Perfectionist? Or Chicken?

Start.

Just start.

Right now.

Stop second guessing.

Stop searching for more information and ideas.

JUST START!!!

And on and on goes the internal voice in my mind.  Arguing with itself rather than doing something.

What’s it called when you are so afraid of messing something up that you just don’t start anything at all?  Perfectionism? That’s what my husband likes to call it.  I’ll be honest, I love that way of looking at it.  If you look at it as perfectionism that’s a much lovelier alternative than the ones I typically torture myself with.  For example: Lazy. Chicken.  Not remotely good enough at x, y or z to make it even worth doing.  Don’t have the resources needed (time, money, tools, space.)  Haven’t done enough research on whatever it is to truly be making an informed decision, step, product, etc. Too old to start something new.  Too young to be taken seriously. . .

But these are all lies told by the crazy voice inside my head.  Does anyone else have that crazy voice in there?

For as almost as far back as I can remember, I couldn’t get enough of the Impressionistic painters of France- Monet, Renoir, Degas.  Janet, my stepmom, had several prints around our house growing up and I loved just staring at them before I knew who they were or what their art was called.  My bedroom, and later my dorm room and first apartments were covered with prints I had collected by them. Discovering them unlocked my passion for Paris and France and the pursuit of the joie de vivre they had mastered.  Painters who didn’t attempt to make their paintings a perfect reflection of the world around them, instead they tried to capture a feeling, a tone, an impression of a place.  Painters who were rejected by the traditional schools and galleries of their time.  Painters who seemed to revel in breaking the rules of their day and creating something that told a bigger story.

Yet somewhere along the lines, I stopped appreciating the way their art made me feel and dream and instead looked for pieces whose artists’ skill was evident in the precise way they captured reality, almost as if they were photographs rather than paintings. . . incredible in themselves, absolutely, but I’ve missed the joy of letting a piece take you into a different world.  A world where edges are blurred and even a stack of hay outside a barn tells a story.  And I’m tired of holding everything to standards of perfection that are unattainable and unnecessary.

Edouard Manet, the French artist whose boundary pushing work set the stage for Impressionism once said this:  “It is not enough to know your craft – you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more.”

Sometimes I think that as an adult we get caught up in the “science” part of adulthood.  By science I mean that there are certain ways to do things, certain paths, steps, precise measurements one must follow to get from Point A to Point B and if you didn’t bother taking that exact path then you shouldn’t logically expect to ever be able to reach Point B.  The mixture is contaminated, the blend is off and instead of making rubber, you’ve made slime.  Had Manet not continued to pursue art the way he wanted to create, had he listened to the voice of his instructor who called his work an “abomination,” had he simply accepted the rejection of his works and not protested to the King, the Salon des Refuses ( “the exhibition of rejects”) that became the launching pad of Impressionism and Modern Art might never have been.  Had Manet kept on trying to fit into the mold, had he stopped learning and growing after he left the Academy, conceivably there may not be the rainbow of art and artists we have today.  Impressionism might not seem like a far stretch from reality compared to the abstract artwork of Picasso, Dali or Pollock, but it was the steps those Impressionistic artists took that were the pebbles that started the avalanche of creativity and exploration for future generations of artists.

What if Manet had just not started because he didn’t think he was good enough?  What if Manet had refused to pick up a brush because he knew his art wouldn’t look like those he’d seen in the museums? What if Manet hadn’t been brave enough to keep doing what he loved despite the disdain of his mentors and teachers?

Here and now I’m making a vow to stop letting myself off the hook with excuses for why I just can’t start or shouldn’t do something, because the truth is,  if God puts something on my (or your) heart, he is going to provide the doors and opportunities to walk towards to discover the tools needed to do it.  Hebrews 13:21 reminds us that God will “equip you with every good thing for doing his will.”  Does God’s will always appear perfect to the world? Of course not.  That’s why Jesus dying on the cross seemed like a victory for Satan for three days.  It might be hard, it might take more time than makes any sense at all, it might take a failure or three, it might look like a blurry picture or an abomination to some out there, but it might just look like the start of something infinitely bigger than you could have imagined.

So what do you need to start today? What voice do you need to tell to be quiet? What idea of perfectionism or impossible standard do you keep hanging onto for yourself that’s holding you back from making/doing/being something incredible? Today, let’s quiet those excuses, be brave and just get started . . .

