Forgive Yourself

I recently joined some yogi friends at a trendy all-vegan, organic restaurant. After enjoying delectable appetizers and a few glasses of wine, someone suggested we do a clearing activity. (Hey, what do you expect from a bunch of yogis after wine?) The yogi leading our exercise asked, “What have you not forgiven yourself for?” He added the caveat to only share that with which we felt comfortable (i.e., “don’t share shit that is too deep”). I thought, “can’t we start with an easier question . . .say what is your favorite color? . . .dog or cat person?”

The authenticity of my dinning mates created a sense of safety which encouraged me to share something beyond, “I need to forgive myself for using the last of the toilet paper at work and not telling anyone.” Themes which emerged from our conversation included forgiving oneself for . . . negatively comparing oneself to others, not meeting cultural standards of success, putting one’s self-care first . . . As the sharing continued, I felt more endured to this lovely group of individuals. Hence, my toilet paper response seemed, forgive the pun, crappy. Hence, I took a deep breath and summoned my courage. “I need to forgive myself for feeling guilty about setting boundaries with people who are suffering.” I went on to explain that I have a history of swimming out to drowning folks with life jackets and holding them above treacherous waters. The feeling of saving others feels good. However, in the past, I lost sight that treading water contributed to sheer exhaustion.

Now I’m learning to set healthy boundaries, so I don’t drown in my quest to exercise compassion towards others. I used to think this process was selfish and mean. However, I now know this process is incredibly caring. I cannot help anyone if I’m lying lifeless on the bottom of the ocean.

What do you need to forgive yourself for today my splendidly imperfect friend?

Imperfectly,

Amelia

 

You Won’t Die in the Yoga Room

I made the mistake. I had the fortunate opportunity to practice Bikram yoga on a 90% humidity day in sunny southern California. For ten years I effectively tolerated the 105 degree, 60% humidity environment of this yoga. However, this day I entered the studio, unrolled my mat, and instantly transformed into a human water fountain. Sweat gushed from every pore in my body despite the fact I laid silently in savasana (i.e., corpse pose)! The teacher entered the room and announced, “Rise and shine it’s yoga time! I know it’s a hot day, but you’re not going to die in the yoga room.” I stood up and thought, “I’m f*&#ed!” My body boiled. Probably, because I was standing DIRECTLY under the red glow of a radiant heater. Given room was packed with sweaty yoga bodies, I could not escape the heater’s radius. During the second breath of pranayama, my mind raced, “It’s too hot . . .I’m dizzy . . . I have to pee. . . I want to run out of this room . . . what if I run out? . . .I’ve never run out. . .what’s wrong with me? . . . everyone else looks ok . . .this absolutely sucks . . . I should have slept in . . . I will be dehydrated . . .my stomach is on fire . . .why did I eat garlicky hummus before class? . . . breathe . . . breathe . . .breathe.” I eventually calmed my mind. However, my body fought to stand. My stomach knotted and the room spun. I surrendered to my mat until the world stilled. Then, with a big deep breath, I stood up and tried again.

By virtue of our human-beingness, we experience moments of intense emotional pain. We question whether we can tolerate another excruciating second and feel pulled to flee the room. We numb . . . with reality TV (goodness knows I’ve watched way too much Teen Mom), busyness, material objects, and substances. We do everything in our power to escape that radiant heater, because it’s tremendously uncomfortable. We gain momentary lapses of relief only for the heat to blast us squarely in the face. If we surrender and breathe, the perspiration pours from our bodies. The toxins leave, we cool, and oxygen replenishes us. We stand up and try again. When the intensity of the heat overwhelms you, lie down, breathe, and recover. Then, get up and try again. If you run, pain will follow you right out of the door.

 If emotional heat has left you face down on the floor, I recommend reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. This wonderful manuscript reminds us that signing up to live whole-heartedly involves falling, and she gives us a formula for rising up.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog's version of shavasana.

My splendidly imperfect dog’s version of savasana.

A Vulnerability Lesson . . .Right in the . . .

Like many recovering perfectionists, I pride myself on being productive and doing things independently. I enjoy being the “helper” not the “helpee” . . . Well, the universe lovingly sent me a lesson to smooth out this jagged growing edge. I had a fabulous start to my spring break vacation. I connected with my dear friend from graduate school and my mom. I very much enjoyed my visitors, but also looked forward to five days of me time. Time for ME, ME, ME – yoga, bike riding, writing, reading, and closet-cleaning. I would finally catch up with life until tonsillitis caught up with me. . .

Following a negative strep test, my primary care physician (PCP) informed me there was nothing he could do for me. He sent me home, told me to rest, gargle with salt water, and drink Theraflu. Forty-eight hours later ambulating and swallowing became herculean efforts. Sadly, my tonsils resembled something from Aliens – red, pus-filled, sacs which invaded the space I once called my throat. I sent the wonderful man in my life (WMIML), a dramatic text, “Something is really wrong, I feel worse. I need help. Come.” Fortunately, he came and convinced me to go to urgent care. I greatly appreciated his concern and patience as I attempted to pull myself together. This scene falls far from my best self. Fortunately, WMIML’s compassion eclipsed my pitiful pageantry.

WMIML: Where is your sweater?

Me: (Tears falling) I don’t know.

WMIML: Is it hanging over there on your coat rack?

Me: Uh-huh.

WMIML: (Kindly brings it over to me and helps me put it on). How about some shoes?

Me: It’s too cold to wear shorts out. I need to find some pants (snotty nose blow).

WMIML: (Picks up the pair I’ve been wearing the past two days off the floor.) How about these?

Me: They stink. I need clean pants.

WMIML: Ok. Where do you keep them?

Me: Over there. (I pitifully point to a dresser drawer).

WMIML: (Pulls out a pair of jeans). How about these?

Me: Ok. Thank you (sniff, sniff). I can’t even find myself a pair of pants. I’m a mess.

WMIML: Yes, that’s why we need to get you to urgent care. Go put them on and let’s go.

Fortunately, the wait was short, and the compassionate physician complimented my coming in promptly. He gave me antibiotics and pain medication on the spot. WMIML drove me home, helped me into bed, and kindly took my sweet doggie out for a potty break. Ahh, back to the land of the living until . . .

I finished the 10 day course of antibiotics and the tonsillitis migrated from the right tonsil to the left. I felt demoralized as I trudged back to my PCP. Now, I was on antibiotics round two. No improvement after several days. WMIML returns to drive me to urgent care. I have not washed my hair in four days and given my malaise the idea of dreadlocks sounds somewhat appealing. I throw on a t-shirt, jeans and manage to corral my oily locks into a hair clip.

PCP: Given you haven’t improved and it’s been three weeks we should try a steroid. It’s like a “miracle” you should start feeling better right away.

Me: I want a miracle. Give me the miracle. Would it be inappropriate to hug you?

PCP: The miracle will involve a shot in your bottom.

Me: I don’t care. I want the miracle.

The nurse comes in and promptly administers the miracle. She mentions it “will burn.” What she failed to declare is that it will feel like a wasp stung you on the ass and reduce your stride to a pitiful limp. I texted WMIML that I received a steroid shot and swiftly hobbled out of the exam room. He politely tried to stifle his laughter to no avail. I was a sight, and I knew it. We climbed onto the elevator with another woman, and his snicker broke into full blown hilarity. I joined him because the only alternative was crying and rubbing my derrière in front of a stranger. She just smiled and commented, “we all have those kind of days.” I nodded in agreement.

