting to be a butterfly.

I’m imperfect & it’s lovely. Clumsy & it’s rhythmic. Indecisive & it fits me. I’m a dreamer & it is a “born this way” kind of thing.

And I used to be a living Sorry–for taking up space, for never living up to what you wanted me to be, for trying so damn hard to just be the kind of Perfect you could stand to have around– but not anymore. After today, not anymore.

& I wish you the best. & I hope you work it out. & I’ll send you all the light & love your little arms can handle. But I’m not staying here. No, I’m not staying here.

So take my signature below but don’t come looking. Don’t hang the wanted signs. I won’t come crawling back with cash rewards.

You won’t find me no more.

Not here. Not here.

Signed,

A Retired Perfect Girl

Sign your name below…

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Filed under Perfectionism

Spit out the lies the world wants to feed you and just eat your goldfish, baby.

I think that I am tired of this, I tell myself as I watch her swirl her purple fingernail in circles on the table and refuse goldfish crackers for snack.

Her mouth is shut now but just a moment ago she was spilling with stories of girls named Arya & Hanna–two girls who only come to her by way of the TV screen.

She is ten years old and looking to Aria & Hanna as role models. The Cookie Cutters of What She Should Be. Arya is 17 and sleeping with her high school English teacher. Hanna looks as though she has been cut out carefully from a catalog. Perfect clothes. Perfect skin. Perfect size.

Ten years old and already I want to hold out my hand and tell her to spit it out. Please, spit it out. Spit out the lies the world wants to feed you and just eat your goldfish, baby.

Yes, I am think I am tired of this.

Tired of a band of girls with Operation See My Hip Bones as their next endeavor. Tired of a culture that feeds its young  with skinny tips & “how to please your man” rhetoric.  No wonder we are hungry, starving for something more than this.

& I’ve been there. Wrapped & Wrapped & Wrapped by a world that would only want me if I took up less space. I spent an entire year dreading the door of my own apartment because to open it meant to walk outside. To walk outside meant to face the world. To face the world meant to move into conversations where I was expected to speak. And I was always afraid that someone would look at me, stare me up and down, and tell me that I was not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough.

But funny how it never ended when the door of the apartment slammed at night. It only started when I roamed into the kitchen, long after the moon had pulled blankets over the eyes of its children, to fill bowls with ice cream & cake & peanut butter & any ingredient that I could find.

It had only just begun when I sat on my kitchen table shoveling numbness into my mouth and let the tears dance wild on my cheeks. Oh, I still ache over the emptiness of it all. Oh, I still cry for the girl who always believed in other people’s mornings but never her own.

I have come a long way. I have battled with my body & a world that whispers lies upon my lovely handles & freckled forearms. But I remember clearly the day I woke up and said out loud, “You cannot stay here any longer. You cannot stay here any longer.” Put down the spoon. Put away the carton. And move.

Because if we always stay then we never move.

And if we ruminate on body fat and smaller thighs and tiny arms then we never see the miracles of life that already glitter the palms of our hands. That our lungs take air. That our feet get us there. That our fingers tap on keyboards and suddenly we are talking.  That with just an “@” I can find you, roaming somewhere in your own networks, and we can find a way to push through this. Together. I don’t care that we’ve never met. In fact, I have never cared.

That we serve the world better in Larger Proportions, out of our boxes and the bindings of other people’s beauty definitions. And if we’ve got a dream- a Keep You Up At Night Dream- then there is room to make it happen.  To make it more real than the leather of his jacket on the night he wrapped you in it and called you his “daisy.”

Because you are delicate like that.

You are beautiful like that. You always have been and you always will be. And your limbs– well they are perfect. Your words– I want to hear them more. Your thoughts– make them sing, baby. This life… well this life is only a one-time thing and I don’t want to wait until the close of it to see that it never had a thing to do with thighs or legs. It never really mattered how little of space we took up in our jeans. I cannot help but think we’ll get asked the Other Kinds of Questions as we stand beside a gate that brings us into fields that know no heartbreak or the calorie counts that create it.

“Did you spread your arms out as wide as you could?”

“Did you wrap them tightly when another needed you most?”

