A few days ago I was speaking with my good friend Angiela and I heard myself saying, “If I just had a garden…”. And we both started laughing. As soon as it came out of my mouth I could hear how funny this was! After years of nomadic living, I only very recently, finally, settled into my own place. And yet there it was… my mind was already dissatisfied and had started looking elsewhere. The seeds for my own discontent were so clearly being planted in this thought.
Have you ever found yourself saying, “If I just had more….., everything would be ok”. Or, “If he could just…, everything would be ok between us”. Or “If I just get a … everything will be so easy.”
So often we think that all we need is the perfect person, the perfect experience, the perfect vacation, the perfect family, the perfect brain, the perfect body, the perfect (fill in the blank)…..Then we will be ok. If these conditions are met, I will be happy. My life will be perfect.
But when are conditions ever perfect? Of course there are occasional moments where it feels like everything is just how we want it to be but how long does that last?
I am always amazed that my mind still has this tendency to look for external fixes to internal discontent. After spending a few minutes reflecting on my recent dissatisfaction, I realized that the feeling was more widespread than I usually care to admit. I had become dissatisfied with the lack of nature in the city, the long distances to see people, the fact that everyone including friends and family are always busy etc. etc. There were many ways in which I was rejecting aspects of my present life!!
Thank goodness I took stock. With a careful evaluation, I realized that in numerous little ways, I had lost sight of the abundance that is already present in my life. Dissatisfaction was slowly poisoning my mind making people, places and myself not quite good enough. A quick shift in perspective and I suddenly felt a tremendous wave of gratitude for all the goodness that is present. My heart opened, my mind settled, and all the little imperfections of my life and the people in it seemed entirely manageable. The sense of “not having” lifted (for now).
Now there is an even more sinister side to perfectionism and this arises when we apply it to ourself! Not only do some of us try to find perfection, but we attempt to be perfection!! We aim to look perfect (how many dollars and how many hours spent shopping?), do everything perfectly, and behave perfectly (how many hours spent in inauthentic conversation or activity in order to appear ‘normal’?) in order to uphold a flawless image. If we appear perfect to the world, after all, we will find acceptance and belonging. All our problems will be solved… won’t they?
But of course this is always a temporary fix. No matter how faultless our created image, it cannot guarantee us unconditional love and acceptance. Nothing external can ever fulfill the promise of such security since every other human, too, has their foibles and misunderstandings. Further, how much self-hatred, pain and self-judgment have we generated in an impossible attempt at belonging? The battle against self-judgment is a tough battle to win in a marketing and social media-filled world. We are surrounded by images of the life people want us to believe that they lead while carefully hiding their difficulties and insecurities.
But our authentic self might be something more akin to a tree in a forest, the trees having each faced a lifetime of challenges leaving battle scars and bruises. In a forest, some trees might be bent and crooked, others broken, others scratched. Some may even have been struck by lightning and are scorched by the heat. But in this imperfect forest there is also a tremendous beauty, the beauty of each tree as it is, the beauty of each one of us as we truly are.
So it seems that nature is offering another lesson today, lesson #2 (lesson #1 was found in the blog Spring Melt).
If you get a chance, go for a walk in a park or in the forest and look at the trees. If you were a tree, what tree would you be? How would you look? Is it possible to see your pain and suffering as well as your gifts and talents as part and parcel of your uniqueness. How would they appear in the form of a tree. Can you see the ways in which this makes you beautiful and lovable just as you are?
Wishing you all a happy day filled with many little moments of goodness.