After I tried to inconspicuously massage my bottom while waiting on my prescriptions in the pharmacy, I limped through the parking garage while WMIML tried to remember where we parked. The song This Sex is on Fire by the Kings of Leon echoed in my head. Except the word “ass” replaced “sex.” I hummed while I hobbled until the burning overcame my entire backside. I halted and yelled to WMIML, “time out!” He ran over, placed my arm over his shoulder and helped me stagger to the car. I felt guilty for monopolizing what could have been his enjoyable weekend. We had a trip planned for stargazing in the desert. I kept running through scenarios of how I could repay him. However, an African safari or a seat on the Virgin Galactic space shuttle to Mars was slightly out of my budget. I opted for an Amazon gift card.

Why do we find it challenging to be vulnerable and soak in the compassion of others? I know if the tables were turned I would have gladly cared for WMIML. I probably earned a B- during this vulnerability lesson and more will likely come. In the meantime, I’m going to go wash my hair. I wish all of you well and challenge you to embrace a smidge of vulnerability this week.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog had no problem with my oily locks.

My splendidly imperfect dog had no problem with my oily locks.

What I Learned from Selling Girl Scout Cookies

While munching from a box of Tagalong Girl Scout cookies, I recalled my Girl Scout cookie-selling days. Notice I did not use the word “fondly” to describe this recollection. I had a short stint in the Girl Scouts. I entered in fifth grade and exited in sixth. The cookie-selling requirement and a budding interest in boys likely contributed to my short-lived career. I’m sure the cookie-selling experience was designed to instill confidence in pre-adolescent girls. All it infused in me was terror.

Let’s step back to my fifth grade year – very bad haircut (mullet-esque), massive overbite, and a growth spurt that left my legs disproportionally longer than my arms. Oh, did I mention I was shy? Hence, I lacked the Girl Scout cuteness and gregarious that equated to high cookie sales. My mother and father were both introverted; hence, they had no desire to assist me with door-to-door sales. Fortunately, my extraverted and cute best friend down the street agreed to accompany me while I pedaled my wares. The sales transactions went something like this . . .

Me: (knock, knock)

Scary Adult: What do you want?

Me: My name is . . . um . . . . Amelia. I am a Girl Scout from Troupe 2818, would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?

Scary Adult: What kinds do you have and how much are they?

Me: I have Thin Mints, Trefoils and . . . (with a quivering hand, I unfolded and displayed my order form).

Scary Adult: You mean I have to order and pay for the cookies before they arrive?

Me: Um . . . yes.

Scary Adult: No, thanks. (Door slam)

Me: (Tears start pouring down my cheeks).

Heather: Don’t let her bother you. She’s mean and stupid. Let me do the next one.

Me: (Sniffle, sniffle, wiping snot on my shirt sleeves) Ok.

Heather: (Knock, knock)

Nice Adult Lady: Hello, can I help you?

Heather: Hi, my name is Heather, and this is my friend Amelia, who is a Girl Scout. I’m helping her sell her delicious cookies. She has all types of yummy flavors, and she is selling out fast. We want to ensure you get some too. How many would you like to order?

Nice Adult Lady: Which one is the best?

Heather: All of them are delicious mam. I recommend one of each. (Flashes big toothy grin).

Me: (Gives big buck-toothy grin and holds up the order form).

Nice Adult Lady: Well, then I guess I will order one of each!

Heather: Thank you mam. We very much appreciate your business. You won’t be disappointed!

Me: How did you do that?

Heather: You just have to act confident and people will believe you!

Thanks to Heather I actually earned a Girl Scout cookie patch and a little dose of confidence that year. I also went on to get a better haircut, braces and a growth spurt which allowed my arms to catch up with my legs. I also made a vow that when approached by gaggle of Girl Scouts at the grocery store, I will always buy from the shy one in the corner. Then, tell her that she’s going to grow up to do wonderful things.

For better or worse, we live up to the expectations that we and others set for ourselves. Whenever the doubt of my Girl Scout cookie days creeps in, I remember Heather’s words of wisdom, “just be confident.” Eventually, my thoughts and behavior align with this intention. Where in your life do you need to remind yourself to “be confident”? Who can you enlist for support if knocking on the door alone seems too scary?

Imperfectly,

Amelia

I think this face could sell some boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

I think this face could sell some boxes of Girl Scout cookies

The Dangers of Living Alone

 

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the tardiness of this post. Ironically, the day I planned to post this blog, I got sick. However, I am delighted to share this piece with you by my dear friend and guest blogger Taylor. My response to Taylor’s piece follows below. Enjoy! ~Amelia

 

I have lived with back problems for many years. If I am not careful, I can easily agitate old wounds and truly injure myself.  Yesterday, I was leading a class on crisis intervention and slipped on a slick floor (And yes, I am aware of the irony in this situation). I immediately knew that the minor slip was going to create some stiffness and pain later. However, I had no idea what the extent of it would be.  In preparation for what was sure to come, I went through my stretching routine, took some meds and iced the area of concern.

Only a few hours into a restless sleep, I was awoken by an all too familiar shooting pain in my lower back and legs.  I got up, took another hand full of ibuprofen and tried to go back to sleep.  With little hope of actually resting, I decided to get up and try to stretch a bit.  As the night creeped forward, I could feel the magic of the ibuprofen waning.  I went to the medicine cabinet and pulled out the big guns which quickly put me back to sleep for a few hours.  When I woke up again, I managed to get to the shower and partially wash the nightly grime off my now stiff and achy body. Toweling off was an exercise in futility as my body groaned at every attempt to bend beyond a few degrees.  Breathless and fatigued, I made one final effort to dry and clothe myself.  Unable to even get my underwear on, I simply collapsed under the weight of this damp, naked cleaning tragedy.

 Now, at this point, I don’t know if it was the stress, the ridiculous nature of the circumstance, or the muscle relaxers, but I couldn’t stop laughing. These were no ordinary run of the mill laughs.  They took on a maniacal quality that drenched me in a feeling that was otherworldly. I felt disembodied yet somehow grounded to the moment.  Each heaving laugh, was married to a pain so intense, I started to sob uncontrollably. What made this whole situation worse, was that I started imagining what the text would look like if actually had to call someone to help me. “So Amelia, how good of a friend are you? Well, I was wondering if you could come over and pull my underwear up over my bulbous backside? Also, there is some homemade ice-cream in the freezer if you want it. Thanks.”

 These are the moments that truly test your resolve.  Who did I call on to help me? Well, I called no one. Now this is not to say that my friends wouldn’t have come to my rescue if I needed it(And laughed their asses off as they would have surely retold the story a million times). In fact, the knowledge that support was available was enough to push me into action. I pulled myself up off the floor, kicked off the underwear that was trajectory wrapped around my ankle and went back to bed for 8 hours.  I awoke in a bit less pain, but with a renewed sense of resiliency. Even in the toughest of times, we can surprise ourselves with the strength that resides within. Indeed, I had climbed the mountain of Motrin and seen the promise Lumbar support land.

 Cheers

–  Taylor F. Alvarez

 Amelia’s response:

 Had you texted me, I would have come, found myself consumed by your infectious laughter, pulled up your pants and then eaten your ice cream. Why is it that we hesitate to reach out for help during times when it is abundantly clear that we need it and others would love to provide it?

