Would you believe, in this last year, I have re-written “How I Face Failure Fear and Deal with Perfectionism” over 200 times due to my perfectionism and fear of failure?
On New Year’s Day 2019, I set a goal to release this post on New Year’s Day 2020.
Oh My Heavenly Days……
I am not happy with the title. Actually, I like the title, but google hates it.
So, I’ve changed the title three hundred and sixty eight times. Google still hates it.
My fear is that you will probably hate it too…..
Then there’s David. I love him because he is always willing to point out the obvious.
“Well, honey……there’s always next year.”
Hello, my name is Jennifer and I am a perfectionist.
My Take on Resolutions
Those resolution things we make at the beginning of every new year are intended to be good things. They are designed to help us improve and grow into a better version of ourselves.
However, yearly resolutions don’t work for me.
I don’t like the word failure. I have a tendency to attach the word to my self worth.
When I fail to keep my resolutions, or I miss a goal, it’s like I fail to keep my word. Sometimes, I take it even further.
“Way to go, LOSER!”
Because of my personal experiences, sometimes I easily recognize my all or nothing thinking patterns. Sometimes, it is hard for me to figure out I am on the train to the city of “not good enough”.
Even when I do see I am on the wrong train, I can’t figure out how to get off………..as you will see later.
How It All Started
About 9 years ago, when I was searching for some information about Winston Churchill, I happened upon a book that caught my attention.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben really impressed me.
Gretchen’s background also fascinates me.
She is a lawyer who clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor. She then took a 180 degree turn to become a writer.
And, she is EXCELLENT.
This book is about her experience in finding out what happiness means to her over her year long project. Her outlook helped me see it is okay for me to approach my own happiness in my own way.
There is no “one size fits all” formula.
Everyone is unique in finding what makes them happy. Obviously making some big changes will increase my happiness. But, small changes work too.
I like the small part……ALOT.
Her book impacted me so much that I even have HAPPINESS tattooed on the back of my neck. The photo above is me way back in the day.
I was trying out my angel wings and showing off my new tattoo.
Looking back, I am not quite sure why I thought this was the best place for my tattoo.
I can’t see it. Maybe that it is the point?
I’m sure there is a method to my madness………
Her New York Times Best Seller includes her 12 personal commandments. It also includes her divine Secrets of Adulthood and two special truths she discovered during her year long Happiness Project.
Gretchen invites her readers to figure out their own personal commandments. Some readers shared theirs, and I laughed at some of the different view points.
I can also relate.
Anyway, Gretchen has a fabulous writing style, a hilarious sense of humor, and anyone can apply her astute observations to their own lives.
Growth in My Life
Gretchen also wrote the book 40 Ways to Look at Winston Churchill:A Brief Account of a Long Life, another favorite of mine.
But, The Happiness Project is one of my favorite books.
That one has earned a special place on the bookshelf in my closet.
Let me tell you, if a book makes it to a coveted, highly prized piece of real estate in there, it’s earned its stripes.
The Happiness Project has helped me improve my awareness of my perfectionism tendencies and deal more constructively with my perceived failures.
Although, it may take me awhile (years…), I can see I am on the wrong train.
Eventually I will get off, and then I ask for a refund.
Being able to face these “failures” has given me the opportunity to go through some extremely uncomfortable, but much needed, growth this past year.
A Few Details about Me
The perfectionist in me would like to pretend to the outside world that I have conquered all of my “weaknesses”. These days, I am an extremely enlightened individual.
That statement is a big fat Pinocchio.
My perfectionism tendencies and fear of failure will always be issues I struggle with.
You’ve heard it before – with age comes knowledge.
Or as you get older, you keep doing the same things, the same way, over and over and expect a different outcome.
Sometimes I fall in the first category.
But, when I find myself in situations I can’t completely control or I am stuck in the past, I usually end up in the second category.
Now that I am older, it’s easier for me to admit I have just done 10 rounds in the boxing arena of “expected” outcomes, and nothing “expected” came out of it.
It is not easy for me to admit that Felicia has just encouraged me to get back in the arena because I might have missed something.
Who the hell is Felicia? You will meet her rude self later.
The Participation Trophy
Depending on how out of control the situation gets, I may have a hard time letting myself off the hook. Even in situations that are far beyond my control, there have been times I have refused to give myself a break, allow myself room for modification, or even raise my hand to ask for help.
