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Make Peace with Imperfection

This mornings chapter from Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.

I’ve yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life was filled with inner peace. The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other. Whenever we are attached to having something a certain way, better than it already is, we are, almost by definition, engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what we have, we are focused on what’s wrong with something and our need to fix it. When we are zeroed in on what’s wrong, it implies that we are dissatisfied, discontent.

Whether it’s related to ourselves – a disorganized closet, a scratch on the car, an imperfect accomplishment, a few pounds we would like to lose – or someone else’s “imperfections” – the way someone looks, behaves, or lives their life – the very act of focusing on imperfection pulls us away from our goal of being kind and gentle. This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do your very best but with being overly attached and focused on what’s wrong with life. It’s about realizing that while there’s always a better way to do something, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy and appreciate the way things already are.

The solution here is to catch yourself when you fall into your habit of insisting that things should be other than they are. Gently remind yourself that life is okay the way it is, right now. In the absence of your judgment, everything would be fine. As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, you’ll begin to discover the perfection in life itself.

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Moving Onward

I’m sitting right now in the second story of Di Cafe next to Monomer Hostel with my computer plugged into an outlet that doesn’t seem to be working, sipping on a steaming hot Americano and munching on french fries wondering what it means to be happy. 

This journey here across the globe has been for me, a search for meaning and purpose. 

It is here I think, that I have figured out what it is that I want out of life – and it isn’t complicated. Friends, food, feelings, french fries. (Damn, these french fries are good.) It’s all part of a complex fabric that covers us all, keeping us moving forward and wanting. And lately I’ve been finding myself wanting. Longing. Not just for the things that I used to take for granted such as hot water, air-conditioning, a gym membership, fresh ground coffee, but for the things that I thought I could live without. Religion. Family. Culture. A relationship. Important things I know, but these are the things that I left behind to come here. To serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. To work at a school that is 100% Muslim, live with people I have never met before, be mistaken for Thai on a daily basis, dodge messages/invites from girls who can’t even pronounce my first name right … I’ve come to learn that the heart is a fickle thing. Love is hard. Trust is difficult. Integrating is more than just showing up. And yet, I’ve made a life for myself here. Amongst a people that I knew next to nothing about. In a place that I have never before heard of, let alone seen on a map.

Sitting here now, staring out the window, the sound of Bangkok traffic intermingled with voices from downstairs, the coffee grinder turning on and off, pop music playing on the station overhead, thinking to myself in Thai and then switching back to English, I can’t help but sit back, close my eyes, and just soak it all in. This moment.

Never in a million years would I have imagined that I’d be here, right now, doing the things I’m doing now. Spending the last week in a sleeping pod, collecting poop samples for the Medical team, feeling up the quick dry material at the Uniqlo, and swiping through Tinder profiles only to head back to site in the evening on the 15 hour overnight bus after which comes the local van and a 45 minute walk back to my school housing on a hill. Back to the people that I love and will be leaving in less than 3 months. Back to the life of a teaching volunteer where the daily life of my community has become my religion, my students my family, my work my culture, and myself my one and only committed relationship. Will I miss it? Most definitely. But what I am most afraid of is readjusting. Learning that everything really is so transient. Momentary. Quick. Replaceable. It feels like my life is flashing before my eyes and I just wish that I could hold it close and keep it. Not that I fear the change itself, I’ve been changing all my life – it’s the leaving behind that hurts and the knowing that in a short amount of time everything will feel normal again.

This journey will have come to an end and I will still be be on the search for meaning and purpose.

Because it is for these two things that I have done everything that I have and will continue to do. It drives me forward – moving onward towards a destination just beyond reach. Living right now in the want and longing knowing that if I take a step back and look at it all from a distance one day, it will make more sense then it does right now.

 

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Self-worth

We exist in two worlds, the internal and the external, and try as we might, we will never be in complete control of that which lives and breathes outside of us.

So focus inwards.

Hold yourself accountable for the thoughts and actions that come from your inner self.

Recognize that you yourself are also a being in search of belonging and significance in this life and that you cannot give what you do not already have.

Take the time to find within yourself that place of worthiness, because nobody else in the world is going to find it for you.

Understand that you are worth much much more than the pain, regret, anger, frustration, or fear you may be feeling, and that you can never be defined by what others think of you unless you give them permission to.

Don’t give them permission to.

Don’t let yourself be controlled by negativity.

Assert control over the only world you can ever hope to be the master of and find your place of irrevocable belonging.

Believe in your significance as a unique human being with something to offer the world that no one else can.

Trust in your own self worth as a human being, not necessarily a human doing, and I promise you, the rest will follow.

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Letting Go

I wish I could say that I figured it out. That in all this time I’ve come to a better understanding of myself. Traversed the journey. Taken upon myself the knight’s quest. Won myself a victory. But to say so would just not be true. I am still stuck on the path searching.

For all my words and hard effort, all I’ve won so far is the right to say that I am still fighting to stay alive – daily.

Struggling hard to stave off my hunger for warmth, security, and comfort.

Bits of me that beg to just give up and give in.

I believe that I am at a crossroads here, at home … a place I know so well and yet know to be the place that I am running from. My heart beats in time with the thoughts currently marching through my brain. How who I am and what I do has come to define me. How who I have been and what I am doing defines me. And how who I think I am and what I have done is defining me. We are an imperfect symphony led by a cacophony of voices coming from directions we cannot always follow. There is no rhyme or reason sometimes to the madness that consumes our insides with fear and doubt. It is up to us to silence ourselves and become attuned to the tuneless. That for which we do not understand exists to test us.

I am on a journey that has no real end. Caught up in a never ending cycle of rises and falls. Repeating history. Finding myself in the same ditch. Looking for a way out … There is a lesson to be learned in all of this. Or at least I think there is.

An Autobiography in Five Chapters by Portia Nelson:

I. 

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost … I am hopeless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

II. 

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

III.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault; I get out immediately.

IV. 

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

V.

I walk down another street. 

Making a return back to the old, known, and familiar has made me realize that wisdom would have me choose not to walk down the same street with the same old holes, but I do so anyway … it’s a habit. My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault. I need to get out immediately, but I hesitate, I justify, I revert. There is something strangely comforting about knowing that there is always going to be a place for me to hide. Something for which I can blame my own inability to keep moving forward.

The holes in my sidewalk are a familiar imperfection, and there is “beauty and humility” in imperfection. And yet, I find myself understanding that there is more to this story.

I am at a place and point in my life where growing means changing, and changing means learning how to not only walk around the holes in my sidewalk but to find another street to walk on, regardless of how well worn this pathway may be. How well I’ve come to memorize its every crack and crevice. How in love I may be with its neighborhood and views. The nostalgia it may hold. The colors it showed as the seasons came and went. The memories that were made on its cool concrete surfaces. I need to let all of it go. Somehow, I need to learn how to find another way to move on …

For in letting go, I believe that I am doing the only thing I can to save my life from the darkness.