 Like Taylor, I too live alone. Several months ago I contracted strep throat. I knew I was in for a turbulent ride when the chills hijacked my body despite wrapping it in a wool jacket and blasting the space heater. Miraculously, I negotiated the last three hours of work, crawled into my car and made my way home. In a zombie-like state, I trudged up the stairs to my apartment, opened the door and collapsed on the couch. Several hours later, I awoke to darkness and the realization I lacked the energy to move from the couch to the bathroom. Tears rolled down my cheeks as my sweet dog licked my hand to say, “I would help if I could.” I prided myself on fierce independence and now I truly needed help. For a few minutes, I threw myself a fabulous pity party. If only my ex-husband had done x,y & z I would not be alone right now. I quickly realized this party sucked and I best bounce before I woke up with a misery hangover. I picked up my phone and began scrolling through my contacts. Relief washed over me as realized I had several amazing people in my life who would come to my rescue. I would only be alone and dejected if I chose to be. I called a friend who graciously brought over coconut water and a thermometer. She also called to check on me the following day. Love is all around us. We just have to invite it in and trust that we are worthy of it.

 Imperfectly,

Amelia

Doesn't that sweet face just make you feel better?

Doesn’t that sweet face just make you feel better?

The Dyson Airblade . . . It’s Not Just For Drying Hands: Travel Adventures with Amelia

I have traveled alone – a lot. Given I am the youngest of the family, and the only one who lives on the west coast, I go to them. Given my recovering perfectionist status, I still exhibit “type A” travel traits. Yes, I have a packing checklist. I store it on my computer and ceremonially print it out prior to each departure. I commence packing two days before my trip, and I use packing cubes. If you do not have packing cubes, I highly, highly recommend them. eBags pays me nothing for this endorsement. Packing cubes allow one to rifle through one’s suitcase at lightning speed to procure a swimsuit or clean pair of underwear. I also bring a water bottle and quickly fill it once I pass security. I continue to marvel at folks who gawk at it and remark “Wow, how do you get THAT through security?”

Speaking of security, it is a rare event that I make it through without a TSA agent touching me in a way that warrants fine wine, a five star dinner and some smokin’ hot chemistry. I remember leaving Vegas in my new, designer jeans. You know, the ones with the awesome metal designs on the pockets which make any woman’s pancake butt look voluptuous. Note — never wear these jeans through security, ever. Evidently my derriere posed a threat to national security and required a physical pat down. The female TSA agent kindly asked if I wanted to do it in private. Given the early hour of my flight, I needed my double soy, latte stat. Hence, I opted for getting felt up in front of the entire procession of passengers. Interestingly, I have supposedly posed a threat to airport security by . . . wearing a large watch, pony tail, nothing (just kidding), and dangly earrings. I strive to practice thoughtfulness when I go through security. I remove any object which will activate the metal detector. I willingly choose the back scatter machine even though the picture is leaving little to the screener’s imagination. I limit my baggie of liquids to the quart size bag. Honesty, I ‘ve witnessed many a passenger coming through with two gallon freezer bags. One woman brought in a full bottle of Kai body spray. Honestly, I was jealous. Have you smelled that stuff? It is amazing.

I am known to take VERY early morning flights in order to arrive on the east coast at a reasonable hour. (Do I love my family or what?) Hence, my first order of business is to find a large cup of java. Then, I find intellectually stimulating reading material. Ok, I am going to be f’ing honest with you folks. I bring The Week and use it to disguise People. Don’t judge. I know many of you have done the same thing . . . Did you know the stars are just like us? They go to Starbucks and pump their own gas. Who knew? Cross country flights give me plenty of time to read, watch movies . . . I experienced a minor myocardial infarction when the wifi signal disappeared in the middle of Gravity.  That movie was intense.

My flight to my sister’s place was relatively uneventful, and I exited the aircraft only to feel water dripping down the back of my legs. In my hurry to deplane, I overlooked securely fastening my water bottle. The bottom of my backpack was soaked. I ran to the bathroom and urgently blotted it with paper towels. It was like trying to soak up Lake Michigan with a cellulose sponge . . .no bueno. I panicked. Not only did I have a wet back pack. I had a wet bottom. Desperate times called for desperate measures . . .thank God the bathroom had a Dyson airblade. It’s not just for drying hands anymore. I will leave the rest to your imagination and assure you I left that bathroom dry . . . Using an object for a purpose other than it’s original function is the definition of creativity ya’ll.

I spent several days visiting my sweet sister and Dad while attending a conference. Then, I returned to the airport where I am happy report I made it through security without a patting or wanding. My first plane left on time and so did my second! However, after one hour on the tarmac we taxied back to the gate due to a mechanical problem. Ugh. This event presented me with quite a dilemma. I bought a box of gourmet chocolates for a friend who offered to pick me up at the airport. Given the delay, the decent option was to graciously thank her and say, “I brought you these chocolates.” However, I needed self-soothing after several hours in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport with VERY limited vegetarian food options, no dessert and travel stress. I ate the dark chocolate, and I must admit it made me feel immensely better, so did the salted caramel, hazelnut ganache and pinot noir truffle. . . Currently, I am one hour away from home in a full-blown sugar coma. I look forward to landing . . .to tail wags and licks from my splendidly imperfect dog and crawling into my splendidly perfect bed. Good night.

Imperfectly,

Amelia 

My splendidly imperfect dog enjoyed sneaking onto the throw pillows in my absence.

My splendidly imperfect dog enjoyed sneaking onto the throw pillows in my absence.

The Power of Intention = Dishrag Slippers

My closest friends will tell you I frequently say, “put that intention into the universe,” followed by, “who wants to order dessert?” Intention/goal setting, prayer . . . whatever you want to call it, involves identifying what you desire in your life and living in a way that brings it to fruition. Yes, I recognize this idea sounds a bit spiritually foo, foo, but we have plenty of psychological research supporting the effectiveness of this process. To me, it involves the combination of rewiring your brain to look for evidence of that of which you seek and also spiritually informing the universe, “Hey! I totally want X in my life, so if you could help me out with this one, I would greatly appreciate it.”

Recovering perfectionists struggle with the key to intention setting . . . letting go of how and WHEN it manifests in one’s life. Holy moly, I STRUGGLE with this one!!! I often find myself saying things like, “Hi Universe. It’s me. Amelia. . . um remember me? . . . I’ve been really good . . . working hard to be a loving, caring, confident person . . . I picked garbage off the sidewalk today . . . I called my mom . . . I stopped wishing ill will to Mr. Scum Bucket (see Successfully Failing Online Dating) . . . can you please respond to that intention I set a few days ago? . . .Trying to trust you here, but questioning if you’re on a Carnival cruise or something . . .” Here’s the paradox of intentions/prayers/goals – one must set them and then completely let go of being attached to a particular outcome. THEN, one has to live life like the intention will happen. At this point, you’re likely thinking “Amelia, WTF?” (Mom please message me later, and I will decipher WTF for you. Also, I apologize upfront for using WTF.)

Here’s a simple example. In September, a friend from yoga class invited me to a party on the roof top of a posh hotel. I had no idea what to wear, so I turned to my best fashionista friend for advice. She instructed me to text her pictures of my cocktail dresses . . . yikes! I consigned my fabulously large collection of two cocktail dresses after a “come to Jesus” with my closet months ago. Hence, I made an emergency shopping trip to Nordstrom’s. I had 6 hours to find a dress. With text support from my fashionista friend and my sweet sister I found a gorgeous cocktail dress, along with an adorable price tag. The price did not justify a one-time wear. However, I said, “Hey universe, this dress is stunning, and I would like to wear it again to something really special. . . I love going to weddings . . .I am happy to don this for a future party . . .” My sweet sister encouraged me to wear it to as many semi-formal events as possible, and I invited the challenge! Two months later, my dear friend Sara contacted me to inform me that she and her boyfriend were engaged and throwing an engagement party in February. I responded by saying, “Congratulations! I’m so excited for you both! I have the perfect dress for your party!” (BTW- I’m wearing the dress in the picture on the “About Me” page. If anyone needs a date to semi-formal event, I would love to wear it again!)