So, I came up with the participation trophy. This means, in attempting to become a better version of myself, I get a trophy, regardless of the outcome.
I get one for getting in the arena in the first place.
However, due to my competitive nature, I believe participation trophies are for losers. And they are, most of the time.
But, I have learned THE HARD WAY to find ways to be nicer to myself if I want to stay out of a padded cell.
So, in this instance, when my self worth is on the line, participation trophies are winners to me.
Feeling Good, Feeling Bad, and Feeling Right
Gretchen believes to feel happy, one should think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.
So, instead of a list of resolutions, I keep a list of things that make me feel good and a list of things that make me feel bad about myself.
I call mine the More or Less List.
My overall goal, aka “resolution”, in making my list is to be aware of my perfectionism tendencies and to give myself a break (feel right) for being human.
My More or Less List
The week after Christmas and before New Years is weird.
The concept of time seems to disappear into thin air. I find myself in a fog.
“Exactly what I am supposed to be doing?”
Now, I have learned to just go with this feeling. I take advantage of my inability to grasp what day it is to think about my goals and plans for the New Year.
During this fog, I think about what it is that I could practice (NOT execute perfectly) to become a better version of myself.
And, by becoming a better version of myself, I literally mean be KINDER TO MYSELF so that I can do the things I love to do – aka BE JENNIFER.
When I am doing the things I love to do because I love to do them (not because I need to or should), then I know I am functioning from a place of happiness.
As you can see, this list is nothing fancy, but it does the trick.
I print it out in January (or whenever) and then put it where I can see it every single day.
And, now everyone else can see it too….which makes me want to vomit.
There was a time I left the list in my computer/phone. That way, nobody could see it….including me.
But, I discovered that I do better if I see the list everyday.
If the list is stuck inside my technology, I can avoid it like the plague.
How This Works
Now, I print out two copies. I put one for where I start my day, and I put one where I spend most of my day.
These two places are most often my closet and my office.
In the interest of complete transparency, sometimes I spend more time in my closet than I do in my office.
Let me overshare some personal things from this list I struggled with this past year.
Maybe you can relate to my highly perfectionistic ways.
Or maybe being around a perfectionist gives you the hives. I completely get it.
Some of these are easy for me to write about. I can easily laugh at myself, or roll my eyes, depending on my mood.
A few topics are not so funny.
Regardless, I will “fearlessly” over-expose my underbelly for your enjoyment and/or horror.
I Am A Remedial Listener
David found me in the kitchen making 10,000 lists during the Christmas holidays. He told me something to the effect “It’s going to get really cold tonight honey. Do you need me to check on your greenhouse?”
“Do you want me to make sure the door is closed in the chicken coop?”
I looked at him intently as if to communicate “I am listening to every single fabulous word you are saying. All the while, I am in my head making a list of all the different items I will need to decorate for Christmas NEXT year.
I am also going through the steps to make my world famous black eyed pea dip for New Years Eve. This is just one small way that I use my rock star multi-tasking talent.
I Am Not Telepathic
Of course, I heard ZILCH.
Because he loves me more than anything in the world, he stood around another 5 minutes waiting for me to snap out of LaLa Land.
He asked “Did you hear anything I just said to you?”
I chose to be offended because how dare he accuse me of not listening.
I also tried to fake my way through the conversation by guessing INCORRECTLY as to what I thought he might have said. As you can imagine, David was not impressed with my telepathy.
Nothing says you don’t matter more than ignoring the man who is trying to help you.
Multi-Tasking Is Not My Gift
The opposite of multi-tasking is focusing on one thing at a time so that I am not distracted by other things going on in my head or around me.
Well……I have a tendency to see just how many things I can do poorly all at one time.
Back in the day, I believed multi-tasking was complete magic.
Now I realize that multi-tasking is complete crap.
This fabulous ability of mine to multi-task is why I have ended up in the men’s room instead of the women’s more times than I can count.
And Another Example….
It is also why I have parked my car in the middle of the road because I needed to answer a text message IMMEDIATELY. I only look up because I hear what seems to be heavy breathing outside my window.
I end up staring at the rear end of the most breathtaking herd of Dybowski Sika running past me on their way to who knows where. These are some of the most stunning creatures I have ever seen on the ranch.
It is a lovely treat to get a glimpse of them thundering by me.
Sometimes, if I am lucky, they will stop long enough for me to get a good look. When they do decide to leave my presence, I get a fantastic view of their very unexpected, fluffy white butts.
