le boat boating

Loving Life’s Imperfection

Back in the day I had a, thankfully, short-term obsession with Tyra Bank’s America’s Next Top Supermodel contest show. What I loved was how the judges looked at a super-tall, super-thin, super-perfect woman and focused-in on her one flaw. Perhaps it was an oversized mole, a gap in the front of their teeth, or a slightly crooked nose. I know what you are thinking. “How dare these judges focus on the minor flaw of these otherwise amazing specimens of female beauty!” But it is not what you think. The judges did not focus on the flaws to criticize them. They focused on the flaw because it was what made them interesting, unique, and memorable. It was their imperfection which drew our eye to them. It was their imperfection which made them truly beautiful. Over the years I have hung on to this premise to help with my own issues of accepting my body, and over time bit by bit I have accepted the skin I’m in. What I have been noticing lately is how my expectation of the perfection of life is also not achievable, and how the imperfection of life is also the thing that makes life interesting.

Almost 20 years ago, my husband and I had an amazing honeymoon. We visited four European countries in two weeks. What is interesting is when I think of our trip, I don’t remember the amazing meal we had in Grote Markt Brussels Belgium, the five-star hotel we stayed at in London, or touring the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. What first comes to mind is “Brugge Kaput”; two words that both ruined our day and made for the most memorable day of our honeymoon.  My husband and I love boating so part of our honeymoon included a four-day trip on the canals of Holland in our own houseboat. Much of this trip was an adventure like realizing the first river we had to cross was the busy Amstel filled with enormous container ships, learning how to navigate using a guide all in Dutch, and running across unexpected points of interest like the Belgium witch-trial museum.  Out of all of these adventures, the first thing I think of, the first thing that comes to mind about our entire honeymoon is “Brugge Kaput.”

le boat boating
Le Boat boating tours

We were on the last day of our houseboat adventure. We had just spent the last hour floating past idyllic farm fields and came into the last town and the last bridge before getting back to where we rented the boat. We had planned to spend a quiet evening anchored in the large lake nearby then returning the boat the next day. Throughout the journey we had come across bridges and locks, learning to honk our horn to alert the attendant then pay a few guilders for the attendant to let us through. We came up to the final bridge, honked, and waited. And waited. And honked again. And waited. This went on for quite some time before the grumpy old attendant showed up and talked on and on in Dutch. (side note: all the guidebooks we bought said that English is common in Holland. It is not. English is common in Amsterdam but not in the small towns we were visiting.) The words we caught were “brugge” which we had learned meant “bridge” and “kaput” which I learned from my German father which meant “broken.” The bridge was broken.

We finally understood that the bridge was down but should be working the next day. We went into this tiny, tiny town to find a phone to ask the boat rental company what to do. Option 1 was to go back the three days we had just traveled. Option 2 was to wait it out. We decided to wait it out, but not to stay in this town which seemed to consist of a broken bridge and a small store with the phone we used. Although we were tired from traveling, we decided to sail back the hour or so, past the now monotonous farm fields, to the larger town we had seen on the map. What a great choice!  The town had an actual marina and included in the small fee was the use of bicycles. We road into town, explored the shops, almost got hit by a bus, and had an amazing day. The next day, we once again motored past the same really-boring-now farm fields we had passed twice before. Out of everything we saw and experienced on our trip, I wouldn’t change this adventure for anything.

Next time you are having a bad day, next time your best laid plans are ruined, breathe. Find the beauty in what is happening versus what you wanted to happen. Look for the silver lining and be in the moment to enjoy the wonder of what will unfold.

When Mother’s Day is Tough

The experience of Mother’s Day can be diverse depending on the person and their childhood. This is the first Mother’s Day for my niece. I love receiving the photos and stories of her first born. She and her husband love their son and are active in his development. It is beautiful to see. I wish her the happiest of Mother’s Days this year and in the future. She is a beautiful expression of the ideal mother and what Mother’s Day is meant to be. For some of my friends, this Mother’s Day is difficult because they have lost their mother, their best friend, to age or disease. They are mourning the loss and remembering the good times. For them, Mother’s Day is perhaps bittersweet. This post, however, is for another set of people.