Sometimes the answers to our intentions do not come exactly in the form we xpect. Be careful what you wish for and be open to what comes! During my recent visit to TX, I complained to my kind host, Steve, my feet were cold. . .

Me: Hey Steve my feet are freezing. Can I borrow some socks?

Steve: Good lord girl! It’s 85 degrees outside . . . at night.

Me: I know. . . can I please borrow some socks.

Steve: I have something even better.

Me: (Steve returns with what appear to be two, stripy dishrags, sewn closed on each end with an elastic casing along the top.) What are those?

Steve: They’re dishrag slippers. My Mah-Mah in Louisiana makes them. She’s 92 years old. Hey, didn’t you want some guy to bring you slippers?  (see F’ing Honest.com)

Me: This is not exactly what I had in mind . . .

Steve: Well Amelia, you need to be a little more responsible with the intentions you throw into the universe and be grateful for what you receive. You are bordering the line of high maintenance.

Me: Point well taken . . .

“Hi Universe, It’s me. . . Amelia . . .again. . . umm thanks so much for the slippers . . .they are super comfy and nicely complement my heart-print pjs . . . I should have been a little more mature regarding my intention for love . . .so here it goes . . . I would like to find the love of my life when I’m ready and you think the time is right . . .and if I could also wear my cocktail dress again that would be fabulous . . . not necessary though . . .but a bonus. . . Love, Amelia.”

“It’s not so much that we force the hand of God, as we become willing to be who we need to be in order to manifest the intention.” ~ K. Woodward Thomas

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Dishrag slippers

Dishrag slippers

Successfully Failing Online Dating

I started online dating approximately four months ago (please see Vulnerability Hangover for my launch into online dating). Thrusting a recovering perfectionist into the dating world comes with its share of unique challenges. Currently, I feel like playing it safe and holing up in my apartment with my sweet, splendidly imperfect dog. However, I am not a quitter. I hold tight to my desire to be the most imperfect online dater possible.

The scene from Vulnerability Hangover continues when the elevator doors open and I walk up and meet Scott* (*all names changed to protect the men who provided me with so many beautiful F*&$ing Opportunity for Growth moments). Looking back on my short, but seemingly, painfully long, four month online dating history, I feel grateful that Scott was my first online failure—a  total kind-hearted gentleman with an endearing east coast accent. Given I dove feet first into the online dating ocean, the waves tossed and pulled me under. Hence, surfacing to a kind soul like Scott provided the sweet relief I sought. I grabbed on and felt safe. Great guy, light, adventurous and  fun . . . I thought, “I can totally do this online dating thing.” I declined dates from other men . . . too complicated . . . I liked Scott. Then, I lovingly opened-my-mouth-and-inserted-my-foot. . . While on a double-date his friend asked me about my online dating experience, and I replied, “all-in-all my experience with online dating has been fairly positive except for the men clearly on a wife hunt.” Usually, overly sensitive me would have asked Scott what brought him to online dating. (First learning curve in online dating, quickly discern if you two are on the same page in regards to what you seek in a relationship!) Yep, I officially earned my place in the scum bucket; and Scott may have appropriately tossed me there. However, in an extremely classy and kind way he initiated a conversation about his desire for a serious relationship and aptly stated that “I was not ready yet.” I truly hope good things are happening for him. Genuinely a remarkable catch, temporarily snagged by an imperfect red-head trying to re-learn her casting skills after an incredibly, heart-breaking divorce.

After this failure, I let the last couple weeks of my three month online subscription run out. However, I recognize that I need to go on a “date-o-rama.” I have to build my confidence, put myself out there and be uncomfortable. I go (with dread and a supportive girlfriend who shows up late) to a “meet up” event and connect with a nice man from the mid-west. My confidence climbs. Hence, I take a leap a few weeks later and sign up for a year-long online dating subscription. Yikes! Honestly, I receive some of the most outlandish matches I can think of . . . seriously, Plano, TX is WAY out of my SoCal geographic region! No, I will not date someone who takes his picture with a tiger, or Hooters waitresses or no shirt. Yes, I will make peace with the fact that I may spend more Saturday nights on the couch in my PJ’s with Frankie (my splendidly imperfect dog).

The moment I embrace datelessness, dates start coming. No sparks or fireworks but some really nice wine and appetizers and exposure to cool wine bars. After a phone call with a seemingly nice man I met online, I take a risk and accept his invitation to dinner (I usually keep a first date to drinks). My expectations remain cautious. However, my date turns out be witty, funny, intelligent, open-minded, handsome . . .my luck is turning . . .I am looking forward to future dates with this guy who may be Mr. Right. It all looks promising. I review all the signs that a guy is into you . . . check, check, check . . .it was so much fun . . . who knows where this will go . . .until three dates later he drops off the face off the earth!  Terribly confused, disappointed and anxious, I call my go-to online dating expert, my friend Sara, who met her husband online after several grueling years of online dating.

Me: Sara, Mr. Right disappeared. He was so communicative and took me out on three dates within the span of a little over a week. All the “signs” were there that let me know he was enjoying my company. What did I do wrong? All I did was send a text after our third date, “Thanks for another fantastic evening. Have a great week!” Why has he not communicated in several days? Isn’t that weird? What’s wrong with me? I’m going to be dateless forever!!!!

Sara: He’s not Mr. Right . . . for you.

Me: How do you know that? I mean he met all the qualities on my list – kind, hard-working, intelligent, witty, open-minded, affectionate, handsome, chemistry, etc . . . he even got the “bonus” of enjoys dancing. I am SoCal’s next Ginger Rogers!

Sara: What you listed should be the bare minimum. Mr. Right stays in communication with you, because he is super excited to spend time with you. He would not think of ignoring a text from you, because you are worth staying connected to.

Me: Why would he go out of his way to spend so much time and money on me in a short period of time and then nothing???

Sara: Who knows.  All I know is he got a bargain for the pleasure of your company and you should think the same way too.

Me: Hot damn! I need to add good communication skills and consistency to my list. Can I officially wad up his profile and dump it in the scum bucket?

Sara: This is a good “test” for you . . . you know that right?

Me: I know that, but it still stings. When you get hurt, it’s because something brushed up against an area that is already hurting. . . ugh FOG moment!!!!!

Sara: I know it’s hard. Go ahead move this one to the scum bucket, so you have plenty of space for Mr. Right to come into your life.

Honestly, I wish I could approach my online dating with a bit more of a Buddhist mentality such as I wish Mr. Scum Bucket* peace, happiness and ease of being. However, in the interest of protecting my tender-heart at the moment, he is relinquished to the scum bucket.

Although I cannot embrace loving kindness towards Mr. Scum Bucket right now. I do find comfort in welcoming a positive psychology perspective to my experience. For all the difficult, lonely, painful and challenging online dating moments here are several sweet, wonderful moments no one can take from me:

  1. Dining at many fabulous restaurants which were novel to me.
  2. Learning how to bake pasta from an Italian chef in a cooking class.
  3. The sweetest first (post-divorce) kiss I could have asked for.
  4. Several hand-in-hand walks along the beach.
  5. Golf lesson.
  6. Learning about finance and accounting (all my dates happened to be in the industry). I can tell you all about the Sabanes-Oaxley Act. (You say “SOX accounting” if you want to sound in-the-know).
  7. Wearing my favorite outfit multiple times, because date #2 does not know I wore it when I met date number #1.
  8. Kisses under the moonlight.
  9. Rock climbing.
  10. Feeling attractive to someone.
  11. Recognizing most of us dating online experienced some tough shit and bad dates.
  12. Gaining discernment between a sweetheart and a scum bucket.
  13. How many amazing people I have in my life to pick me up when I experience dating setbacks.