God obviously has a sense of humor.
I Even Multi-task on the Tennis Court
Or maybe, I go play tennis and I pick up my phone when we change sides or take a water break.
I start reading/responding to FB comments, Instagram posts, text messages, voicemails – you name it.
This makes me makes me feel more in control.
I falsely believe that I am knocking several things off my to do list for the day all at the same time.
I take it a step further and think that if I multi-task well then I will have executed all my to do’s perfectly for the day.
Before I know it, 15 minutes later, my partner is sick of trying to burn me into the ground with her evil stare.
She is now in her car driving far away.
Okay, I am exaggerating. She has not driven away…..YET.
This is just another example of why multitasking does not work.
Let’s Re-visit Why I End Up in The Men’s Room
Attempting to constantly multi-task greatly hinders my productivity and sabotages the joy I find in the things I love to do and in being with the people I love.
Not to mention, it also gives 5 grown men standing in the restroom a big fat laugh at my expense.
For the record, I blindly walked by all 5 of them.
I only realized I was in the wrong restroom 1 full minute later when I happened to notice a rather large shoe peeking out from the stall next to me.
Regardless, this does not mean that I am a loser for finding myself in the midst of a multi-tasking tsunami. It means taking a moment to recognize that I am not even close to being in the moment.
This allows me an opportunity to re-group before I leave the restroom with my head held high.
I accept my appreciative standing ovation from all 6 men, including the one who has now left the stall to wish me well.
The Participation Trophy
I could give you countless other examples of how I tend to not be present with David, my kids, my friends, my partner on the tennis court, most people I come in contact with, but I won’t because, well, it’s sad.
So, I put more “listening” and less “multi-tasking” on my More or Less list so I can do better with my tendency to miss the good stuff, ignore the people I love most, as well as catch myself at the WRONG restroom door before I barrel right on in.
BUT, those goals are not on the list so I can beat myself up as in “I am a failure because I just realized David is talking to no one”.
Or, “I am a LOSER because I just lost a match wondering why there are no buds on my daffodils this year”.
My goal is to zone out less than in the past and if I do, catch myself not being present before anyone else does.
Lastly, I get to accept my participation trophy which is super sweet this go round because I caught myself before I attempted to play “Words With Cookies” while I run hills on the treadmill.
“Pause and Choose”
I use lots of potty mouth language.
This is one of those resolutions that I tank immediately within the first 6 hours of the New Year. I have a tendency to say a lot of inappropriate words…… like ****show and WTF.
Sometimes, I just find it easier to fill the uncomfortable silence with some well thought out profanity, rather than just hang tight and pause.
This is not an attractive character trait, and it is a bad habit.
Sometimes, I have a tendency to state “Oh My God” when I am in disbelief. When I was growing up, this drove my dad crazy and he washed my mouth out with soap more times than I care to count.
What’s funny is I worked hard on not saying this, but I ended up catching myself at “Oh My Ga……..”
That still didn’t work for him and off to the bathroom we went.
As a mature adult, most of the time, I have gotten really good at omitting this statement from my vocabulary.
Unfortunately, now, I have tendency to use the super patriotic phrase “God Bless America” when something astounds me or when I double fault game point away to my opponent….not cool either.
My Role Model
I am on a mission to give an appreciative nod to my very well mannered and gracious Aunt Gloria.
I have never EVER heard her say a dirty word.
She also has the most fabulous Southern drawl you will ever hear in your life. Her voice never fails to make me smile.
I have been attempting to pause so that I can replace my patriotism with the phrase “Oh My Heavenly Days”using her beautiful Southern drawl any time something catches me off guard or surprises me.
I have also found that things go so much better for me on the tennis court when I scream out “Oh My Heavenly Days” instead of a big ole WTF.
My opponents become so confused trying to figure out what I just said, I saunter off with the win. Works like a charm every single time……
Jennifer’s Magical Thinking
Another item on my More or Less List for 2020 is heavy duty.
You can stop reading here. Trust me……
It involves reigning in my “Magical” Thinking.
I have this need to go on crusades to help others I see hurting.
Sometimes I get so caught up in my need to do the right thing, I forget to pause and ask for help.
Instead, I just freak out.
Did you notice how I chose to use “reigning in” versus “not doing it at all”? I know I am going to do it. It’s my nature. It’s a part of who I am that I will never be able to change.
Even if I could change that part of my personality, I would never want to ignore someone who needs help.
I just want to realize I am about to take on Goliath before I end up in the middle of the battlefield arguing with Felicia.
See? I’ve already grown so much just acknowledging this part. I get the trophy.
In all seriousness, pausing before I dive in head first gives me the opportunity to recognize Felicia and I are about to buy a whole bunch of black binders.
I tend to get so caught up in the circus and flying monkeys that I completely forget take care of myself.
Then Felicia, my inner critic, makes an appearance.
Yes, I named her….. do not judge me.
She has this bad habit of demanding that I stop being so selfish and pull out my magic wand.
Unfortunately, no matter how much I wish I owned one, I do not have a magic wand.
So, it’s a fact that Felicia is a big, fat, argumentative liar.
But, sometimes I believe every word she says.
Felicia also likes to RSVP yes on my behalf to parties I really have no interest in attending.
I call these “What-If” Parties.
And, these fiestas from hell are all based on tragic events that happened in my past.
My Name is Jennifer and I am Co-Dependent
I have to fight the desire to take on other people’s problems as my own screw ups.
This tendency to jump in to a situation and point out what is an obvious injustice is something I have done all my life.
Most of the time I would like to tell you I have gotten pretty good at finding a nice balance.
But, there is always a BUT.
Sometimes I think I am doing so fabulously navigating my own life that I have time to take on ALL the corrupt and sociopathic Goliaths of the world.
Let’s just be honest, I am married to David, so God is going to make sure it all goes my way……
I have a huge amount of compassion and empathy. I can not stand to see the people I love be treated unfairly, get hurt, or suffer.
This also goes for people I don’t even know. I can’t stand to see them suffer either.
Yes, I am that weirdo that cries watching commercials and re-writes endings to movies that don’t go well.
On a side note, I re-wrote the ending to “A Star Is Born”.
Ally saves Jack from the unthinkable, Bobby beats the **** out of Rafi, Ally fires Rafi, and Ally and Jack live happily ever after.
You are welcome.
Now, it is really Oscar worthy.
Somebody Has Got To Do Something
Recently, for over 2 years to be exact, I had plenty of time to use my magical thinking abilities and wave that pretty little wand around.
I saw a situation in real life that was so horribly grotesque and unfair I was motivated to get involved.
When someone or something tugs at my heart strings, I will not walk away.
I don’t care how big Goliath is.
SOMEBODY HAS GOT TO DO SOMETHING.
And, that person somehow became me.
That is all fine and good, but then it snowballed.
And, there is Felicia.
Felicia loves it when I get motivated. She knows that when I find myself in highly stressful situations, I will rely on her.
Felicia likes to rant.
She likes to remind me constantly that “I must do the right thing, right this minute” – even if I don’t know what the right thing is.
She also likes to point out that if I don’t figure it out RIGHT NOW, then I am the most selfish person on the planet.
How I Thought I Conquered Those Feelings of Failure
Ten years ago, I went through some pretty crappy times.
My brother died.
I failed at marriage AGAIN…..
I struggled hard.
But, eventually, I finally slung open the door to my little self-made dungeon.
I then chose to get my life back on track. During that time I worked really hard on taking responsibility for what I could control and left most of the bull**** at the front door.
I focused on my own happiness projects.
I re-started my business from the ground up for the third time. And, although it was not easy and I was not the perfect mom, I raised three children on my own.
Then, I unexpectedly met and married the man of my dreams.
None of these things happened because I was operating from a place of failure, inadequacy, or unworthiness.
The Hard Yards
I also told Felicia to take an extended hike.
While my inner critic was on hiatus and unable to help me find my magic wand, I did some heavy duty self-refection and a whole lot of hard work on myself.
I worked on things I knew I could change and things I knew I could control.
People wanted to deliberately torch something? Go right ahead. I let go of the need to fix sh** for stupid people.
Somebody else’s bad choices were no longer my responsibility.
My goals no longer involved shoving somebody else’s square peg into a round hole.
I focused on my own peg that, surprisingly, worked just fine…..because I was paying attention to MY PEG.
I became so much nicer to myself and things fell into place. Even with the stress of raising three kids and working long hours, I began to see my life as MINE.
No matter how tough, no matter how stressful, no matter how un-perfect my life was at any given moment, I felt blessed, happy, productive, and optimistic.
With Felicia on what I thought was a permanent vacation, I was more than capable of having the life I WANTED, not the one Felicia thought I “should” be living.