“Did you dance in the Today you had? Did you save Tomorrow for its own mystery?”

“Did you do something that mattered, really mattered? And was it outside of yourself?”

I want to answer Yes. Already, my mouth is watering to answer Yes.

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Filed under Dating Amazement, Perfectionism

Let’s just start with a Single Story instead of miles in shoes that never fit us before.

Up until yesterday, the person who came up with the statement “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” was on my “If we cross paths, I am entitled to punch you in the face” list.

Truth. He or she was right up there, wedged between the individual responsible for spelling “love” with a U and the genius who began the “Wuts up? Nm, U? Nm. Cool” phenomenon. So, if you see any of these culprits lurking around the café or the aquarium, or wherever you lurk, punch them in the face and tell them that Jane Austen and Shakespeare sent you.

I’ve always thought it was a horrid, stuffy statement. Walking a mile in the shoes of someone else. Wah, wah, wah! They are too tight. They don’t fit. The heels are too high. And they are clunky, clunky, clunky. I can barely stand and you would expect me to learn how to walk?

I’ve been a long time chewer and spitter upper of “shoey” statements until these love letter requests began rattling my world. They keep pouring into my inbox and half the time I just want to write across a page: What keeps you walking? How the heck do you even wake up and decide to walk?

Shove it in an envelope. Drop it in the mail.

It’s like we are keeping this big secret that if released into the night would be the key to telling another that we’ve been there before. That we’ve known those same shoes, splayed with mud. That we’ve worn the same rain boots, the same sneakers, to bite back the pain. And how did it get so lost? How did it become something we only talk about under the lights of glassy conference hall, before a speaker with a booming voice and 8,000 individuals who are shimmying into the skins of vulnerability like a wet suit.

I’m believing lately that it is easier to tell an Ugly Story, to guide another into a Safe Place of Sameness, by first sinking back into those shoes that fit our feet at the time. The converse sneakers we slid into on the night where we gathered courage by the  armful, like hot whites falling from the drier, and found a way to tell him it was over. The snow boots we wore on the day a police car pulled up and forever rearranged the way we would take family photos. No mother? No brother?

It’s remarkably easier to tell you about the pair of black heels, with the now frayed bows, that I wore while falling in love for the very first time. How they fit my feet. The blisters that later kissed my heels when all I could say in the mirror was, He Kissed Me. How that night was jutted with stars and I thought someone might say it to me, “You know, you are beautiful”. And even if they didn’t, I’d still know it was glowing off my skin. How I got caught in the rain in those heels once. And I didn’t mind. The mud & water were good for them in the same way that falling into love was good for a girl made up of 80% climbing.

It’s simpler to tell you that I wore a pair of combat boots most days when I lived in the Bronx because they made me feel braver. Black boots from the Gap, I’ll tell you how I zipped them straight up before I ever tell you how I lived a scared kind of life. A life that left me wondering, as I waited for the walking man to light up on the other side of the road, “Am I Really A Child Of God? Or Has He Forgotten Me In All This Mess?”

I’m starting to believe that it really has nothing to do with walking a mile in the shoes of another. Maybe it would be just enough to acknowledge the walking. To commend, even if we cannot understand, the fact that we all got up today and decided to push forward. That some of us are wearing cowboy boots and contemplating if the world would care if we were gone tomorrow. That others are lacing up baseball cleats and rounding a set of bases for a best friend of ours that is hooked up to IVs in a hospital room.

What good would it be to walk a mile in your shoes? The world needs me to walk in my own. Just tell me that you are walking. Tell me when you get all stuck. Tell me when you need to sit. I get it, I get it, today might just be a day for walking a few steps instead of Fully, Really Away this time.

Let’s just start with a Single Story instead of miles in shoes that never fit us before. Stories about walking. And the shoes we wear to face the day.

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Filed under Hunger, Perfectionism, Shoes

Killing Marsha Brady: A few final remarks from my inner perfectionist.

It was not until 3:39a.m. that I realized that I could not and would not write this blog post.

I went to sleep early last night, feeling the weight on my shoulders to produce something worthy enough to be read. In translation: I went to sleep beating myself up over the fact that I have not been inspired to write in nearly a week. Instead of “Good night, Hannah” and “Sweet dreams, dreamer,” it was more like falling asleep to visions of never being good enough dancing in my head.