In fact, I am planning to visit some of the aforementioned amazing people in Texas  shortly to celebrate my birthday.  Hillary Clinton once said it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to support an imperfect online dater. I hope to stumble upon the future love of my life when our shopping carts accidentally collide in a grocery isle . . . or we get stuck on an elevator together . . .or we find each other with a click of a mouse . . .or we happen to sit next to each other on a plane . . . or (universe please feel free to insert an option I did not consider.)

For all you amazingly, imperfect, wonderful online daters, please know you are not alone and should not settle out of fear . . . I would love your comments.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Yes, I do have heart print pajamas, and a splendidly imperfect dog.

Yes, I do have heart print pajamas, and a splendidly imperfect dog.

Splendidly Imperfect Mothering

Today I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with my dear friend and her newborn son, Finn. His funny faces, chipmunk cheeks and coos intoxicated us as we walked him in one of those bad ass off-roading strollers that could take a baby to Everest base camp. During the walk, I contemplated that motherhood is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. What other job (besides fatherhood) offers the greatest opportunity for FOG (F@#$ing Opportunity for Growth) moments? If I have the fortune of becoming a mother one day, my child can simply read my blog and learn about all my imperfections upfront. It will be like informed consent for childhood, “By having me for a mother here are the potential risks and benefits of your upbringing. . .” Who wouldn’t want a mother who knows all the lyrics to “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails? Seriously, my child could win a talent show with that one . . . or conversely be sent to the office . . .

We have the “luck” of living in a culture that loves to tell mothers they are imperfect . . .If you don’t breast feed you’re a bad mom. If you give into your child’s temper tantrum in the store and buy the Cheetos, because they will save your sanity and the sanity of all the patrons in line, you’re a bad mom. If you cannot work, keep a clean house, volunteer at your child’s school, exercise regularly and cook healthy meals, you’re a bad mom. If you forget to buy cupcakes for your child’s classroom party, you’re a bad mom. If you didn’t spend hours to develop a creatively-themed birthday party and invite your child’s entire classroom (because all the other parents invited your child to their childrens’ birthday parties) then you’re a bad mom . . . All of the above examples were shared with me by splendidly imperfect, loving and amazing mothers with splendidly imperfect and well-adjusted children.

I feel fairly confident that my mother would agree that she is recovering from some perfectionistic traits. I imagine she could give you a list of the things she wished she had done differently in raising my sweet sister and me. However, in honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to offer a small list of the innumerable things she did right . . .

  1. When I was seven, I approached her in tears after a friend called me a name. She gently pulled me into her lap, rocked me and told me I could always talk to her if anyone ever hurt my feelings. I continue to take her up on this offer.
  2. When I was 10, I watched my mom shop for a used piano. She found one she admired, and inquired about the price. The salesman asked, “Do you need to ask your husband if you can buy it.” My mother replied, “I have a full-time job and a husband that does not require I ask permission to buy myself a piano.” Then she gestured for me to follow her out of the store.
  3. When I was 16, I watched my mother graduate valedictorian of her of university class after 9 years of going to college part-time while working full-time.
  4. When I was 22, my mother drove two hours after a full day of work to help me find a new apartment, because I, in the naiveté of leasing my first apartment, rented a hell hole.
  5. When I was 27 and contemplating reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend, I asked for my mother’s advice. She said, “Will seeing him again move you towards the woman you want to be?” She knew the answer was irrevocably “no” but made me come to that conclusion versus giving me the answer.
  6. When I was 33, she cheered me on as I decided to leave 30 years of living Texas and head to Southern California.
  7. A few years later, she flew across country on little notice to help me pack up a home that I loved and stage it to sell after my ex-husband and I separated. She wrapped up all my wedding pictures and labeled them, so I could decide what to do with them when I was ready.
  8. She always reads my blog. (She also read my dissertation, which is an undeniable act of love!)

I love you Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and those that love like mothers!

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Somehow I'm doubting that my splendidly imperfect dog bought me a Mother's Day gift . . .

Somehow I’m doubting that my splendidly imperfect dog bought me a Mother’s Day gift . . .

Vulnerability Hangover

 

A few months ago I had the following conversation with a yogi from my yoga class.image

Yogi: So what are you up to tonight Amelia?

Me: Oh, probably hanging with Frankie on the beach and then staying in for a movie.

Yogi: How long have you and Frankie been together?

Me: Seven years. It’s hard to believe. Time flies.

Yogi: Wow, the seven year itch . . .that’s quite a milestone in a marriage.

Me: (Totally mortified now realizing this yogi thinks my dog is my spouse and further realizing that I talk about my dog like he’s my spouse.) . . . um, yep.

This conversation nudges me, rather violently thrusts me, into the world of online dating. One of my dear friends, Sarah, met the love of her life and soon-to-be husband on a popular online dating site, so I think at least I can find a date or two. I visit lovetownusa.com (ok, not the real name of the website just in case there is really a lovetownusa.com and it’s a disreputable, vulgar “dating” service) and take the bazillion question survey that guarantees I will find the love of my life. Honestly, it takes me three weeks to complete it. Once I finish it, I have the lovely fortune of receiving my “unique personality profile.” In addition to including multiple blanket statements about all my fabulous qualities, it also lets me know about my following “growth edges”:

  1. Others might be afraid of your “new-fangled” thoughts. (Please send me a comment if anything on this blog appears “new-fangled.”)
  2. Some people may think you’re wound too tightly and may secretly want to see you lose control or relax a little bit. (Ok, maybe there is some merit to this one given I am a recovering perfectionist. However, I have thrown some very wild living room dance parties in my day . . . maybe I will actually invite others to join me at some point.)
  3. Some people may be threatened by your openness or find you too much to compete with. (Seriously, why would someone with three graduate degrees be too much to compete with? Did I mention I won a Nobel Prize?)
  4. People who spend most of their time on themselves may feel embarrassed around you. (Ok, this one means I am super nice. . .and I certainly hope narcissists feel embarrassed for talking about themselves too much around me.)

Yep, reading through these sparkling qualities certainly instills a sense of confidence as I create my profile and upload pictures for male “it will take less than three seconds to determine if you are worth clicking on” scrutiny. Yuck, yuck . . . vulnerability forms a lump in my throat . . . AND prevents me from activating this profile for three months. . . The many crazy book recommendations (e.g. Why Men Marry Bitches, Date Like a Man, and How to Get the Guy) and advice (e.g., don’t tell men what I do for a living, consider freezing my eggs) from well-intentioned folks certainly do not help either.

I decide to take a leap and activate my profile as the calendar speeds forward to “singles awareness day” (aka Valentine’s Day). I upload the lovetownusa.com app to my phone and make the brilliant decision to accept push notifications. Then . . . (insert crickets chirping) . . . absolutely nothing for two days. My worst fears confirmed . . . I am divorced and now undateable . . .I will grow into the elderly woman who dresses her dog in tutus and sunglasses and pushes him around in a dog carriage . . .at least I don’t have to worry about cleaning my apartment or making sure I own cute underwear . . . it’s all over now. . .