Most importantly, I believed in myself…… like, really believed in myself.
The NEW Circus and The NEW Monkeys
Because I was finally navigating the world on my terms, I felt like I would never lose focus of my own “Happiness” projects.
No matter what happened in the future, I would always easily be able to handle any circus and any monkey sent my way.
After all, I had done the hard work to grow into the person I wanted to be.
Now, I had ALL the tools, including my tattoo, and nothing could go wrong.
There’s always another unique circus and another dysfunctional set of monkeys just waiting around the corner.
Well, guess what happened next?
Felicia, all relaxed and beautifully tan, came back from vacation.
She showed me where I could find my magic wand.
Don’t Do It…..
I ran head first into this whole new “Greatest Show On Earth”.
I am absolutely positive, somebody, somewhere (my father) was screaming.
“Houston, we have a runner.”
“STOP HER, STOP HER NOW.”
I told myself I was okay – I had my trusty magic wand.
But, I had never seen anything, ANYTHING like this in my entire life.
And, let me tell you, I thought I had seen and heard it all.
I kept telling myself I could handle this situation. After all, this is why I had done all the hard work on myself.
Now was the time to put my focus on helping others. This was NOT the time to take care of me and my peg.
That would be totally selfish.
Duh, Duh, DUH
I literally had no idea that everything I was about to do would drain every ounce of energy from my soul.
What I was about to do would suck every drop of happiness and leach every single bit of optimism out of me.
Felicia was right by my side to help me see that obviously I could fix this situation. She pointed out that if I was not the person to make things right then I wouldn’t be in the situation to begin with.
I am rolling my eyes…….they may stick to the back of my head.
I mean DUH.
The Data Diva
In preparation for taking a ride on the “I did what I did because of you” bus to set someone else’s record straight, I meticulously combed through mountains and mountains and mountains of data.
I then prepared perfect charts, diagrams, and volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of case studies and evidence in all 10 of my black binders to show who was actually responsible.
Analyzing data is my gift.
If you want me to separate fact from fiction, you better believe I can do it – no matter how many hurdles I have to jump.
I dotted every single “i” and I crossed every single “t”. Then I went back and checked my work three more times.
Not only had I done my homework, I had done everybody else’s too.
My research served as proof that it was now time for the “powers that be” to step in and fix this disgusting and dysfunctional three ring circus.
I knew EXACTLY what was going on.
And, “the powers that be” were going to fix this mess one way or another.
It was the right thing to do.
W T F…..
It turns out, the facts did not matter.
To be frank, nobody gave a rip about the truth.
It turns out “the powers that be” were not only incompetent, they were corrupt.
They had no desire to fix the mess.
Mammoth ****show is an understatement.
Are you KIDDING me? I will never be able to logically make sense of what happened.
Now, it was Felicia’s turn. She pointed out who was really to blame.
I graciously allowed Felicia to tell me “you suck” all day every day on a regular basis.
She also pointed out that I should feel guilty for not knowing what I could never know.
Obviously, the only reason I didn’t know was because I didn’t use my magic wand correctly and perfectly.
I needed to be accountable. She helped me believe that all this conflict, corruption, and dysfunction were happening because I “wasn’t good enough” to stop it.
“If only you had handled everything perfectly, “this” or “that” would never have happened.”
“Everyone was depending on you.”
“Most of all, you let that little girl down.”
Not Living My Best Life
I fell right back into that familiar pattern of believing I sucked at everything because I could not wave my magic wand and make someone else’s heinous, horrible situation better.
I struggled with the fact that the truth didn’t matter. Of course, the truth should matter.
I went right back to trying to shove someone else’s square peg into a round hole.
It didn’t work. That spiraled into I didn’t deserve any of the blessings in my own life.
I lost the joy I felt in everything I love to do.
In fact, I did very little that I actually enjoyed. If I did enjoy something, I felt guilty because I should have been back at the drawing board.
I should have been trying to solve the cruel problems other people I had come to love were going through.
Obviously, I was no longer living my best life.
An indication that I was on thin ice came when I hopped in my car for a 10 minute drive up the road to pummel some tennis balls into the net.
Actually, I was so angry, I had big plans to take all three of my racquets and slam them repeatedly into the fence until they shattered into a million pieces.
Ultimately, I never made it to the tennis courts.
Instead, I found myself two hours away in a Walmart parking lot sobbing.
All I could do was replay the whole disaster over and over in my head and think to myself “This should never have happened.”
