Today, I indulged. I let my mind wander to one of my favorite fantasies. Do you want to join me? Be warned, it’s pretty damn sexy. Imagine – every time you open your refrigerator, it’s immaculate. It smells like fresh lime and each item is carefully returned to its rightful place. The tupperware is all coordinated and labeled. The vegetables are pre-sliced to perfection, ready to use for quick meal prep. Fruits are washed in baggies with each child’s name on them, so that the 6-year old doesn’t eat all of the grapes in one sitting before her brothers get to them. Healthy, organic meals are pre-made and waiting for each day of the week and the school lunch items are ready to go. Can’t my fantasy of all things anal and immaculate include a multi-orgasmic experience? Yea, after I’m done with the fridge I’ll move to the office and color-code all of my files. First I have to file the two-foot high stack of business papers on my desk, and it will take me 3 hours to accomplish just that? No problem baby, that’s what fantasies are for. In my mind, that’s a 10-minute job. And, it doesn’t stop there. Pretty soon I have a perfectly trained dog and a clean car and employees who read my mind. And, if I get really wild and uninhibited I allow my fantasy to travel to the ultimate sexy of sexies. Cue the Al Green music because I’m not afraid to take you there…….. oh yea, color coded bookshelves.
Oddly, there’s a moment in this fantasy where I actually believe it’s possible. For a brief second, I believe that I can transform from a flaky, over-scheduled hippy, dippy chick into a brilliant, organized, type-A dynamo. And, I can do it in 12 hours or less. In that moment of thought indulgence, it doesn’t seem like a ridiculous expectation.
I spoke with a handful of my friends about this topic recently, and although every one of them is aware of the pitfalls of perfectionism, each woman admitted to having been baited and hooked by the wilds of her mind from time to time. Here are a few of the favorite fantasies that they shared: I would have endless time, attention and patience for my husband and children. I would eat immaculately. I would work ceaselessly without getting distracted. I would be the “cool mom” amongst my son’s peers (remember the Cool-Aid mom from 1978?), and I would always be on time, or I would be like Gordon B Hinckley’s mom who never, ever yelled at her kids.
So even if we recognize that perfection is an illusion, how do we go about creating lasting changes and transformation in our lives without indulging in fantasies that drive us to neurosis? How do we avoid the seduction of the mind?
It seems that the answer is counter-intuitive. Do less. Accept more. Be in this moment. Stop embracing the fantasy and love the one you’re with. Pulling back from future projections of fixing life, fixing ourselves, and trying to improve everything around us has odd side effects. It leaves us feeling spacious, clear, calm, and able to have a sense of humor about the mess we live in. If there are adjustments to be made in our lives, they are made with grace and acceptance, and much less effort than the perfectionist model requires. We have the ability to see through our wanton to-do list. We come to wholeness by not resisting, by not trying to come to wholeness. We learn that it’s safe to become intimate with everything in our lives.
In the book A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield said:
“When we become intimate with all things, we discover rest, well-being, and wholeness in this very body. We recognize that we, and all life around us, are supposed to be here, that we belong here as much as the trees and the sun and the turning earth. There comes a healing, an opening, and a grace. The harmony of all things arises for us like the wisdom of Dan Julian of Norwich, who so beautifully declared, “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” In intimacy we discover a profound sense of belonging and wholeness that allows us to touch all that we encounter.”
Those words mean so much to me – “we belong here as much as the trees and the sun and the turning earth.” It’s you and me – consciousness spilled into these forms we call bodies, experiencing life in the best way we know how. To me, that’s pretty damn near perfect.
Do you feel better when you stop trying to reach for perfectionism? What does your perfect look like? (I shared my fantasy, don’t be shy – share yours!) When was the last time you felt a profound sense of wholeness and intimacy with everything around you?