 

 

 

 

Title art:  “Impression, Sunrise”  Claude Monet

 

 

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Doing Nothing

“What are we going to do today mommy?” my eight-year-old asked me after we had just returned from several hours up at the farm a few miles from our house.  Apparently the time we spent exploring the farm stand, riding the dusty tractor over the pitted fields and walking among the blueberry bushes to find the blueberries that were ripe, not the pinkish blue ones that would make your cheeks suck in from the sour, until we filled our buckets full enough to make not only blueberry muffins, but also blueberry pancakes, fruit pizza, cobbler, popsicles and pretty much anything we could ever think of from blueberries does not count as “doing” anything in his eyes.  I wish that I could say that was an anomaly, that my kids always appreciated all our adventures, big and small, but with three ranging in age from 11 to five, that rarely happens.  There is always at least one who is bored or embarrassed or left out or too short or tired or breaking out in some kind of rash. . . but I digress, rashes aren’t what I’m talking about today.

A month ago, I would have taken the “what are we going to do today” question as an indictment that I was doing a crappy job of this new-to-me stay at home mom thing.  I would have quickly scrambled to think up something else to fill the rest of our summer day, but honey, we are 34 days into summer break and a whole 40 days into the stay at home mom/student/aspiring writer thing and I’m proud to say that I have LEARNED something and mommy don’t play that anymore. Honestly, 34 days in and I’m just plain over “fun-scheduling” my kids.  We are now into new, beautiful territory called “doing nothing.”  Inevitably what happens when we “fun schedule” all day long is that we end up with kids who don’t see a half day trip to a farm as something, who don’t know how to entertain themselves and who are, quite frankly, a little boring and a whole lot spoiled.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the amusement park and the pool and the movies, maybe even more than they do, but it’s in the downtime of doing nothing that I really get to see who they are.  And low and behold, psychologists say that it’s in the downtime that they get to discover who they are and stretch and grow the creativity muscles that they’ll need later in life*.

It’s in those doing nothing afternoons that they build a fort that takes up most of my living room, with special rooms and cubbies inside that become submarines and school buses and spaceships where epic Star Wars battles take place.  It’s in those unplanned moments that bugs, frogs and worms are caught, and teeny tiny homes are built for them, and one discovers that bugs might need real food and water and AIR to survive.  When quiet humming gradually turns into ridiculously loud silly songs and new recipes for “slime” are discovered.  When shoe boxes are turned into Lego people apartments, toilet paper rolls become binoculars and suddenly the kids burst out with the names of all the different birds that have made our yard their home this year after they repeatedly ignored me every time I exclaimed: “look! A red headed Finch!”

It’s in that oasis of doing nothing afternoons that time seems to stretch on.  When one hour feels like three.  When the frantic pace of the world outside doesn’t seem to have its hold on us anymore.  And we can think a little.  Not react, not go, just think.  For me as well, it’s in those moments that I appreciate the uniqueness of my kids, the truth of God’s word that tells us, “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to us.” (Romans 12:6) I appreciate the way that Audrey can take bottles and boxes and garbage and make it into something like a work of art. . . how Aaden’s natural curiosity leads him to take things apart, devour books and ask question after question. . . how Avery creates worlds of adventures within his head that we see only a little of and mainly just hear the sound effects to. . . these things aren’t visible when we are constantly on the go, when we are running from one activity to the next, when we are rushing to fit in everything that everyone else seems to be doing.

So, at least for a little while, I don’t care if my kids are “bored” and I don’t care if they lay in the grass staring at the clouds or on the living room floor watching the ceiling fan go around and around like poor, sad wretches.  Opportunities to dream and create are fleeting and being stolen more and more by the pace of this world and the availability of information and technology.  There will be time for running, time for schedules, deadlines, practices, due dates and milestones soon enough.  There will never be another summer when they are 11, 8 and 5 and if I can stretch an afternoon out into adventures that take them a lot further away than the farm up the road, I won’t apologize or miss out on it by “fun-scheduling” every moment of our day.  Not anymore.  Or at least not until Day 35. . .

 

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*Researchers Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood, of Pennsylvania State University, found that constructively bored individuals seek out and engage in satisfying activities—much like happy people do.  Read their findings here here:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103113002205