It is just before 5 a.m. and there is a ghostly bird whistling somewhere outside in the dark. I am not able to identify a bird by its call. Some, like the chickadee, are obvious. I got to know the sound of a baby coot because there was one living on the nearby lake and it peeped incessantly. The bird I’m hearing now could be a wood pigeon or an owl. Its sound is almost a cry, somewhere between a hoot and a coo. A hoo.

I was awake at three, possibly because of jet lag, having arrived back in the UK after 3 weeks in Canada. But it’s been a few days now so it is more likely the mind unable to fall back to sleep after being woken to go and relieve the bladder. I was dreaming of giant crocodiles and Steve Irwin, bless his Crocodile Hunter heart.

The mind is also being kept awake by its desire to ruminate further on a major life decision. The decision has been made but how it loves to go over and over the details! I employed all meditation techniques to no avail. Finally I got up to write.

Making decisions at the best of times let alone major life ones is never easy for the recovering perfectionist. I once stood in the linen section of a giant store trying to decide which sheets to buy. I was probably there for an hour before I left empty-handed. If I struggle to decide whether the cotton-striped or the plain flannel are right for me you can imagine what happens when I have something really important to discern. Total mental chaos leading to eventual paralysis.

I have gotten better. There is hope. Change is possible. And yet I still seem to have to go through a certain amount of turmoil before I actually decide what to do. Sticking with the decision is also difficult. Depending on the level of impact on others I can experience all kinds of guilt and shame and remorse. Ridiculous but true.

So I’ve made a major life decision. I’ve decided to move back to Canada after 19 months abroad, leaving the community I’ve been living in and the job I’ve been working at. It is the right thing to do and yet the fear comes at me in myriad ways threatening to pull me back and keep me down. I need every resource at my disposal to remain steadfast in the peace that came with the final decision. Because believing the doubt does not bring peace. It just sets me back in indecision. And indecision is really just another form of control.

Control is the perfectionist’s drug of choice. Getting off it is a lifetime journey of letting go practiced one decision at a time. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on your view, Life itself is the rehab centre. We’re given countless opportunities each day to release the fear and trust in the Unknown. Like the bird singing in the dark trusting day will come.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Despite my fear of making a mistake I will stick to my decision. I will surrender perfectionism and let go of trying to get it right. I will practice trusting the Unknown.

Humble Pie

“O Lord, it’s hard to be humble/When you’re perfect in every way…”

This old country song by Mac Davis has been running through my head lately as I have recently experienced a newfound humility borne out of an old way way of behaving.

The word “humility” is often confused with the word “humiliation” and yet they are not the same. When I am humiliated I feel bad or ashamed about myself. When I am truly humble I am teachable, right-sized and grateful.

When I am trying to be perfect “in every way” I am hardly in a teachable frame of mind. What can I learn when I already know everything? I am not the right size for my skin because I am ten-feet tall and bullet proof. And how can I be thankful when I am judging everybody else for not being as perfect as I am?

I often say I am a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionism is its own form of addiction. I am consumed by the need to be right and I will go to any lengths to sustain the illusion that I have the power to control others and outcomes. Like many addictions perfectionism is coming from a deeply wounded place. I’m not a perfectionist because I’m an exceptional person I’m a perfectionist because I am a broken person.

Last week, after trying to win my way through a discussion and coming up against brick wall after brick wall I was finally confronted with my own self-righteousness. It was not a pleasant feeling. The worst part about it was that I thought I was being very spiritual the whole time I was engaged in the battle! That sounds frighteningly similar to the terrorist who attacks others in the name of God. (I’m being hard on myself. And yet if we are not examining our inner assassins we are hardly in a position to condemn the “real” ones. I feel another post coming on…)

After it became clear that I had been acting like a hypocrite I had no other recourse but to admit I was wrong and make amends. The response from the other side was silence. No more fighting. The interior response was peace. I am dumbstruck by the complete paradox of this simple formula: We diffuse the bomb through surrender. (Would this work as a tactic at the political level? Declaring peace? There’s that other post again…)

As the shame from my humiliation gradually transformed into humility I began to see a wider view. I remembered that my self-centered behaviour is not actually who I am. It is merely the action that comes forth from my woundedness. I reconnected to the unbroken, untouched Sacred Centre that is the True Core of Who I Am and what do you think emerged? Gratitude.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Accepting my imperfection is an ongoing process. I will give thanks for my humanness, which allows my Whole Self to continually emerge.