“You must have missed something. You messed this up.”
I had become so consumed with details of someone else’s horribly heinous problems I didn’t even know where I was.
I was not prepared to deal with the outcome I never saw coming.
As a result, at the end of that two year span, I no longer lived my life on my terms.
My life had become completely chaotic and disorganized…..AGAIN.
In my efforts to save someone else, I had lost myself.
I could not make a decision about one single thing I wanted for me or my family.
I could not make a simple decision about anything.
Things like what to cook for dinner or what shoes to wear overwhelmed me.
The girl who thought she had finally figured everything out, had no idea what to do with herself.
Am I Insane?
At one time, my office had been completely organized and functional. Now it had become a war zone of charts, graphs, and countless black binders of meticulous research on someone else’s problems that I could not make any better.
I did not know how or where to begin to put my office back together. So, I left it all spread out everywhere for months and months and months.
Every time I walked into my office, I saw how I had failed.
An astute observer might say that the state of my office represented my life.
They would be correct.
Apparently, I had forgotten what Ghandi said so perfectly.
“I will not allow someone to walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
That someone’s dirty feet were mine.
It then occurred to me that I had truly lost my mind.
The Drawing Board…..
Obviously, it was time for me to go back to the drawing board for my own sanity.
I needed to start taking care of myself again and nurture my self worth. This meant that I have had to take a very long, extended pause.
I am still in the middle of that PAUSE.
It has not been a pretty pause.
While I have been here, I realized I lost my own sense of purpose. I made someone else’s horrible situations my own personal pet “happiness” projects.
That does not work.
But, the worse part is that I did it at the expense of my self worth. In my highly perfectionist, co-dependent way, I allowed someone else’s’ vile situation to become my own mis-guided failure.
Logically, I know I can not change anybody but myself.
I know I can not “fix” anyone.
But, my research could have changed that little girl’s life.
I have prayed my heart out over this nightmare. My prayers have never stopped.
Things should be so different.
Things are not different.
God has reminded me over and over that I have to find a way to stop blaming myself. It is not up to me. He has said MANY times…
“Jennifer, you do not own a magic wand”.
God has also pointed out that the world does not operate in terms of black and white, right versus wrong, truth versus fiction.
For reasons I will never understand, things didn’t work out……right now……on my time table…..just because I want it to be different….just because of my black binders.
Although it is not easy, I can now begrudgingly admit that I did everything I could possibly do.
I left no rock unturned.
It is time to let it go.
But, I do not want to let it go.
Not too long ago, I was arguing with Felicia over the “why”. She pointed out that I didn’t pull out my magic wand fast enough.
“Oh shut your pie hole, Felicia.”
For once in her life, she did.
I finally heard His words.
“You have obviously forgotten…..I don’t need a magic wand. I can move mountains.”
Jennifer, the “What-IFer”
This next item makes my stomach hurt.
It is my magical ability to participate in overly anxious thinking about my family.
I would really rather not address it, but since I am all about authenticity (throwing myself under a bus), let me get it over with.
I have experienced some excruciatingly painful losses in my life.
This is not extraordinary.
It makes me no different from 99.9999999% of human beings who have also faced loss in their lives.
Both my father and my brother were unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal cancer when they were very young.
Unexpected is an understatement.
My brother was 34 years old and my father was 55. Ironically, their diagnoses happened within weeks of each other…..10 years apart.
They both subsequently lost their battle with cancer. They died within a month of each other……ten years apart.
I have this need to believe that everything happens for a reason.
This is an astute concept I like to misuse for my own personal suffering.
Therefore, some years more than others, when I am looking for a pattern and have just purchased a new and shiny black binder, I feel the dread sneak up on me, grab me in the pit of my stomach, and paralyze me with fear.
Worst Case Scenario of My Life
It starts innocently enough. It always begins with the fabulous memories I have of both my brother and my father.
That is fine, it’s actually awesome.
But, then those memories start to take a turn towards self torture. Are my children are next?
Am I next?
It’s going to be David….
And, then I throw myself into the worst screenplay Felicia has ever written.
I call it Felicia’s Worst Case Scenario of My Life.
This screenplay encompasses every single horrendous detail you could ever possibly imagine. Believe me, Felicia can get incredibly detailed and likes things horrendously gory.
She’s also fascinated with an N-G tube.
This screenplay includes such topics as how I won’t be able to go on. My family won’t be able to go on.