Two years ago, my friend Lisa Lamont posted a poignant message on Facebook. “Recently there was a post going around with daughters sharing pictures of their mothers who had passed and wished they were still here because they missed them very much. The post said that there is no bond like that of a mother and daughter. When I saw it, shame kicked in. Because I do not have (nor have I ever had a bond with my mother).” In working with clients over the years, I know my friend is not the only one who did not have a Norman Rockwell relationship with her/his mother. For many, Mother’s Day is a time of shame, regret, and anger that their relationship with their mother is not what others appear to have.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Mother Tucking Children into Bed,” 1921. Cover illustration for “Literary Digest,” January 29, 1921. Norman Rockwell Museum Digital Collections.

Perhaps you felt abandoned by your mother, or smothered, or attacked, or any of the toxic patterns listed here. We don’t all win the lottery of being born to two highly emotionally-developed individuals. In my experience, most of us are challenged with some emotional defects which negatively affect those around us. Our parents are no different. They may be battling their own emotional demons, leaving no room for them to make perfect parenting decisions in every moment. Many times, our mothers do the best they can do after having their own less than perfect relationship with their mothers. Being a parent is a very difficult position. Expectations of perfect parenting are thrust upon a new parent even when they do not have the role model to emulate or the means to learn how to best perform their role.

The result for us may be that we are angry at our mother or the fact we were born to the mother we were. I challenge you instead to find the gifts you were given because of the parents you were born to. What did you learn about how to treat others? What did you learn about embracing your own self-worth? What did you learn about accepting others? What did you learn about unconditional love?

This Mother’s Day, if you are one of those who bear scars from a less-than-ideal childhood, release the anger that things should have been different. Find acceptance and forgiveness that your mother did the best she could at the time. And work every day to be the best mother to your children or mentor to those around you. We heal not by fighting or resigning to what was, but by consciously choosing to embrace a healthier life.

Perfecting Imperfection

One of my biggest character defects, my biggest struggles is the dishonest belief that I am/can/should be absolutely perfect. A lot is wrong with this belief. First, it assumes there is one absolute correct way to be, i.e., perfect. Yet with the variety of people, professions, beliefs, abilities, etc. out there, how could someone presume to define a singular explanation of perfection. Second, my belief is tied to the assumption that if I am not perfect, I am not worthy of love. Anyone who has had a child who acted imperfectly (crayons on the wall or meltdown at Wal-Mart) can easily express how the child’s imperfection did not take away from how much the parent loved them (unconditional love). Third, the idea that we should be perfect is inherently wrong because we are, well, human. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines “human” as “of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses.”

broken glass
Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

Most of my life I thought I could and should be God or at the very least, an infallible machine. But alas, I am not. I am human. The perfectionist in me longs to be perfect and always act perfectly. The realist in me knows this will never happen – for me or anyone else. I am learning to accept my imperfection and see how my struggles and challenges, how my imperfection serves me – and hopefully serves you, my reader, as well. I recently received an email from one of my subscribers, Jill May, who wrote, “By the way, I love your newsletter.  I don’t always take the time to read every one of them, but when I do read it, I always get something from it.  Sometimes it’s a small tidbit, other times it’s a ‘Wow!’ moment.  I appreciated reading about your yoga headstand challenges.  It really does help the rest of us to know you have struggles just like we do.” (my underline)

It is not my perfection which resonates with my readers. It is my struggle with life; it is my imperfection which helps others through the ups and downs of their life. In an interview last year, I was asked what my purpose was. Out of my mouth without my conscious awareness came, “My purpose is to mess up and learn from it, so you don’t have to.” Funny, for decades I had the belief that my purpose was to achieve perfection so I could show others the way. What I am coming to accept is that I’m on this planet to roll around in the muck of life. I am here to choose poorly, learn from it, and find the courage to move on. I am here to realize the obstacles I put in my way through my dishonest beliefs, to find the tools to release these beliefs, and to find a new way to live. I am here to find deep and absolute acceptance of myself – warts and all – and to help others feel and embrace their own self-acceptance. Through self-acceptance, we can all learn how to have unconditional empathy and love for those around us as well.

