Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A healthy discontent

I'll be honest- I tend towards obsession. This can be simultaneously a strength and a weakness of my personality. Sometimes I obsess about somewhat trivial things like which stroller or food processor to buy. (Although, in the moment, those things don't seem very trivial, but I digress.) I'll spend hours reading reviews, comparing models, and searching for the perfect deal. I won't mention the pro/con scoring sheets that may or may not have been created in the past. Nope! Moving on...

Sometimes I obsess about things that are important. I'll find something that I want to be good at, or an area where I need to improve personally, and just attack it. I'll read blogs, like facebook pages, join a relevant message board if one exists, read books and add more to my Amazon wish list, and spend lots and lots of time thinking about it and working on it. I'll do this until I've either learned everything I wish to know about the topic, or have completely exhausted my attention span, in which case I'll put the topic to rest for a while and get back to it later.

On one hand, this is a good thing. I'm able to be pretty honest with myself about areas where I need improvement, and then focus on improving them. I take myself seriously- not in an arrogant "I'm a big deal" kind of way, but in a "I want to be the best me I can be" kind of way. I do New Year's Resolutions, not because they're a cute tradition, but because to me New Years is a fresh start and a perfect time to set goals and for myself. This year I made a pretty detailed list of things I wanted to accomplish personally and what concrete steps I was going to take to make them happen. I'm a completely different person than I was 5 years ago, and I'm really proud of that fact.

The downside is that I too often expect perfection from myself. I'll walk by a closet that I cleaned out a couple of months ago, and start internally attacking myself because it's gotten messy again. It's not my first instinct to remember the three bags of stuff that I got rid of, and that the closet still looks tons better than it did before. My first instinct is to expect it to look totally neat and organized. That's a somewhat trivial, tangible example, but I often follow that same line of thought when it comes to the big things also. Too often I expect perfection, instead of being pleased with progress.

I have several women in my life that I really look up too. Most of them I don't know super well, but I know all of them well enough to know that I want to be like them. These women share my unique views about parenting, women, marriage, and Christianity. Not only do they have a great perspective on so many issues, but they're able to effectively share their wisdom with others. These women are awesome mothers, have amazing marriages, and are really making a difference in the world. That's who I want to be! That's what I want to do! And so often I get frustrated that I'm just not there yet! And then the other day it dawned on me. These women that I look up to are in their thirties, forties, or even fifties. How can I expect to be in the same place that they are at only 26? This is not the end of the road for me. I'm constantly growing and learning, and everyone has to start somewhere. If I grow and change even half as much in the next five years as I have in the last five years, then maybe I actually can start to look like the woman that I so desperately want to be. And I have no reason to believe that I won't be able to get there. I'm constantly learning, critiquing, evaluating, and growing. I'm not standing still, not by a long shot. So then why am I so hard on myself? Why can't I stop more often and celebrate the victories that I have acheived?

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As I've been struggling with these thoughts, I came across this post at Health-bent that was really encouraging to me. Megan Keatley writes:

"Evaluating the way we look, act, and are received is simply part of being on Earth. The point I’m trying to make is that I believe it can be perfectly normal to take what society thinks is “good” + what you think is “good”; mesh it together to figure out what you want and is necessary, and go for it. It is truly a blessing and a curse. You’re constantly proud of the progress you’ve made and where you’re at, but slightly dissatisfied all the while thinking there’s more. Once you reach a goal you want to set a new one, etc…you know what I’m talking about. Let’s call it “healthfully dissatisfied”. Temporary satisfaction can usually be found when you know you have done all you can do and will continue to do so. And we believe dissatisfaction and insecurity lies where you know you haven’t."

That pretty eloquently describes how I feel! So maybe this is a good thing? I'm definitely proud of how far I've come, but I'm not willing to put down roots and stay here.

Then on Sunday night I stumbled across a blog I've never seen before, and read something that was equally challenging, but from another perspective. Beth Berry writes:

"My life right now is not as it should be. It should be some other way.

Can it be? Right this very moment, can your life be different? Not until you do something to make it different. There is no good that comes from dwelling on how it “should be.” The truth is, it shouldn’t be any different, because IT ISN’T! Instead, an embrace of what is allows for an opportunity to be fully present and more attentive to the beauty of now. This is one of those limitations that I’m still very much in the throws of. These days it manifests itself as, “I should be doing more – I should be writing more, cooking more, studying more Spanish, investing more time in my kids, the Maya, my parents, my friends, my grandparents.” It’s a pretty awful feeling and one that I intend to conquer, as long as it takes me. When I catch myself, I can see the fallacy in my thinking, but its roots are deep and stubborn and consistent weeding takes some real discipline."

And that's so true too. Sometimes I need to be able to just slow down and enjoy the moment, and not worry about which mountain I'm going to conquer next. Each day already has enough joy for me to savor if I'll slow down long enough to notice it. I encourage you to go and read the rest of that post- there are some really good nuggets in there that I didn't touch on at all.

So maybe, just like everything else in life, this is about balance? I need to find a balance between having a healthy discontentment with where I'm at, and yet taking the time to slow down and enjoy exactly where I am right now and how far I've come already. Maybe I'll make finding that balance my new obsession...

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