The Perfection Problem

Some of the people I live with and love dearly have a problem.  It is perfection. 

I wish I knew how to solve, mitigate, soften, release etc. the pressure for perfection for them.  I’m failing in this regard.  See!  Imperfection is everywhere!

When I want to do something perfectly, I usually heap a bunch of stress on myself and am rarely happy with the result.  That beautiful action, thing, experience I dreamt about and planned for doesn’t become the reality.  Nothing new here, just the usual way life goes.  I try to shrug and if I have done my best then I consider it good enough.  Most of the time.  Then there are the times I can’t let it go.  The tape runs on a loop in my brain over and over again–should haves, could haves, would haves rolling around without end.

I know all the things I should think but I don’t.  I should be satisfied with good work well done and not be so bothered by the lack of perfection.  I think of advice that folks have given me –“a speedy C job is better than a long A+ job” and the like.  When I am caught in the perfection expectation these things rarely help much.

Some studies suggest that society is contributing toward a trend to perfectionism.  This signals may problems that follow.  Instead of motivation, we could see stagnation due to fear of failure.  Our efforts to raise “perfect children” can lead to higher levels of labeling and create families that operate on conditional love–love reserved for the perfect, pretty and successful only.  It creates more litigation.  If something unfortunate occurs, then someone must be to blame for the imperfection that caused the event.

Society will suffer in other ways.  Negative mental health effects of this problem will also increase.  The need for treatment for depression, despair and self-loathing that can lead to violence just to name a few.

I hope we can each advocate for flexibility, perseverance and willingness to try our best.  Work to achieve our ideas and the healthy evaluation of our abilities.  Freedom from perfection is possible and in our best interest both personally and for our society.

Just Because


What is the power of your name?

I know that some names are very powerful indeed.   Think of Genghis, Benedict,  Kermit, Hilary, Gilda, Wilma.  Each name brings a notion of the person colored by history or experience.   You might picture someone ruthless, traitorous, pious, green, traveling, making jokes, tempting men or keeping house B.C.  It all depends on who the name leads your mind to.

People often think I was named for the French orphan in the Ludwig Bemelmans‘s children’s books.  My mother tells me I am actually named for a Swedish opera singer she admired when she was young.  I’m not an orphan and although I like to sing, no one could confuse me with a professional.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

No matter how you got your name, most folks have a story to go with it.   Expectant parents in our culture try very hard to find the “perfect”,  “just right” name for their soon to be child.  Whole books are devoted to the topic.

What is your story?

Some people don’t like their given name, or feel it doesn’t suit them.  This can pose a problem since our primary identifier is our name.  We hear it, write it, see it all the time.  History and experience can color our ideas of suitability.

If your name were different, what kind of person would you be?

If you could choose your own name, what would you choose?

What is the power of your name?


Reason to Believe, Uncategorized

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It is a wonderful question!  Too bad I don’t seem to have an answer.

One of the advantages of some life experience is being able to look back.  Not for the reasons many people do–regret, remembering loss or injury, wishing things could go back to what they were.  We all do that sometimes.  Some of us do it most times.  My reason for looking back is to marvel at the quality of the thrill ride that we call life.

Just when we think we have a bead on things, we feel the bottom drop away like a roller rollercoaster-156027_1280coaster plunging downhill.  That is the way life is for me anyway.  One of the problems with that is I’ve always been the one sitting on the park bench waving at the family members doing “the up and down and all around”.  We don’t have that choice when we aren’t at the amusement park and it’s life that is caring us along.

I have always admired folks who chose a profession or calling and then pursue it for their entire careers.  Not sure if it is luck, fate, wise planning, passion or you name it but there’s some real comfort in knowing what you want to be and then actually being that person.  However, the surprise of unwrapping each new day is very exciting. I like it despite the flaws that I encounter.  Most of those flaws are mine anyway…..

So I’m back to the question of what do I want to be when I grow up!   The dilemma is NOT from the desire to be forever young or trying to recapture the “flower-power” past, I have no desire to re-live the experiences back there.  I just feel an openness to experience whatever the next bend in the road is.

I have a calm sense of confidence that was very hard to achieve and has really helped to make the ups and downs easier. I have a deep feeling of gratitude for this awesome ride that life is.  I’m in a class this month studying spiritual gifts.  Fascinating.

I took a quiz to help identify the gifts I have awhile back.  I can’t say that the results were surprising.  I could see what others see in me pretty clearly.  The idea that hit home for me most starkly is the “gift”.  We don’t choose the gifts that we receive.  Gifts are freely given or they tend not to be gifts at all.  Like tools in the toolbox, it helps to know what you have to work with, but it’s exciting to combine and re-combine the items so as to use them in new ways.

When we do this, wonderful things happen.  It is the way we serve God and the world.

Life wouldn’t be better if I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up–just different.  Because our gifts are not all the same, we need each other for the best outcome.  I need the folks that have always known and pursued their call.  They need the roller coaster riders like me.  None of us can do it all alone–we have to take all the gifts and combine them for the best outcome.

Thanks be to God!

Just Because

Taking the Learning Curve….

When I took drivers education there was a lot interest in how fast you could take a curve.  The muscle cars of  my youth certainly allowed for plenty of power and speed.  Trouble is if you put on too much speed, you can spin-out which puts you in the ditch, hospital or even a pine box.  In college there was a lot of laughing about the learning curve and how fast you could take it.  Like the traffic sign that has a black curve in the caution triangle with the miles/per hour posted below it.  We thought it was funny trying to learn faster and faster–like seeing how fast you could take the curve without a spin-out.

Curves ahead

I started a new job in a new area of business and boy oh boy there are S turns galore.  I have spun-out a couple of times…..

Like most adults, I think I should be able to learn new things fairly easily.  After all, I have survived several decades of life experience as well as formal learning in school.  Too bad my brain hasn’t gotten the memo.  I find myself frustrated and wishing I could go faster, faster, faster!

In reality, I am well within the learning curve with the 60% in the middle of the bell with 20% on the down side and 20% on the ahead side.  I just wanted to be on the ahead side of the bell curve.  I need to pause to remind myself that speed can contribute to the spin-out.  Taking it steady and keeping my eyes on the way ahead is the most reliable way to go.

Reliable, while not always fast or fun, definitely gets the job done.   Later as I  build-up speed I’ll take the curve faster.  Starting over in a new area of business can be daunting at times.  Each new venture is punctuated with curves and more learning.  Keeping focus and a clear head can help avoid a nasty spin-out.

There really is a ton of exhilaration in the new thing–what ever it is!  It feels great to know that you have this untapped capacity.   This is encouraging to me and I hope it is for anyone else who is “re-inventing” themselves.

Bring on the curves!


Is it live, or is it….

The compact disc
Image via Wikipedia

Remember the commercial?  I do.   In the old days, before digital re-mastering and all the wonderful things you can do to “clean up” sound we were delighted with the latest tape.  Wonder if we would have felt that way if we knew what clarity was waiting around the corner and available on so many devices….

I have saved a bunch of CD’s to mp3 files and have started to develop mixes that I personally find pleasing.  There are so many different ways to enjoy music–live, recorded, internet, radio, music videos etc. I find myself searching YouTube or I-Tunes for a song I hear a snippet of.  I find interesting versions of old favorites and use music to help teach adults.  All without reading music or playing an instrument!  Most folks would say that digital collection of sound makes it all possible–I think that this qualifies as a miracle.  I know that this is not the greatest innovation ever made, but I do marvel at the quality of the sound that small electronic devices create.

While these advances make the enjoyment of music richer and more full for many listeners, I wonder how some of the musicians and composers would feel if they knew what we do to their music, to their art!  Imagine what Mozart or Charlie Parker or even John Lennon would think about how we hear them today. The making of music, the art of music and the love of music does find new ears every day and the technology that brings it can ensure that the music lives on long after the artists are gone.

Like Jambo, who wrote the article cited below, I have very eclectic tastes in music and like Jambo, I also like music that is made by musicians.   That being said, I am fascinated by the experimenting that some folks are doing with sounds–NPR features these artists periodically.  They seem like the impressionists or the early rockers who rankled the establishment and were on the cutting edge.  Only time will tell if this is truly an art form or if it is something else.  Because, art endures!

One issue I have with the electronic capture of music is that so much “clean up” happens that some of the uniqueness of each live performance gets lost.  Yearning for that reality: hearing music as it is being created is an exhilarating experience.  Perhaps that is why people still spend real money on concerts.

The other issue I have resulting from the seeming perfection on recorded music is that it could discourage someone from making music.  How could I ever sound as good as my favorite singer? (Except maybe while in the shower?!)  I hope no one ever feels that way.  Since we sat around fires in caves we have been making music and the exhilaration of being present as the music is created is beyond compare.  Don’t stop singing in the shower, the car or around the fire.  Pick up that instrument in the closet collecting some dust and feel the reality.  It is the only way for the music to endure!


Just Because, Reason to Believe, Uncategorized

With Hearts and Hands and Voices!

We all know what to do.  For many children these are among the first words. Mommy taught us when we were barely able to talk:

“Say Please.”


“What do you say?”

Thank You!”

These fundamental sentences are very often accompanied by the directive:  “Share!”

As big, grown up, sophisticated adults, we go about our business not thinking most of the time to employ these fundamentals.  We seem to think that it takes too much time or that it really doesn’t fit with the OMG, WTF, LOL world.  As we move about we leave a trail of dust and resentment and a crumbling civilization in our wake.

I am not here today to play Ms Manners.  I just want to suggest that we engage our hearts, our hands and our voices to do what we know is right.  To ask instead of take, to share instead of grasp, to thank instead of  ignore.  Basic acknowledgement of others as fellow human beings together right here, right now.

When I was a manager of people I distributed paychecks and thanked each person for their work.  The reaction was mildly suspicious surprise.  Guess that everyone wanted to be sure I was sincere.  They kind of waited for a “punchline”.   When they realized that it was real, you should have seen their faces!  Everyone got a sense of pride and smiled.  Sure, just payment for service rendered is a transaction.  Saying “Thank you for your work!” is like putting the cherry on top of the sundae.

As miraculous as our lives are (and I do believe they are miraculous!) we are all here by the grace and care of others.  God, family, friends, community.  Today at dinner–no matter what you’re eating and who you are eating it with–make sure to remember what Mommy taught us.  Love the folks that surround you, help those who need it without being asked, say thank you for the sheer miraculous nature of life.  Put that cherry on top of the sundae, be grateful, live grateful and sing!

Now Thank We All Our God   Martin Rinkart 1586-1649

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore

Current Events, Reason to Believe

Climbing Smooth

“If the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t even climb it!” unknown

I was watching a YouTube video about the hymn Amazing Grace with Wintley Phipps yesterday.  What an inspiring bit of film and song!  But I was struck by the proverb above that Wintley quoted in the beginning of  the clip.  How profound 10 ordinary words can be!

What are the mountains in your life?

Webster says:  “Adversity: (noun) a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty or adverse fortune (see adverse).                  Synonyms:misfortune, ill, knock, misadventure, mischance, mishap, tragedy Antonyms: fortune, luck, serendipity”

Did you ever try to climb up the slide at the playground?  I have.  Tough.  I remember a group of us kids daring each other to make it to the top.  There were dozens of attempts without touching the sides.  All unsuccessful.  It wasn’t until we used our hands to grip the edges of the slide that anyone made it to the top.  A smooth mountain would be like that.  Think of trying to climb the perfect triangle, we would crash every time.

Real mountains are not smooth.  Craggy, rocky, difficult, dangerous, murderous, majestic, beautiful, lofty and huge are words we use to describe them.  Rock climbers know that it requires the gear, the skill, the perseverance,  and the courage to undertake it all.  The climbers that tackle the big ones–K2, Everest, McKinley all know it takes planning and serious preparation to accomplish the task.  Most will also tell you it takes teamwork.  Your climbing partners and your base camp support folks they all have to be committed to the effort and work together.

K2 in summer.
Image via Wikipedia

Watching the news the other night I felt like the kid in the playground, surrounded by the “Super Committee”  trying in vain to climb the slide.  No one was successful.  No one worked together.  Everyone wanted to blame someone–someone else.  It was discouraging!

My own mountain right now has many sharp obstacles.  Kind of like the picture of K2 in Summer to the right.   After a long career of sitting in an office, I am doing retail sales and my body is revolting big time!  My bank account and my retirement account and my real estate are like team mates that are pulling the ropes that keep us together in all different directions.  How can we reach the summit with problems like these?

That’s when it hit me that the craggy bits and the sharp outcroppings and the difficulties with sore tired muscles and stiff joints are part of what makes reaching the summit the true achievement that it is.  The base camp team is vital–family and friends–cheering you on and making the assent possible.  If the way was smooth, how could you climb?

The other thing that hit me is that if you don’t work together, you can’t work at all when it comes to climbing.  The climbers that reach the summit know they did not get there on their own.  The guy at the peak had to have faith in the team, each one contributing their part and all contributing to the achievement.

So what then is the problem–how do we plan to achieve the summit here?  How can we get the team to work together so we’re not climbing smooth?  What can we do to conquer that adversity mountain that our country confronts?  The mountain that represents all the debt and loss of confidence in government and in ourselves?  How do we gain the courage to climb despite the partisan fear and destructive mistrust and being pulled in every direction by special interests?


Current Events, Just Because

Balance the Register–Balance the Life

On my kitchen table
Image by HnyBny1969 (Regina) via Flickr

What do you do when there’s more month left at the end of the money?

There’s a lot of attention to budgets these days.  Some is in Washington DC and some is at my house.  How about you?

 The questions are many.  What can we give up?  What ways can we save?  Do we have to liquidate any assets?  Should we scrap the disappearing 401K?  What charity needs our donation the most this year?  How will we afford the Christmas we are accustomed to?  Haircut this week or next month? 

The decisions are painful.  Reduce.  Reuse. Relinquish. Reopen. Relive. Repent.  Recover. Relieve. Repeat.

Attack what we spend with vigor and reduce it–permanently.  Reuse everything we can.  Relinquish the “need” for a particular lifestyle and realize you are not in control of the world.  Reopen the discussion after the anger and accusations to reason and problem-solving.  Relive the old days when you were very young and had nothing but joy.  Repent the waste, blame and shame.  Recover what is really important–laughing, family, friends, quiet evenings, hot soup, board games and companionship.  Relieve the stress with planning, action, evaluation and small forward movement you can see.  Repeat it all again and again! 

Not pretty, not easy, but healthy.  More healthy than trying to pretend it can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t be done.  And, it’s REAL.   I don’t think that Washington is there yet, but the journey has begun–even politicians have to recognize reality once in a while!  We aren’t all the way there, but we are in the middle of the journey.  Where are you?

Where are you on the road to balance?  What ways are you finding to focus on what really matters?  How do you think you can avoid being back here again next month, next year, next decade…..?

Just Because


I hate to clean!

I am using the word hate here!  Strong emotion.  Why?

Image via Wikipedia

As important and even healthy as it is, it is also usually frustrating.  If you have a family that includes small children, then you know what I mean.  I could clean the bathroom 100 times every day and it would still look like the worst off-brand, no locks on the doors, gas station “restroom”!  Nothing restful about that.

Perhaps I should be happy about that–it means that the space is getting the use for which it is intended.  I just can’t work up the enthusiasm for it.

Seems to me that life is like that “restroom” too.  We usually don’t clean-up until we’re totally disgusted, fed up and have no alternative.   Then, in typical human form, we wait two more years before we start.  How in the world did we ever survive to 2011?

What makes change so difficult for everyone? 

My dad used to say that growing up is a lot harder than anyone tells you.  He was right–and it never stops being harder than anyone tells you!  Change is the unknown.  We think we figured out a way to survive the familiar, so we cling to it like a life raft.  We are all caught up in that mess that won’t be tidy, clinging to the life raft.  In my social service work, I regularly encountered people for whom life resembled the never tidy restroom.  Addiction, loss, isolation and fear are the mess that won’t be tidy.

It is messy in my life sometimes.  What are the untidy parts of your life?

The last couple of years have been filled with change.  Change in living situations, change in employment, change in family structure, change in economics, change in politics…….. Even the earth itself is shaking and changing, quaking and erupting!  We cling to the life raft tighter and tighter.  Nothing restful about all that.

One of the things that I have learned (the hard way!) is that the cleaning part helps.  As much as I hate to admit it, it does!

I have done some renovations to this blog site and will continue to make more.  I want to thank my friend Richard Kraneis for pointing out the most obvious issue yesterday.  He’s been around the blog block a few times and knows what he is talking about!  Thanks Richard!           I am inching my way towards tidy!   

I think it has to do with the engagement of a different part of the human brain.  By doing the mundane things that cleaning requires, you burn calories, release endorphins, focus on manual tasks and then the other processes of the brain have a chance to “reboot”, “resort” and “rework” the problems that can preoccupy us.  The end result is that not only will the cleaning give some satisfaction in the measurable change, you may be able to get some of the answers when you give the brain a chance to do it’s thing in the background.  Bonus!

We can let go of the life raft and find rescue and rest, even if it only lasts until the next kid rushes into the house.  Bonus!

What is the cleaning you need to do bring that “Bonus!”?

Article:  http://stress.about.com/od/tensiontamers/a/cleaning.htm

Just Because

Ready for the boneyard?

Rain on the windscreen of an automobile with w...
Image via Wikipedia

How do you know when an old car is ready for the bone yard?

I think it is a matter of determining the cost-benefit analysis.  However, that is neither my forte nor my inclination.  To me it is much more emotional and lots less analytical.  To me the important things a car must have are these:

  1. Driver‘s door works:  that is it opens and locks regardless of the weather
  2. Driver’s window opens and closes
  3. Car is capable of starting and running regardless of the weather
  4. “Shotgun” passenger window opens and closes
  5. Windshield defrost works sufficiently to allow for visibility (it is ok if there is some fog around the edges.
  6. Windshield wipers allow for visibility

All other parts are wonderful if they work, but not strictly necessary.  But the most critical feature of an old car is that the car has to feel right.  Not sure how else to describe this purely subjective and very personal evaluation element.

We had a gray van that was a great deal.  My husband was very pleased with the find.  I on the other hand disliked the vehicle from the first moment I climbed inside.  It just never felt right.  The ride was a bit more bouncy than I like, the seats were worn and dusty but my sense went way beyond aesthetics. Not sure what triggered the reaction from me, but fortunately this deal did not last more than 3 years.  We had repaired the differential when it broke but then when the transmission also decided to revolt, we called it quits. Off to the boneyard (junkyard) it went.  I was actually relieved.

We intentionally buy vehicles near the end of their useful life as a matter of principle.  We believe that if the car is capable of going where we need to go and meets the basic safety needs (working lights and brakes for example), then sending the machine to the bone yard prematurely is wasteful.  Not only is it wasteful of the machine itself, our transportation method has saved us money over time.

This outlook is unusual. Most people who know us typically find it vaguely amusing.  Some police officers find our habit one that requires attention or correction.  Traffic stops or tickets issued under this circumstance we call DWB–that is Driving While Broke.

But I digress…. The evaluation process is one of the gut, not of the brain,  Then in very human fashion, I assign some logic to that decision.  I suspect that this means I should look at most of my decisions to see how much is real evaluation and how much is my guts.  Despite the idea that I should be more objective in my process, I like the fact that over-all most decisions have turned out alright.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

How do you arrive at important decisions?  Lots of brain and little guts?  Little guts and lots of brain?  All brain?  All guts?  How did your end results work out for you?  Let’s discuss!