Reach for the Top and Stop

Dearest Readers,

We inherit our parents’ behaviours. This is not news to anyone. They pass on to us all that they are and all that they know: the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

Both of my parents are perfectionists. It’s no surprise that both of their parents are/were, too. I have struggled most of my life with the effects of this debilitating dis-ease and have done big time work on myself to overcome the suffering perfectionism can cause. As many of you know, I often refer to myself a “recovering perfectionist.”

It’s easy for me to forget that just as there are two sides to every story so there is an asset to accompany every defect. I was reminded of this last night by my dear old dad.

For the last couple of weeks I have been staying in Montreal with my parents in a house they are looking after for some friends of theirs. Tomorrow we are all leaving. My mother has been gearing up to do a “major job” on the house before we go.

This has been the story of our lives. It’s the clean-your-room-the-cleaning-lady-is-coming syndrome. We leave houses in a better state than they were in when we arrived. If we break a glass it gets replaced with a set of six and some placemats on the side. In other words, we have been taught to go above and beyond, over the top, round the loopin’ bend of the call of duty.

Though I am getting better at keeping my mouth shut in family situations I didn’t manage to do so successfully on this issue. There is a woman coming here to clean the house after we leave and still my mother was talking about this “major job” we had to do to get the house ready.

So I turned my frustration into a little song while we were doing the dishes: “Above and beyond the call of duty/That’s why we’re so f’d up/Forcing us to go/Above and beyond/The call of duty…”

My dad cracked up laughing (thank goodness a sense of humour has also been a cherished family trait) but then he said, “You wouldn’t have gotten where you are in life without going above and beyond the call of duty.”

He was right. I couldn’t rebut. My personal drive can also be attributed to this powerful instinct to please others, to succeed, to do more and be more. If the defect of perfectionism is to go over the top then the asset surely must be  to strive for one’s personal best.

So I have to hand it to my parents. They gave me a lot of issues from which I am currently recovering but they gave me a lot to be grateful for as well. I owe them more than a critical song-and-dance number. I owe them my deepest thanks.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go and re-tile the guest bathroom.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Every negative attribute I have inherited from the generations before me has a positive side as well. I will recognize the asset in the defect and see if I can find the middle ground.

Day Four

Dearest Readers,

One of the greatest things I’ve heard said about being on the Healing Path and leaving our Old BS (belief systems) behind is that “we don’t go back to them as often, we don’t stay in them as long and we get out of them sooner.”

Learning this was a huge help for me, the recovering perfectionist, because it meant I didn’t ever have to graduate to being fixed. It meant that I would get better (and I have) but I could still screw up.

I got lost yesterday. One would think that with an iPhone (complete with a Google Map App) and a built in compass in the vehicle that losing one’s way would not be possible but oh, yes. It is and it was.

Somehow I passed the road I was supposed to take and after narrowly missing the on-ramp to the highway I pulled off and began driving in the (sort-of) right direction. I found a place to pull over and got out the iPhone to find my way once again.

No service.

Whaaat? Am I suddenly in Siberia? Does this one particular section of Ottawa not have a cell phone tower? No answer would satisfy. No shirt, no service, kid.

A gas station up ahead! I could go there and ask for help. At least I’ve learned that much.

There, a very helpful guy told me where I needed to go. He was having trouble talking because he’d been up since four a.m. (it was now 1:30 p.m.) but he was a real cutie and totally willing to help me. I almost asked him for his number. Kidding. Sort of.

So I followed his directions (I had actually listened to them — I’ve asked for directions before and then not listened — good mule that I am) and eventually found myself on the street that he mentioned. Uh-oh. New problem: even though I’d listened I still wasn’t completely clear about where to go next.

This is where the old behaviour came back. I actually started to whine. Whimper, too. Oh, and bang my hands against the steering wheel while swearing profusely. I was now late for the meeting I’d set up. Things were not going my way. Solution? Act like a two-year old.

I’m glad to say that within that childish moaning was embedded a prayer. Okay, more like begging but “help me” was thrown in amongst the curses. Then I remembered something: Trust. Everything is happening as it should. It’s all okay.

A woman appeared pushing a stroller. I rolled down the window and stopped the vehicle. I did not introduce my two-year old to hers. I was calm, collected, and kind. A better actress you’ve never seen. But it was right to be polite. And she was sweet as honey, giving me the final directions to the place I was going not 4 minutes away.

Seven minutes late. Totally no big deal. Fantastic meeting. Why the sh#% fit? Pride. What would the man I was meeting think of me? Yes, that little worry is enough for a big ego to take the wheel, literally.

So it all worked out, of course. I didn’t need to lose my sh%#. But I did and so be it. Not perfect yet. But I haven’t been two in a while. I didn’t stay two for long. And I managed to turn 38 again PDQ.

Inspiring Message of the Day: No service? On the contrary. The Human Being is the ultimate Map App.