The future will be so morbid.
The ever popular, why me?
Blah blah blah.
The reality is that sitting in this misery wondering if my life is going to play out as a classic tragedy is absolutely zero help to me or to anyone.
It is also extremely self-destructive and a tad histrionic.
The “What-If Party and the Death Dungeon
It is okay for me to worry about my health, my children’s health, and David’s health.
I am allowed to be hyper-hyper-vigilant about our yearly checkups and about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, the massive hysteria, panic, and attending the “What If” fiesta is a complete waste of my precious time and energy.
This is why I have a pretty “L” and the number “3” on the inside of my right wrist.
No, the “L” does not stand for loser.
The “L” is there to help me remember to Let Go, Let God, Let it Be. The “3” represents my love for my three kiddos. AND, I don’t have to be perfect because God already is.
Although I can not do this perfectly, I am better at recognizing I am on my way to visit the death dungeon to taunt that dragon of fear.
If I see that I am highly over-anxious, I ask myself if we are up to date on our yearly checkups. Then I give myself a kind reality check that the rest is out of my hands.
Instead of being deep inside the dungeon, I notice I am only at the front door. Now, more times than not, I give it the finger, and walk away.
Not today Satan.
A Real Life Example of the Dungeon Door
At the end of January this past year, we were approaching the 10 year anniversary of losing my brother and the 20 year anniversary of losing Daddy.
Here was the opportunity for me to see how much I had grown as a person with my magical thinking regarding my family’s health.
One of my children found a mass in his chest.
I absolutely despise that word – MASS.
My son, Price, is named after both my father and my brother, Alton. Incidentally, Price shares his birthday with my precious brother.
So, for me, that upped the anti right there.
Here was the big, fat opportunity for me to go far, far into the dungeon trying to connect the dots and look for the pattern………
It took everything I had not to show up at the “what if” party. It took every ounce of my being not to listen to Felicia.
“Oh, ****, not again, and why, why, WHY?”
But, I did it. I forced myself to stay present and focus on Price. Being there for him meant staying outside the dungeon door.
Trust me, I went into a hard fought battle with Felicia to keep from making an appearance at her favorite happy hour.
But, I promised myself that I was not going there right then. Eventually, I could choose whether I was going to knock on the dungeon door and hang out with Satan.
Until then……I chose to wait and see.
The Three Prices and the Participation Trophy
The good news is that although it took some time, a big pause that was out of everyone’s hands, that mass turned out to be nothing.
Price handled the process of waiting with so much calm and grace. Not once, did he panic in spite of the loss he has seen in his lifetime.
Normally, I would never, EVER show you a picture of Daddy so sick.
I want to remember the good stuff, not that vile disease that mercilessly took him.
But, I snapped this photo two weeks before we lost him, and is an exception to my rule.
This photo is the only one I have of just the three of them together.
Although you can’t see Daddy’s entire face, you can see the happiness on both of their faces while Alton holds his nephew.
This photo is truly “priceless” and I have no doubt those two guardian angels worked non-stop 24 hours a day to protect their namesake.
Having to wait (PAUSE) and then ultimately have Price be okay is by far, my most hard earned participation trophy.
Now he’s back to focusing on college life. He is not only an honor student with a bright future ahead, he’s healthy as a horse.
THANK YOU GOD!
I have a whole list of things I enjoy doing and absolutely want to do more of. These are things that truly make me happy and are listed under the heading “Be Jennifer”.
This is Gretchen’s first commandment and her most important. These items listed under “Be Jennifer” are self explanatory and are things/people I authentically love and want to take time to enjoy.
To quote Gretchen “The days are long, but the years are short.”
When I am all caught up in my magical thinking, I stop doing those things I love to do. Or, I do them with no joy whatsoever because Felicia gives me these really stupid goals I can’t meet.
“You must perfectly bagel your opponent and you can not double fault one single time.”
“Also, if your opponent says WTF, then your win does not count. “
A Short Story About Piano Lessons
I own a beautiful Collard and Collard rosewood grand piano that I bought years ago at an antique store. It was in terrible shape and the store owner did not think it was even worth selling.
He allowed me to snag that beauty for literally NOTHING. After many long years of being in restoration, my baby finally came home for good.
I took piano lessons for 10 plus years when I was growing up. Most of the time, I resented these lessons. I would have rather been on the softball field, playing tennis, or riding my horse.
My parents set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes every day so that I could practice the piano before I did fun stuff.