I woke up startled and unable to sleep after having a dream about hammers and nails. Renovating a house. Making it look so perfect but then watching it crumble to the ground because of an unsteady foundation. I took the dream as a sign of something, especially since it refused to let me slumber softly for a long while after. And so I sat in my bed at 3:39a.m., eating a soy ice cream sandwich, realizing that I had to let the perfectionist inside of me write part of this post.

Readers, I now introduce to her. But I want to warn you, she is quite perfect (and she knows it).

Make no mistake of it, I am perfect.

I am the life of the party. I get perfect grades. I study hard. I wake up looking perfect. I go to sleep looking even better. I am there for each and every one of my friends, whenever and wherever they need me to be. I drop everything for them. I never think about myself.

I wear perfect clothes. I always match. I never miss a beat when it comes to new fashion trends and the hottest fads. My hair always looks good. My teeth are perfectly aligned. My body is perfectly toned. At the gym I sweat perfect sweat. I smell perfect. Sound perfect. Sing Perfect. Talk Perfectly. And did I mention how smart I am? Because I am SO smart. Perfectly smart, in fact.

People often see me and they comment on my perfection, which, in this case, I simply smile and stay poised. I don’t slouch. I don’t belch. All guys want to date me. All girls want to be me.

I am always smiling. I am never down. I never cry. Never Ever. I have everything figured out. A 5-year plan. A 10-year plan. I don’t hurt feelings. I don’t play games with people’s hearts. I am the best listener in the world and I give phenomenal advice.

I am perfect.

I used to have a basin of sympathy stored inside of me for Jan Brady. She always shrank ten sizes too small because of Marsha.  She let negativity and green envy overtake her instead of ever taking the time to accept herself. I have a Marsha Brady living inside of me, one who managed to grasp onto the word “perfection” at a fairly young age and then resolved to never let it go. She often wonders what people think of when they look at her and talk to her.

She worries more about THEM than she does about HERSELF.

Yes, she is smart and she is ambitious but she tends to get carried away, to the point where someone should really shut her up and remind her that no one is perfect. No One Is Perfect. Perfect is an illusion, a fantasy, a fairy tale that only graces pages but never people.

The problem with perfectionism, when we give into it, is that it causes us to believe that we were never good enough to begin with. It is like starting far behind the starting point and needing to take drastic measures to catch up. More work. Less sleep. More coffee. Less enjoyment. More exercise. Less Calories. It all is contained in this mask we put on. The Mask We Wear In The Outside World. And that mask does not tolerate mess-ups or mistakes, burdens or hardships.

What would it take for us to spend a single day being completely happy with the way we are right now? What would it take to forget about renovations to our Bodies & Minds & Souls and pay ourselves a few compliments today?

It is pretty morbid on my part to type into Google: How many people die each day? But when I see the search results, the numbers that estimate nearly 150,000, I realize I need to rip the hammer away from the clutched hands of the perfectionist inside of me. If there is anything wrong with my life today, with the way I look or the state that I am in, perhaps a good chunk of those 150,000 people who lost their lives today would love to trade spots with me. And they might do a better job of not criticizing themselves for silly little flaws or things that are beyond our control.

Today I propose we buy one-way train tickets for the Marsha Brady’s in our souls.

I would be so quick to just abandon her in a lost & found box but then I fear that some other little girl might find her, ask her to be her best friend and realize (shortly after) the dangers of letting perfectionism take hold. I see a lot of young girls and women who have made a pact with perfectionism and it worries me. I don’t want another young girl to find my inner perfectionist sitting in a lost & found box.

And so I will head over to Target to see if I can pick up some attributes to better equip me in dealing with this perfectionist who refuses to take shelter elsewhere: Tolerance. Acceptance. Understanding. Wonder. Awe. Inspiration. Kindness to myself.

Yes, yes, if she won’t take the train ticket and go then I will kill my inner Marsha Brady with every inch of kindness that I have.

Any final remarks from your Inner Perfectionist before they get the boot?

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Filed under Happiness, Healthy Lifestyle, Love Yourself, Perfectionism, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized