One of the things I’ve been working on since I started having time on my hands over the summer is attempting to back off on the symptoms of two signature parts of my personality: control freak and perfectionist. The fact that those traits have been a part of me for as long as I remember generally means that I can’t just wipe them away. They’ll always be inside of me but I’ve been trying to control them a little more (see what I did there?).
Seriously, my control issues have been the easier of the two to loosen. Being busybusybusy in all of my waking hours sort of required scheduling myself mentally down to the minute sometimes, just for efficiency’s sake–that’s the perfectionist part. Now that I have time and very few obligations, I find it easy to let go of things and not be the planner all the time. I think I have shrugged my shoulders as an answer to questions more in the last three months than I have in the last twenty years put together. It feels good.
The perfectionist thing? That’s a little harder. I have always had impossibly high expectations of myself (and my family and friends too: sorry about that!). My twenty-five-year-old son is the same way and believe me, as painful as it is to be a perfectionist, it’s even more painful to watch your kid struggle with it. Not only do I wish he were a little less tightly wound but also it’s like looking in a mirror. (We’re both cute though, so there’s that.) We’ve had lots of conversations about it, and at this point he is so aware of our likenesses in the perfectionist realm that we have a phone call shortcut: he’ll tell me that he just needs to run something by me even though he knows he’s overthinking it. I let him talk and get it out, and then give him my advice if he wants it although he’s almost always on the right track already by the time he picks up the phone.
The good qualities of a perfectionist are paying close attention to detail, completing tasks at the highest level of effort, and being perceived by others of “having your shit together”. The bad qualities are mainly self-inflicted and on the inside: anxiety, fear of failure, constant over-analysis, and a brain that rarely shuts down. It’s not fun, believe me.
So in this new season of my life when I have time to focus on the state of my being (both physical and mental), I’m trying to give myself some grace every single day. Sometimes I forget, and when that happens I often get whacked in the face with a realization. That’s what happened today.
I left the house to run some errands and decided to take a drive first, to take some pictures of the gorgeous fall colors that are popping up all over the place. I live five minutes from Fort Loudoun Lake, a reservoir of the Tennessee River, and the scenery is amazing. I kept the water in frame on my car GPS and just drove towards it and then along it. I stopped off at a few places along the drive where there were parking spots so I could walk around and take pictures. I became frustrated that the light was better on the side I was on rather than across the way, and the pictures I took weren’t very good at all. I still decided to spend an hour chasing the perfect view; it’s no surprise to me that I never really found it. The picture above is the best I got, and I filtered it a little bit, okay too much, to lighten and warm it up. It’s a horrible picture of what is actually a beautiful sight in person. I let myself get annoyed about it.
Two hours later I had to stop by my parents’ house to pick up something. On my way home, the most glorious display of fall leaves in great lighting appeared right in front of me when I least expected it. I pulled over to snap a quick picture and shook my fist in the air a little bit. Well played, Mother Nature. Loud and clear.
I still have some work to do.