Do you have a life purpose or mission? What is it? Do you struggle with the desire for perfection? What would your life be like without the struggle for the unachievable?

maslow needs

The Quest for Improvement

Today I was going to write about the story of the two monks and the river in order to show how most of the time our mental pain hurts us more than our physical pain. Then I realized I shared the monk story back in 2010. So . . . I thought about a different angle to take so we could explore how we usually cause more pain and discomfort in our lives by how we think about others, ourselves, and situations then by anything that is actually physically happening to us. I looked up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to use that as a basis to show how for most of our current society the base human needs are taken care of, yet we are torturing ourselves so much more from our mental pain. In researching Maslow I found this great article giving the basics about Maslow’s psychology and found some solace for my own current angst.

maslow needs
From Simple Psychology

Being a perfectionist, I unfortunately tend to beat myself up for the times I do not act how I know I am capable. Instead of seeing these struggles as part of my growth, I wallow too long beating myself up for my imperfections. Yet they are not imperfections. They are the bumps and struggles we all have as we strive to become the best people we are meant to be. It is our challenges, our setbacks, the adversity we face (from others or self-created) which give us the opportunity to grow. Not that I am anywhere close to this, but I looked at the list of characteristics of self-actualizers in the article and can see that at my core this is who I want to be. Seeing the goals of life this way has always made me feel different than others and yet it is what I feel driven to become. It is my goal. It is my definition of happiness and contentment.

Lately I have been praying for help because I have been so down on and overcritical of myself. Finding this article was Spectacularly Perfect for me as it told me that although the path is currently bumpy, I am heading in the right direction because I share many of the behaviors, or strive to have the behaviors, that lead to self-actualization. I am trying to be fully and completely in each moment. I am listening to my inner guidance (even when it is not popular or when it is scary) and sharing my truth honestly. I am willing to try new things, to walk the road less taken. I am surrendering my defenses and having the courage to take responsibility for my growth.  And I promise to remember what Maslow said, “There are no perfect human beings.”  I’ll just continue to do my best every day and accept when my best is the bare minimum.

What are you currently struggling with? What are your goals? What obstacles are in your way? What Spectacularly Perfect Events help you to know you are on the right path or give you the next step on your journey? How do you accept the hiccups and imperfections of the human experience?

Have hope. Keep walking. Keep growing. Keep loving.

two door Honda

Accept Yourself

The car I drive in Mexico, is not built for Mexico. I manage ok, but there are certain things I can not do. I can not take the short-cut dirt roads because they may not be smooth enough for my little two-door Honda. I need to take topes – oversized speedbumps – at an angle or I hear the scrape across my undercarriage. Down most roads I look like I am playing the old video game “Frogger” as I move right and left to avoid potholes. I can drive down here, but I just do it very differently than the people flying past me in their 4×4 SUVs which are meant for off-road driving.

two door HondaOur bodies are like our cars. They are our means of moving in the world, yet we need to also accept that not all bodies are built the same. Like our cars, we need to accept what our body can do, we need to adapt in situations that are not ideal for our bodies, and we need to uncover and accept the superpower our unique body was built for.

Accept Yourself

This past year I have written a lot about my battle with yoga. I tried to be something I wasn’t. I pushed my body to do things my body was not made for. I put myself down because I thought I should be able to do what the instructor 30-years my junior could do. This unacceptance of my body began as I grew up in the 1970’s when tall thin models like Twiggy were the ideal – and very different from my Rubenesque shape. I often felt “wrong” and “bad” because I did not fit someone else’s definition of ideal or beautiful.

My body is not imperfect. It is like saying my little Honda is a horrible car. It is not!  It is the most awesome car in the world, in my mind. I accept and love my car very much, even though it is not ideal for the driving conditions in my area. I need to accept and love my body, even though it is not meant for high impact yoga and I can not slam dunk a basketball. My body is mine and is perfect for me.