Why no one reported them to CPS is beyond me.
About 7 years into those lessons, I came up with a plan to end the perceived abuse.
I reasoned that I would not be able to practice without books. So, after my second lesson of the week with Mrs. Clark (bless that woman), I rode my bike to the bayou.
I accidentally hurled my piano books into the water.
I prayed they sank quickly or at least floated far, far away. Of course, some nice lady driving by saw me sling them into Never Never Land.
She promptly fished my books out. She returned them to my parents who were immensely fascinated with my creativity.
Flash forward to today, my parents gave me the gift of piano lessons. That gift translated into my ability to read music, as well as play halfway decently, if I take the time.
And there it is….take the time.
That means I will beat myself to a pulp with my magic wand for not taking time in the past and for not appreciating my gift way back in the day.
“Lighten up Felicia. I can’t change any of that.”
Don’t Let the Perfect Be The Enemy of Good
Playing the piano is something I love and it is a gift I now appreciate having. So, I want to find some time in my week to enjoy it.
I would like to play several times a week. But I also accept this might not happen for me every single week.
My goal is to play without believing that I am a loser for not being the “Perfect practicer”.
This is my favorite of Gretchen’s Secrets of Adulthood.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
All of my Happiness Projects on my More or Less List for 2020 have one common theme behind them.
Recognizing that I am my own worst critic in my desire to handle everything perfectly all the time.
I now fearlessly admit to all of you that I am going to drop the ball somewhere in my life.
And, I will drop it regularly.
As the months pass, my participation trophies will accumulate because my trophies don’t have anything to do with how “perfectly” I complete the task.
It is strictly about me getting in the arena, and then recognizing it is time to get out……
No matter what Felicia says.
No, my growth curve will not be perfectly angled towards the sky. There will always be glitches (nose dives).
I will probably end up in the wrong restroom at least once…..okay twice.
It only happened once this past year.
This time I ran into David who had to point it out to me.
It’s a fact things will catch me off guard, and I will forget to scream “Oh My Heavenly Days”.
Some things will be completely out of my control, and I may not get the outcome I want.
I’m also pretty sure I will buy at least one black binder.
I know Felicia will encourage me to ding dong ditch the dungeon door.
If I do get on the train to visit the city of “not good enough”, maybe one day soon I won’t even buy the ticket.
Regardless, in 2020, instead of saying “Why? Felicia”, I will be saying “Bye Felicia”.
Then I will raise my trophy and take my bow.
Life (Pinterest) has shown me that it’s important to know when to stop arguing with people and simply let them be wrong.
As a final nod to my lack of perfection and ability to face my failures fearlessly, I would like to introduce you to Meredith, my forever feral.
In spite of my love for her, she would rather kill me in my sleep. Meredith has felt this way even as a kitten when I lovingly raised her and her brother in a bathroom she nearly destroyed.
Felicia knows Meredith is a real life perfectionist who can spot posers like me a mile away.
But, you better believe that one day far, far, away, I am going to find some way to coax (force) Meredith to sit happily in my lap and apologize for her extremely low opinion of me.
After all, Churchill said it so eloquently.
“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
Better even still are the wise words of Gretchen.
“Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail. But, every day is a clean slate, and a new opportunity.”
Amen, sister, AMEN.
P.S. Suck it google.
Here’s to a fabulous new year in a fabulous new decade.
May it be your best one YET!
If you would like to know more about me. click here.
Want to read more about my brother and my faith? Click here.
My Love of Gardening? Click here.
BethSeptember 6, 2020 12:52 pm
Well, I’m on my third cup of coffee reading this. You are the most charming, authentic writer. I love your style and your humor. My heart hurts for your losses, but know this. Anybody would be grateful and so blessed to have you fighting for them and in their corner. I’m a fan for life! Thank you for sharing this ❤️
JacksonSeptember 6, 2020 2:51 pm
You brought me to tears, made me laugh out loud, but more importantly gave me valuable insight Into my own insecurities. The fact that you were willing to publicly “ throw yourself under the bus” in the process is just further proof you truly do wish the best for everyone. You’re an amazing writer and an amazing individual. God Bless you.
DeniseOctober 31, 2020 5:29 pm
You and I could be wonderful friends if we lived closer. I love how authentic you are and your big heart. Thank you for all that you write, your honesty and for being so real. May God bless you abundantly and also thank you for all the advice. You’re a very wise woman