Category Archives: Aging

I’m Leaving the Cult of Perfection

I took a walk alongwabi sabi Buddha the Deschutes River early this morning and thought about perfection. I evidently have a belief that if I’m not perfect something bad will happen. I won’t be loved, or someone will hurt me, or I’ll be laughed at. I know I’m not alone in this belief. Many of us are card-carrying members of the cult of perfection.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about stability as I develop a coaching program for women who are navigating change. Especially for those of us in midlife, the changes we’re experiencing tend to be associated with losses. We yearn for stability and comfort, and feel flawed because they’re elusive.

The cults of perfection and stability are intimately linked. They’re also profoundly misogynistic, rooted in a patriarchal, mechanistic, linear belief system that denigrates women’s bodies and the cyclical nature of life on earth. When we believe that our job as humans is to figure out how to get life right, and then spend all our energy keeping what we’ve built from changing and falling apart, we’re worshiping at the altars of stability and perfection.

While I was walking, I did The Work on this thought. (See Byron Katie’s website for a refresher on the four questions and turnarounds.)

I know that I think this thought is true. I know how much this thought keeps me playing safe and on alert, constantly scoping for what’s wrong. It keeps me small and judgmental of myself and others. Believing that I have to be perfect causes me stress that I feel in my body as anxiety and tension. This thought hurts.

When I drop the belief that I have to be perfect, I feel free and light. I’m generous with my work and my ideas and my creativity. I’m open about how I feel and what I think. I’m generous with other people and accept them as they are. Living is fun.

The obvious turnaround for “I have to be perfect” is “I have to be imperfect.” But “imperfect” is not a loving, positive word. Its English synonyms, according to Roget’s Thesaurus, are “deficient, defective, faulty, unsound, cracked, warped, frail, gimcrack, tottering, decrepit, rickety, battered, worn out, threadbare, seedy, worm-eaten, used up, decayed, mutilated.” See what I mean about the cult of perfection?? There is no English word that expresses “imperfection” positively.

So I looked beyond English to the Japanese, who thankfully do have such a word: “wabi-sabi.” Wabi-sabi is the Japanese conception of beauty as “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” A rickety tea house, a roughly-glazed vase, a gnarly tree in the garden – all wabi-sabi and all beautiful because they are flawed, transient, and unfinished.

“I have to be wabi-sabi.” Yes. That’s most decidedly true. I have to be wabi-sabi because I am flawed, transient, and unfinished. What choice do I have but to be wabi-sabi?  Sure, I could keep trying to be perfect, but I’d rather be a card-carrying member of the wabi-sabi cult. Here’s to us, people of wabi-sabi!

I’m looking for women to test-drive my new program focused on change and loss. If you’re interested, please contact me.

as always, I offer free hour-long conversations to help you achieve peace and clarity, whatever’s going on. Contact me using the form below.

Life is change. Change is life.

Fechange_sign1eling buffeted by change? This post is for you! Read on for some insights and concrete practices that will help you be in change more peacefully.

When my mom was dying over the summer of 1995, my supervisor, an older woman, told me that in the first few decades of our lives, change is usually experienced as positive: birthdays, graduations, beginning a career, establishing families and independent households… These are all exciting, longed-for changes. As we move into midlife, change starts to more often feel like loss: a job loss, a scary diagnosis, deaths of parents and spouses, moving, kids leaving home, aging… These changes, even though sometimes eagerly anticipated, feel painful. And they accumulate. We get tired of feeling like there’s no stability and life’s out of control.

Some “comforting” truths about change:

To be alive is to change. The cycle of death and rebirth is embedded in creation. Look around you! Spring is springing after a long winter.

All change is a loss of some sort, even changes we choose and anticipate. Therefore they hurt, and grief must be felt.

Change follows a predictable pattern. Death of the old must happen before new life can be born.

Acceptance and leaning in is the only way through death to the other side, where new life awaits. Resistance is futile. Addictions, distractions, and denial delay the new life that wants to come, and we can easily get stuck in them.

Our bodies and our souls are our peaceful center. While you and I are alive, we have our bodies. Our connection to the Ground of Being, which is our soul, evidently endures beyond death. Practices that nurture and strengthen our mind’s awareness of our bodies and our soul’s connection to Source help us walk our change journey peacefully.

Some practices to strengthen our body awareness:

  • Work hard. Get sweaty and tired and dirty.
  • Go outside. Feel the sun and wind and rain.
  • Practice yoga or tai chi. Walk or run. Any form of body-aware exercise will do.
  • Find a piece of ground that feels good and go there consistently and frequently.
  • Pay conscious attention to your body, toe to scalp.
  • Eat mindfully.
  • Forego alcohol and other distracting habits, for now.

Some practices to strengthen our soul’s connection to the Ground of Being:

  • Pray honestly. Tell God how you feel and what you want.
  • Engage in ritual, first thing in the morning and throughout the day.
  • Say “thank you” frequently — to yourself, to others, and to the Universe.
  • Meditate. Pay attention to your breath moving in and out.
  • Eliminate distractions. Keep a Sabbath day.

Change is life. Life is change. How do you stay peaceful in the midst of change?

If you’re feeling pushed around by change and loss, I can help. Contact me to schedule a complimentary one-hour clarity conversation. I’d love to talk with you!

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Lily Pad Moments

Frog on lily pad, larry ostbyI am blessed with old friends. We’ve been friends for forty years or more, since elementary and high school in Arizona. We get together every four or five years, and this summer we met in Ashland. We cooled off at the coast, reveled in the redwoods, experienced Shakespeare, grazed at the Rogue Valley Growers’ Market, and contemplated Crater Lake. But mostly we were just together, peacefully and exuberantly reconnecting and basking in our comfortable, deep friendship.

Our lives have included pain and suffering. One of us lost her husband to ALS two years ago. Another’s son died from suicide in 2008. We’ve all grieved parents’ deaths, some way too early. We have ailing brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers. We have had to learn how to “swim in the deep end” these last ten years, especially.

So it’s really important for us to choose to rest occasionally. As one friend put it, “I like to climb up on a lily pad and sit in the sun every now and then.” If we try to swim in the deep water too long, we drown. We require lily pad moments.

My friends and I made two commitments before we dispersed yesterday. We promised that if we all survived our husbands we would live together in the same nursing home. And we agreed to increase our reunion frequency to every two years. We treasure each other, and the water we swim in will continue to be deep. We need our lily pad moments of relaxed basking in the warmth of our love and shared history.

Photo credit: Larry ostby