I love this article about the “imperfect” yoga teacher and how she accepts her body and what it can do. My guess is that she empowers her students of varying shapes and sizes maximize what their body can do and love the shape they are in.

Accept your body as it is. Don’t try to be someone else’s ideal. If you decide to improve your body, make sure it is based on your goals and capabilities, and that you are not making changes to try to match someone else’s definition of “perfect.”

Adapt

Due to the road situation where I live, I have to adapt how I drive my car. I can not take the dirt road shortcut, and I have to slow down for potholes and topes. Same goes for our bodies. There may be things we want to do, but we can not do them in the classical or regular way.

I ran across this video the other day about a man with no hands who does card tricks. He loved magic and wanted to do magic, but all the magic books explained the tricks using hands, i.e., sleight of hand. Instead of giving up his passion, he created his own tricks based on what his body could do. And he managed to fool two of the most well-known magicians with his skill.

What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? How do you think your body is holding you back from accomplishing your dreams? How can you adapt and adjust how you go about things so you can do what you want?

Find Your Superpower

Although my little Honda can not maneuver some of the rough roads surrounding where I live, it does have superpowers. It has quick acceleration which is needed for merging into fast traffic or avoiding the unexpected action of a fellow driver. Plus, it has amazing gas mileage those SUVs can only dream of matching.

Many years ago I wrote an article about Lynne Cox. On paper, her body is less than ideal and is, in fact, considered obese. But Lynne has a superpower. Her body is uniquely built for swimming, and swimming in extremely cold water-temperatures. She can do what others can not do, no matter how hard they try, because she is built for it.

I may not have a supercool superpower like Lynne, but I know my lack of height has gifted me with not constantly hitting my head on things and I never complain about airplane seats being too close together; leg room is not a concern. Think about what makes your body unique. How has it gifted you with talents that others find difficult?

Instead of being angry that you were born with an imperfect body. Spend some time loving and accepting the body that helps you move throughout your life. Learn to adapt how you approach things so your body can do for you what you want it to. And uncover and embrace your superpower.

work in progress

Continuous Improvement

The reason I became a coach is because I didn’t like who I was. I could be condescending, judgmental and self-centered. In other words, at times I was a real bitch. And I was unhappy. I am not proud of who I was and how I acted. I wanted to change. My first client as a life coach was myself so I could work through all the negative traits I expressed in my life. I wanted to be a better person.

And I continue to do this work.

work in progressChange is not a one-time event. It is constant improvement. Yes, I made amazing strides not to be the person I was 20 years ago. And I am also working on myself every day to be better 20 years from today than I am right now. No matter how much work we do, how much we improve, there is always still more to learn and improve.

A few weeks ago, I had a potential client reach out to me. In our conversation, I mentioned how I am not perfect. I don’t have this life thing down. I have a lot of tools I use and I do my best every day. Yet, it is still a journey for me. Every day I learn and grow. Every day I mess up things I could have done better. Every day I brush myself off from my failures, make amends to those I hurt in the moment, and vow to do better.

In looking over my life I can see improvement. And I intend that every day I will improve a bit more.  As a perfectionist, it is sometimes difficult to admit when I have failed. Yet, it is in this awareness, recognition, and acceptance of my failures where I have found the most growth. Self-improvement does not end in the destination of perfect. Self-improvement is the willingness to see our warts and all, and to use this information every day to make better choices in the moment and in the future.

Part of the work I am doing now is healing the hurt I caused others in the past when I was not at my best. To do this healing it is necessary to take responsibility for my actions and to admit my failures. Consciously or unconsciously I have hurt others during my journey. Some incidents I am painfully aware of, and some pain I caused I may never know about. It may be terrifying to go back to painful times and admit my wrongs, but it is one of the most healing acts to experience for myself and for those I hurt.

Today I received an email from someone I hurt decades ago. The message resurrected my awareness of who I was and how I may have hurt others because of it. Unfortunately, this person chose to write to me anonymously, so I don’t have the opportunity to work through the damage I caused. I truly hope they reach out to me so I can understand the extent of the pain I created and so we can work together to heal.