Then, I wake up to seven notifications on my phone . . . Jason sent you a smile, Rick, Richard, Ryan, Jeff, Jeffery and Geof want to get to know you better. Instead of jumping up and down like a squealing middle school girl, I feel utterly overwhelmed. I look at Jason’s profile and the thought of going through five more feels like drudgery. How do I keep these men straight in my head? Lovetownusa.com also has the lovely feature of showing you all the people who decided to look at your profile and NOT communicate with you. Why in the hell do I need to know this fact? What purpose does this serve? Enlighten me. I delete the app from my phone, go about my day, go to bed and wake up at 4am with a vulnerability hangover. Brene Brown, vulnerability and shame researcher, made this term famous in her second TED talk. According to dictionary.com, when something is vulnerable it is capable of being wounded or hurt. After going through an intensely painful divorce, entering the world of online dating renders me vulnerable. I call Sarah for support.

Me: I just earned an F in online dating.

Sarah: There are no grades in online dating, unless you found a dating site with which I am unfamiliar.

Me: Is there a way I can do this without being vulnerable? My head hurts. Do you have a cure for a vulnerability hangover?

Sarah: Yes, do that which you fear.

Me: You mean I actually have to communicate with some of these men?

Sarah: Yes or you can just hole up in your apartment with Frankie.

Me: Frankie is safer.

Sarah: True, but Frankie also licks his feet and his butt.

Me: Good point. I will respond to some of these men.

Sarah: You should also reach out to some of your matches.

Me: Seriously? This is so much work . . . I think I would rather go back to middle school and be a wallflower.

Sarah: Hang in there sweetie. I am really proud of you. It takes a ton of courage to step back out there again when you suffered a deep and excruciatingly painful heart break. Take it at your own pace.

Me: Thank you. I love you.

Sarah: Love you too.

I start responding to these men. Lovetownusa.com requires users to go through several levels of “piloted communication” before delving into the world of email. Slowly I find myself getting excited about some of the conversations, thinking I might meet some nice guys . . . it’s fun getting to know new people . . . until one just abruptly stops communicating with you! Unlike a totally normal and rational person, the recovering perfectionist in me tries to personalize my first “email drop.” I try to challenge her critical voice by coming up with perfectly plausible reasons why he stopped emailing me such as . . .

  1. He got trapped under a heavy object and is doing everything possible in his power to reach his computer to email me back.
  2. He was kidnapped by aliens.
  3. He hit his head and completely lost his memory.
  4. He contracted a flesh-eating virus.
  5. He witnessed a horrible crime and entered the witness protection program.
  6. He realized we may be distant cousins . . . two fair-skinned, red-headed, very attractive people . . .it could happen.
  7. He was killed in a zombie apocalypse.
  8. The possibilities are endless . . .

I also must cope with being asked on dates! In my neurotic online dating state, I neglect to contemplate what I might do if one of these guys actually asked me out. I initially respond by saying things like, “Thank you so much for your interest in my profile. It’s been fun getting to know you but I think I’m not the best fit for you. I think we’re in very different places right now” (i.e., I’m neurotic and you’re not). Or “I would love to keep getting to know you via email before connecting in person” (this response was often met with an email drop.)

I need a break from lovetownusa.com and decide to turn off new matches while I travel to Texas to attend Sarah’s engagement party. I keep communicating via email with three men and this load feels manageable. Communicating with two of the men feels like “work”; however, I have fun communicating with one of them. He invites me to meet up for drinks to which I agree, then I delay for a week with a lame excuse about a cold and work conflict. However, I realize curling up with Frankie on the couch, while comfy, has minimal power in decreasing my vulnerability hangover. The only cure is to . . . Go.On.The.Date!

In consultation with my fashionista co-worker, I decide on an outfit, get dressed, do the hair and make up thing, hop into my car and head to a swanky downtown bar to meet my date. I step into the elevator and push the button for the bar level, the door opens, I step out, and I see him at the bar. I walk up, extend my hand and say, “Hi, I’m Amelia.” . . . My vulnerability hangover begins to subside. . .

To Be Continued. . .(What can I say? I have to leave ya’ll hanging so you’ll come back to my blog.)

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect "spouse"

My splendidly imperfect “spouse”

 

 

 

Assist Pin: Coping With Painful Emotions

 

I love the chin up/dip machine in the gym. It is one of the most efficient ways to work several major muscle groups at once. Given I detest weight lifting, but I know it builds strong and healthy bones, yada, yada, yada, I celebrate a machine that shortens my agony. I also love that it contains the “weight assist” stack. I simply determine the pounds I want to subtract from my actual weight and insert the lovely “assist” pin. On particularly challenging days, I place the pin near my exact weight and pull myself up with one hand! I feel like Demi Moore in GI Jane except I don’t have a shaved head or her ripped biceps. Gymgoers standing  at least 20 feet away might possibly mistake me for Svetlana Feofanova — a fellow famous red-haired athlete! I do try to challenge myself and move the pin up and pull up more and more of my weight. I recognize muscle building involves pain but some days I need a break from it.

When it comes to painful emotions, perfectionists find the assist pin particularly attractive. Perfectionist assist pins come in all shapes and sizes . . . working long hours, racking up achievements, filling every available moment with something productive, rigid exercise routines, and cleaning. Some assist pin activities can be helpful like distracting oneself from painful emotions by calling a friend, going for a run, or doing something kind for others. Others can prove particularly damaging like numbing out with alcohol, food or excessive sedentariness.

One should not use the aforementioned coping strategies to continuously to avoid painful emotions. Tal- Ben Shahar (2009) highlights that painful emotions need to move freely down the “emotional pipe line” in order to maintain good emotional-wellbeing. When we continuously suppress, ignore, and distract ourselves from painful emotions a clog builds and these emotions remain trapped inside contributing to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. If we use the “assist pin” over and over again it will eventually wear down, break and send us crashing under our true weight. Hence, we need to challenge ourselves to pull it out and feel, ache, grieve and hurt and know we are human and splendidly, imperfectly built.

At times, we need to put the pin in. Shortly after I separated from my ex-husband the grief permeated my being to the depths that my heart physically ached. I had no idea that a human being could shed such colossal volumes of tears. I recognized that I could not grieve 24/7 and maintain some semblance of sanity. I needed breaks. I needed the assist pin. My “assist” pin included things like a living room early 90’s dance party with my sister, watching really horrible reality TV (so bad I cannot succumb to telling you even though I use a pen name), painting my toe nails radical colors, listening to Nine Inch Nails VERY, VERY loud in my car and yelling “Head like a hole, black’s got your soul, I’d rather die than give you control!,” hot baths, watching videos of cute baby animals on youtube and then . . . I. Pulled. The. Pin. Out. . . so I could work through the pain, build strength and prevent the pin from wearing out. It’s an imperfect process. Sometimes I leave the pin in too long. Other times, I suffer too long under the gravity of my own weight and could benefit from giving myself a break. My wish for all of us is that we can grow in our discernment of when to put the pin in and pull it out.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog can be a sweet, furry, four-legged “assist pin.”

Imperfect Conscious Uncoupling

A huge source of support during my divorce.

A huge source of support during my divorce.

Many of you likely read about Gweneth Paltrow’s and Chris Martin’s conscious uncoupling on goop.com. Marriage and Family Therapist, Katherine Woodward Thomas, coined this phrase and defines it as, “a break up that is characterized by goodwill, by generosity, and by respect. It is a process that leaves both parties valued and appreciated for all that was shared. . .and it is where two people are really striving to minimize the damage they do to themselves . . . and then to each other. ” Family therapist Dr. Sonja Rhodes notes, “. . . couples confront their irreconcilable differences by looking into themselves instead of blaming their partners. Each partner takes a reflective, conscious stance toward what role he or she has played in the dissolution of the couple. This is actually a pretty radical point of view when you consider that when nearly all people talk about their divorces, there’s always some element of blaming their partner.” In the midst of feeling hurt, abandoned and rejected, it is all too tempting to cling to the ways in which our partners wronged us. The process of turning inward and acknowledging we made mistakes leaves us, particularly perfectionists, feeling terribly vulnerable. Kuddos to those who muster this type of courage.

