I stopped making New Years’ resolutions several years ago. I find that, as a recovering perfectionist (who relapses like a mofo often enough that I sometimes wonder if I should replace the word “recovering” with “raging”), New Years’ resolutions set me up for inevitable failure. They also imply that I am not OK just the way I am—a self-perception I have spent years trying to conquer. I am, however, a raging fresh-starter. I love me a brand-new, untouched, crisp-paged notebook. Clean slates are my jam. I was that kid in high school who looked forward to the beginning of the school year, because it meant new notebooks, new dividers, new pens and pencils, new binders ...
Now that I think about it, I’m sure it fed right into my perfectionism—my feeling that this time would be different. That this time, I’d keep my act together and not wait to start a project or an essay or a report until the night before it was due.
Dear God—is a “fresh start” just a perfectionist in cuter clothes?
(Let’s not dwell on this point. I can’t handle it.)
My spontaneous “fresh start” this year began with enrollment in Tiffany Han’s 31 Days to Flow online workshop. I love Tiffany’s podcast, Raise Your Hand Say Yes, and her perky, quirky, grab-life-by-the-balls approach to things. I happened to catch a FB Live broadcast where she talked up her upcoming workshop, and on a whim, I signed up.
I started off like a great student. Our first assignment was to identify our core values. She gave us a huge list of things, like “spontaneity,” “freedom,” “love,” and “family,” and our goal was to whittle the list down to 10 top values—the things that make us sing and ring and bring it.
It was an interesting exercise. The following week, we were supposed to live with our values. Let them sit and percolate and see how it felt. I found that “safety,” which was originally on my list, didn’t actually serve me in the way I thought it had. Safety was holding me back, in other words.
In one bold motion, safety got knocked off the list. I was flowing and growing and stepping outside my comfort zone and absolutely head-over-heels in love with my 10 values (more on those another time).
Then the third week came, and I fell behind on the homework. I felt pulled in a hundred different directions and my perfectionist kicked in and said that because I wasn’t doing 100% awesome at all of them, I was failing at all of them.
I turned to the 31 Days to Flow Instagram feed for inspiration and support. I felt better. And then I felt a hell of a lot worse because I got sick for the first time in a couple years. A mind-numbing, brain-fogging, energy-sucking head cold knocked me on my ass.
My flow was gone (unless you count the crap that was flowing out of my nose. And I don’t. Because ew).
But here’s the thing about getting sick: It forces you to stop. You physically can’t do all the things you usually tell yourself you should be doing. Instead, you’re forced to accept that you’re limited and literally incapable of being this perfect thing you think you’re supposed to be, because fevers and snot and coughs and sneezes are obviously far from perfect.
And somehow, that becomes enough. Because it has to be enough. And that becomes your flow. I found myself perfectly happy, in the zone, doing a freakin’ connect-the-dots. It felt great and I was free.
It’s forced perspective. And in its own way, it’s forced flow. Because it takes away all of the “shoulds” and “coulds” and what you’re left with is simply what Is. And what Is is Enough because it has to be.
Which is all fine and dandy, until you start to feel better, and then those shoulds and coulds come back and bite you and kick you for having the audacity to slow down.
This is where I am today. I’m pretty sure that the pizza and ice cream I binged on yesterday have less to do with what I told myself (period cravings) and more to do with what I don’t want to admit (I’m eating this crap because I feel like a horrible failure).
I had my flow before I was sick. I had a weird kind of flow when I was sick. So why is it that as soon as I start to feel better, I feel like flow is impossible again because if it can’t be perfect, it can’t be flow?
Whoa, flow. Whatcha doin’ there?