I don’t generally like to make New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to have a phrase that defines something I’d like to work on for the year. For this year my phrase was “Progress over Perfection” and to support this I wanted to focus on “the next right step” and enjoying things even if I didn’t have perfect mastery of it.
It has been an extremely humbling year. I have had moments when I wanted to completely trash projects I had spent hours on because I failed to achieve the exact vision in my head. I had to slow down and focus on enjoying the process and not the end result. I’ve started many projects and not finished most of them accepting that they are works in progress and for some that my level of skill will have to grow over time with practice.
As I child I was blessed with a very crafty and artistic mother. She made lots of things and she could look at many other artistic things and understand, without a lesson, how to recreate it. She passed this on to me. I don’t know if she taught it to me intentionally or if I just learned many new craft forms from her and with a naturally brave and arrogant disposition I didn’t let obstacles stop me from going after my goal.
Case in point; our dining room table was custom built entirely by me. I had NEVER made a dining room table before! I had never made furniture of any sort before. I took woodshop in middle school for a quarter of a semester - because it was required - and I hadn’t touched a major power tool since. That was over 20 years ago. I simply looked at tables and seemed to have a basic understanding of how they should be put together and away I went. Our table is awesome! First try it turned out exactly like I was envisioning and it was quite amazing.
This has been my expectation of myself my entire life. I would observe something until I was reasonably assured I understood how it worked or was put together and I would tackle a like project with mastery on my first try. This is unrealistic for sure! It has also lead me to not bother trying many things I have wanted to simply because I wasn’t “reasonably assured” of success before I began. And on the few occasions that I did try something I had been sure in and I failed it left me feeling completely miserable.
Case in point; wood-burning is hard! I am artistic and can create in many mediums with confidence - watercolors, acrylic, pencils, crayon, charcoal, etc. Why on Earth would wood-burning be any different? I have no clue why it is different but it is! It is so ridiculously hard. And engraving? Why can’t I manage to do it? Why do I suck so much at these two things? Why does my inability to have mastery affect my enjoyment? It is art after all, just like sketching and drawing that I love so much, so how come I hate these two mediums so much? I hate them because I am not masterful at them.
I had really grand visions for the wood-burning too. I had a great piece of artwork all planned out and I don’t think this particular piece will look near as good in any other medium. I am torn between giving up entirely and taking the time to learn how to do it well. We’ll see, the debate is raging inside me still. Maybe this is a “not for now” skill that I tackle when the kids are older and I have the time to actually dedicate to learning. But do I have the stamina and patience to wait to learn something and then wait some more to attain mastery? I doubt myself significantly here!
Podcasting - Y’all I really hate it. I get so nervous before an interview. I have mild anxiety and a million times I tell myself “Oh maybe I just won’t call this person and maybe they will forget.” It is a war inside just to get myself to hit that dial button and start the interview. If you listen to the podcast you might think it simple and nice (I sure hope you do at least) but let me tell you the war I have win inside myself for EVERY SINGLE episode is REAL and it is FIERCE. Then I make the phone call, get over some awkward and uncomfortable small talk and I relax. Once it is all done I feel accomplished and well pleased until I have to listen to my own voice to edit the audio at which time another wave of anxiety rushes over me.
I am not a great parent. I have no clue what I am doing most days and there are some moments I just have to focus on the next right step. Because I know I have this weakness I have been interrogating friends who I admire for years, trying to glean as much wisdom as I possibly can from them. My particular temperament combined with my enneagram leaves me often feeling alone when I am not, so I am assuming there are other parents out there that feel the same way I do, and it is that alone that drives me to continue recording the podcast. What is the next right step? Continue asking questions, continue learning, and continue to share all this with others. Is the podcast perfect - nope. Am I making progress - yes.
It is humbling to bring forward something that is not perfect. It is humbling to admit that at this moment I do not yet have the skill or experience to attain mastery. Yes, it has been a humbling year indeed! I thought about getting myself a t-shirt for Christmas that says “recovering perfectionist, I have been flawed for my whole life” but then I thought others might not get my sense of humor or understand how much I like to laugh at myself on the inside. It’s laugh or cry folks - and I’d rather laugh even if it’s an awkward and uncomfortable one!
What’s the next right step for 2020? Well, I think I am going to lean on my old favorite vision for the new year “Speak less say more.” Having spent much of this year forcing myself to talk and become okay with talking on the podcast I think I have gone back to my nasty tween habit of speaking too much, but really saying nothing at all. So I am going to work on being a better conversationalist who speaks less but says more - do you all start to get my sense of humor? Another year I am sure I will be humbled as I try to say only what matters, only what builds up, only what will benefit others. I know I will once again have to navigate speaking with wisdom and knowing when to speak hard truths with kindness and grace. And I also know there will be times, out of laziness and an overall resistance to speaking, I will try and lean on this phrase to get out of saying something I ought. That is what I am looking forward to in 2020.