Public comment disparaging Gweneth for not saying “divorce” angers and saddens me. The reality of divorce is excruciatingly painful even under the best of circumstances. I would have gladly welcomed a publicist to craft a meaningful, positively-framed statement (not to mention flattering photo) to distribute to my family and friends when my ex-husband and I decided to “consciously uncouple.” Given I was deep in the throes of perfectionism in my marriage, I worked hard to make it look “perfect.” We depicted a story-book picture on the outside despite a bed of molten lava bubbling up beneath the dreadfully shallow surface. My ex-husband and I loved each other, lived in an attractive home in a much desired area of town, had good jobs, belonged to an extravagant “sports resort”  where I could swim in a sparkling, heated pool alongside former Olympic athletes, and spent our weekends on the beach. By societal standards we had “arrived.” Honestly, we arrived to a place where neither of us were growing and the fear that if either of us stepped towards a more authentic life the surface would open and the lava would swallow us whole. Eventually, the lava came with an undeniable force and power that neither of us could reign in. We fought for each breath while trying to continue the tasks of daily life. Given we painted a false picture to ourselves, family and friends (hell, we had all the happy couple pictures on Facebook) the news of our divorce shocked all those we cared about. I felt like a failure on so many levels and knew confessing my imperfection was the only way to save myself. I called my sweet sister (SS):

SS: Hi Amelia. How are you?

Me: (Violently sobbing) Not good. . . something bad happened with [ex-husband] . . . my marriage is over. I need to be with you. Can I come visit?

SS: Come . . . just come.

I flew across country to my sister and told her the true story of my marriage and wept and wept. Though the pain of this loss permeated every ounce of my being, I felt a weight lift. Now someone knew my anguish and imperfections and loved me deeply anyway. My sister’s love and support gave the courage to commence the daunting task of telling family and close friends about the death of my marriage. I encountered, “I can’t believe this” followed by “I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I love you. What do you need?”  I feel incredibly blessed that those I so deeply cared about held my head above water, without judgment, when I feared I might drown.

At times, I still experience shame when I tell people I’m divorced. I try to practice self-compassion and remind myself that 50% of the population, including many people I love, trust and respect are also divorced. To be quite honest, the next person with whom I decide to “consciously couple” will gain a much better version of Amelia than the one my ex-husband knew. She is quicker to admit mistakes, laugh at them, and savor the present moment without worrying about when the sky will cave in. (She also has a splendidly imperfect blog!)

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Do Nothing Day . . .Fail . . .Sort Of

A week ago, a friend of mine mentioned that he and his wife had a “do nothing” day. He explained they took a nice walk, went out to lunch and watched a cheesy movie. I thought, “That sounds really nice,” followed by, “How can you spend an ENTIRE day doing nothing! No plans? No lists?” Recovering perfectionists struggle with “being” vs. “doing.” Marking items off our lists and setting goals instills confidence that we are dedicating every precious minute towards success. However, this approach comes with significant costs including burnout, stress, anxiety, guilt . . . and the list goes on. Honestly, our “in-box” items spontaneously multiply (I think the physics law which supports this assertion involves Avagadro’s Law and some quarks). We may have the cleanest bathroom in the great 50 states; however, the next “to do” task quickly eclipses the temporary moment of elation.

An abundance of research supports the benefits of mindfulness and meditation (i.e., being vs. doing). Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness, as “cultivating attention in a particular area.” Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan asserts mindfulness enhances our ability to make intentional choices about thoughts and feelings versus acting out of habit or impulse. The first step involves gaining awareness of what your mind is doing and gently beckoning it back to the present moment when it wanders away. My mind often reminds me of my splendidly imperfect dog in a new park. He lopes about, sniffs and explores. When I call, he will gleefully romp back to me for a chin scratch and then dart away to the next distraction. My mind similarly skips and scampers about. Particularly while I lay in shavasana (dead body pose) in yoga. As you fittingly guessed, shavasana requires one to lie still and quiet one’s mind. Here’s how my shavasana typically goes . . .

Mind: You need to take the recycling out when you get home.

Me: Mind, get back here you’re supposed to be in yoga class! Breathe.

Mind: I noticed during hands-to-feet pose that you have a big bruise on your shin and you’re a couple days overdue for shaving your legs.

Me: Shut up! Breathe.

Mind: You need to pick up some more paper towels the next time you’re in the grocery store. You should also check your toilet paper supply.

Me: Mind get back here!

Mind: When is this shavastna going to be over? Oh, the teacher has a really cool ankle bracelet on. Hands-to-feet pose would totally be more fun if I had a pretty ankle bracelet on.

Me: You’re supposed to be breathing and doing nothing else!

Mind: I can’t wait until the yoga teacher announces the next pose. This is torture!

Obviously there is a reason they call it yoga “practice” and not yoga “perfect.” Mindfulness practice is similar to building bulging biceps. You start lifting in small increments and gradually build up weight and endurance. Goodness knows I need more practice stilling my mind, enjoying the present moment and refueling my emotional gas tank! Hence, I decided implement a “do nothing” night. Given I am a recovering perfectionist, I knew better than to set the unrealistic and high-pressured goal of an entire “do nothing” day. I looked forward to my evening of NOT doing laundry, paying bills, etc. I decided to do whatever moved me in the moment . . . UNTIL . . . I received an email from my accountant asking me to review my taxes and return my efile certificate ASAP!!! I quickly thought, “I already failed at do nothing night, and I have not even left work!” Then I thought, “wait, this is a FOG (i.e., f#$%*ing opportunity for growth moment)!” I looked at my taxes as soon as I got home and then did nothing! I left my laundry in the overflowing clothes basket. I ate cereal for dinner (with a banana to keep it healthy of course). I danced to early 80’s songs in my living room and indulged in a cheesy romantic comedy and hot bath. Yep, definitely a FOG moment transformed into SWAG (i.e., Super, Wonderful Awesome Good-enough) moment.

 

“You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.”

― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

 

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog has mastered the art of "do nothing" day.

My splendidly imperfect dog has mastered the art of “do nothing” day.

F’ingHonest.com: A Healthy Alternative to Facebook

Obviously my efforts to train my splendidly imperfect dog to do the laundry have failed!

Obviously my efforts to train my splendidly imperfect dog to do the laundry have failed!

Several months ago, I found myself forlorn and lonesome on a Saturday night. I initially distracted myself by watching Sex in the City, imitating a Bollywood dance video on youtube.com and folding laundry. No bueno. I still felt desolate. Hence, I turned to Facebook for connection (you know this is not going to turn out well right?). Post One: “Thank you to my amazing boyfriend for cooking dinner tonight!” Post Two: “We’re engaged!” Post Three: “I love my amazing husband and sweet apple blossom!” Don’t get me wrong, yay for my friend with a fabulous husband and adorable baby. However, my inner perfectionist spoke up with a vengeance. “Amelia, look at you. You’re home alone on a Saturday night and you have no husband or sweet apple blossom. Everyone else is doing something fabulous tonight and you’re sitting here crying. Pathetic.” (I told you she was mean!)

