Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life is a Verb: Week 3

Life is a Verb Thursday is a summertime meme that I have decided to follow as a result of reading the book by Patti Digh.  I found that book to have so many profound statements of how to live - that I have decided to meditate on one statement each week during my three months of summer vacation.

Last week I focused on the concept of perfection and why we often have the unrealistic expectation that we need to do something perfectly the first time, when in reality it is only through practice (and analysis of what we need to do differently the next time) that truly allows us to perfect our craft.

In my journaling of this topic I realized that I have a very warped definition of the word "practice"  To me practice has always had very negative connotations, that is, I have internalized "you need to practice" with "you are not good enough"  OR...."you need to practice" with "you cannot do anything fun until you finish practicing"  I have decided that I need to wipe the mental slate clean.  I need to remove these negative connotations and replace them with truth.  Practice is not to be viewed as punishment; it is quite simply a journey.

Also, I have learned that I need to remove the word "perfect" from my vocabulary.  I have always associated these two terms together, as in "Practice makes Perfect" but for a perfectionist -- there is no such thing as absolute perfection for there is always room for improvement.  Instead, this perfectionist needs to modify that expression to something along the lines of "Practice yields Improvement - but also allows for joy in the journey."  Anyway, that is what I am going to strive to do the remaining weeks of the summer.

This week's meditation requires some back story.  Patti Digh spends quite a bit of time telling us that she has kept the same pair of jeans in her closet since high school.  She thinks that these jeans will serve as proper motivation to lose weight.  One day her incredibly fit and trim adolescent daughter comes to her complaining that she has no clothes to wear.  On a whim Ms. Digh gives her this prized pair of jeans and tells her she can have them.  A few minutes later the daughter returns with the jeans in hand saying that they are "too small."  Patti is dumbfounded!  She has berated herself for decades that she has gained too much weight only to discover that the jeans do not even fit her well-proportioned daughter.

So, with that anecdote in mind, here is the statement to ponder over this next week:
Why do we punish ourselves with unreasonable expectations, putting life on hold until we reach them?  What is the real danger of such pressures?  They delay living, the real life  in front of us.  "I'll do that when...." we say to ourselves.  "I can't do that now because I haven't yet done this...."  Are the jeans the real goal, or is the simpler, more active life, a less stressful way of living, a life unencumbered?  Perhaps those are goals to be reached for, not the jeans."  (page 113 in Intimacy section)
This is even more timely now than it was a month ago when I first read it.  My mom is still in the hospital and constantly bemoaning the fact that she cannot do the same things that she was once able to accomplish.  For the last five years my mom has chosen not to live in the present, but simply to exist.  I do NOT want to make these same choices in life.  I want to learn to live in the present - in the here and now - and enjoy all that life has to offer.  So I ask you, and me, What undue pressures are we putting on ourselves today that need to be removed in order to experience joy and peace?


  1. These are awesome...sorry I missed last week's! I need to pay some heed to placing expectations on myself. I've always been such an over-achiever that I won't allow myself to be anything other than what I believe is right. Letting go to a certain extent is one key to happiness for sure.

  2. I have been following this project with great interest. I have always been forward looking and don't dwell much in the past -- but that doesn't mean I always appreciate the now. Sometimes I'm looking too far ahead.

  3. I used to be obsessed with perfection! I think I have a better handle of it now. I'm not sure when or where the change began to happen. But once my perspectives changed, I feel so much better. I've realized I value my family and personal time more than obsessing about my career or being perfect. That has helped me approach things better, without stressing too hard or giving up.

  4. Since losing my nan and my father in law last year, I have moved into the live for today zone. I only surround myself with people who want to have fun and have the ability to make me laugh. I am having the best time because of it. We all need to just enjoy what we have in the here and now.

  5. I love to live in the moment. You have a great philosophy that you are developing. We really live much richer lives when we enjoy every moment we are in.

  6. I like that: practice is a journey. Ever so much more fun to go on a journey!

  7. I think I've had the same negative connotations about the word "practice" also. I've read a few books that have changed my mind about the word: Drive by Daniel Pink, which I'm reading now, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin,and The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. Each book has talked about practice and what's needed to master critical skills.

    I'm glad to hear you're still enjoying 37days .

  8. As a dedicated "quitter," I often thought I was lazy or didn't like to practice things. But I've found, over time, that I was quitting more because I didn't enjoy what I was doing (it wasn't a good fit for me). When I do like something, I rarely quit it and it doesn't seem like practice -- it is just something I love doing. And, the more you do it, the better you get at it. But it never felt like work to me. It was an important lesson for me to learn.


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