Why is it that we commonly choose to post our “perfect” moments on Facebook? In her phenomenal work on self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff highlights that our culture places too much focus on self-esteem, “how much we are different, how much we stand out from others.” Facebook creates a perfect outlet for us to stand out from and look better than others. If I put up posts of my perfect life for others to see, then I must be doing well. However, Dr. Neff highlights significant costs of trying to boost one’s self-evaluation in this manner. If we fall below perfect, then we feel awful about ourselves. We also run the risk for narcissism. BTW- in the book The Narcissism Epidemic Living in the Age of Entitlement Twenge and Keith highlight this generation is more entitled and narcissistic than ever. Scary. (Note to self. One can lower one’ s risk of narcissism by avoiding social media.)

Given, not surprisingly, my self-esteem plummeted after looking at Facebook, I decided to call my sweet sister (SS).

SS: Hey! How are you?

Me: (Sniffle, sniffle, snotty nose blow) not good.

SS: What’s wrong?

Me: I am home on a Saturday night, and I feel like a loser.

SS: Most people our age are home on a Saturday night. I’m home.

Me: But you and the entire rest of the world are home with a significant other.

SS: Honey, you went through an incredibly painful divorce. Be gentle with yourself.

Me: (Big, pulsating snotty-nose blow) I know . . . (sniffle, sniffle) but I just want a date . . . to know someone thinks I am attractive . . .maybe buy me flowers.

SS: Are you expecting some good-looking guy to show up at your door and say, “hey are you missing this glass shoe?”

Me: Exactly! I would tell him, “Hey, I’ve been looking everywhere for that shoe. It fell into the wrong hands for awhile and got some scratches. I am so appreciative of you returning it. These glass slippers look super cute with my favorite cocktail dress.”

SS: You are amazing and beautiful but life just does not work that way.

Me: I (sniff, sniff) know.

SS: I think it would help you to stay away from Facebook for awhile.

Me: You’re right. Thank you for being such an amazing sister. I love you.

SS: I love you too. You won’t feel this way forever.

I attempted to distract myself from self-critical thoughts by cleaning the bath tub. No luck. I called my friend Steve.

Steve: Hey Amelia! What’s up?

Me: Me, a dateless wonder, home on a Saturday night.

Steve: Amelia, most people our age are home on Saturday night.

Me: That does not make me feel better. I also made the mistake of looking at Facebook during a very low and vulnerable moment.

Steve: Oooh Amelia, nothing good comes of that. What happened to your chocolate cupcakes?

Me: Out of cupcakes. Evidently all my Facebook friends have perfect lives, perfect partners, perfect children and perfect hair. Where could I post, “I feel lonely on a Saturday night and would like some companionship” or a picture of me in my 14-year-old Old Navy flag tee shirt and heart print pajama bottoms?

Steve: You really have a 14-year-old Old Navy shirt?

Me: It’s comfortable. . . That’s not the point! You’re supposed to be empathic. Aren’t you a psychologist?

Steve: We would all feel better if everyone was just f*@#!ing honest on Facebook . . .

Me: That’s it. We need F’ingHonest.com. We could eradicate shame and normalize imperfection! We could increase self-compassion

Steve: Totally!

After this conversation, I reached out to friends and asked for f’ing honest posts. I received the following:

“I am running late for work again. I know my boss won’t care, but I feel guilty.”

“I feel like an imposter in academia.”

“My children drove me crazy today.”

“My husband and I got into a horrible fight.”

“I feel awful because my daughter is afraid to put her head under water while all the other children in her swim class are darting around like fish.”

“I am afraid of returning to the dating scene after my divorce for fear of rejection.”

Shame radiated from these posts; however, fear of being “less than” is universal. Shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown emphasizes sharing our shame stories reduces shame. Hence, in this spirit, I added a new page to Splendidly Imperfect Adventures – The Shame Eraser. This page is a safe space for myself and readers to be f’ing honest and to challenge shame. I encourage you to visit this page and say, “take that perfection and shame”!

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Recovering Perfectionist Tries to Create a Website

Splendidly Imperfect Adventures Mantra of the Week: “If you can’t make a mistake, you can’t make anything.” Marva Collins

Ironically, my inner perfectionist reared her ugly head during the creation of Splendidly Imperfect Adventures. Instead of complimenting me on all the technological feats I accomplished in one day, she highlighted everything I could not and had left to do. Prior to creating this website, my most web-savvy maneuver involved developing a Facebook page. I tried Pintrest but failed to “pin.” I tried StumbleUpon and stumbled upon procrastination. I tried Tumblr and did not find a single, flat-bottomed drinking glass. I called my slightly-more-tech-savvy-than-me friend, Steve, and informed him the web building site defeated me.

Steve laughed and then recounted the plethora of mistakes he made when building his website including losing its entire content.

Steve: Amelia, how long have you been working on the website?

Me (exasperated tone): An entire day, and I don’t think it will allow me to post a blog.

Steve: Do you see the add a page option?

Me: Uh huh, but the stupid thing won’t do what I want it to. Maybe I should give Pintrest another try. It would likely be more fun.

Steve: How long have you thought about starting this blog?

Me: Years.

Steve: How much did you get done today?

Me:  I solidified my domain name, purchased the domain name, created the website shell, opened a Twitter account and tweeted my first tweet and read about RSS feeds.

Steve: You’ve been thinking about creating a blog about imperfection for years, and you set a goal of getting the entire website set up today?

Me: Um . . . yes (gulp) . . . I mean no . . . hey, it’s unfair to use your psychologist powers on me . . .I’m your friend . . . you’re trying to make me engage in self-reflection . . . damn, you’re good.

Steve: Step away from the computer. Step. Away.

Me: (Scooting chair away from computer) but what if I just try the “theme” feature on the dashboard . . .

Steve: Don’t do it . . .back away. Back. Away. Now.

I finally left the computer and subsequently numbed out to Friday Night Light re-runs. What can I say? I grew up in the heart of Texas ya’ll.

Day Two. Every time I inserted text into the “magic web builder program” (MWBP), my webpage went cattywampus. So, the routine went something like this – insert text, cattywampus chaos, undo button, insert text, cattywampus chaos, undo button . . . until I contemplated throwing my computer out the window. I decided the more adaptive response would involve calling MWBP support. Friendly MWBP support representative informed me MWBP is not designed for blogging!!!! Ok, at this point I sincerely wished I responded with, “Oh, look how much I learned. If I ever want to create a simple, non-blogging website in the future, I can easily do it.” Instead I texted Steve, “I hate, hate, hate, did I mention hate, trying to create this website! I am defeated!”

(Phone ringing)

Steve: Ok, talk to me Goose, what is going on?

Me: What is NOT going on is my blog.

Steve: Ok, you need to download WordPress which will allow you to create a blogging site.

Me: How do I do that?

Steve: Go to your hosting account.

Me: Where is that?

Steve: Under your account page.

Me: I don’t have it.

Steve: I’m sure you do. Send me a screen shot.

Me: (Click, send)

Steve: You need to get a hosting account.

Me: Ugh. This is a major FOG (i.e. f@#*ing opportunity for growth) moment!!!!! I want a SWAG (super, wonderful, awesome, good-enough) moment! I want a chocolate cupcake! No, make that two chocolate cupcakes. I’m in pain.

I purchase a hosting account and negotiate a refund for MWBP.

Day Three. I effectively download Word Press and create Splendidly Imperfect Adventures. Joy radiated from my soul the moment I hit “publish” and the fruits of my labor appeared on the world wide web! This type of bliss only comes from failing over-and-over and having a supportive friend help you navigate unanticipated boulders. Thank you, Steve.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog was no help during my website drama. He's not supposed to be sleeping on the throw pillows either!

My splendidly imperfect dog was no help during my website drama. He’s not supposed to be sleeping on the throw pillows either!