There are birds that fly, and fish that swim. And then there are fish that fly.

Never forget, you are and can be many different things. The combination of you, of who you are, is glorious. Never forget this, and never wish for otherwise.

Be not discouraged if you don’t fit the mould. There are people that say there are birds that fly and there are fish that swim and that’s all there is to it. But we know better. Those that dare to look a little further will learn that there are also fish that fly and indeed even birds that swim. And if that is the case, how many more astounding combinations in between?

 

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Procrastination Station: Part II – The Law of Intertia, the Lie of Multitasking, and the Truth of Discipline

So in the last post, Procrastination Station: Part I – Priorities, Productivity, and Eating Crow, we talked about some of the effects of procrastination and lack of productivity. And we were left with a question: how can we get the train from Procrastination Station to ProductivityVille?

Answer: We have to buy a ticket on the Determination Express and ride the line of Hard Discipline. Okay, admittedly, I got caught up in the train lingo, what can I say? I enjoy a pithy metaphor. And no, the irony does not escape me that, not surprisingly, it has taken me more than a week to write this conclusion. Nevertheless, in this post, I have set out to nail down some specifics that I am learning about combating procrastination as it is a continual struggle for me on this journey of writing SurpriseYou’reAdopted.com

  1. Realize What’s Fueling Your Procrastination. On the surface, it’s easy to attribute procrastination to just laziness. And I am willing to concede that sometimes, the chores that we have to do or responsibilities that we have to take care of are just not as fun  or as easy as ignoring those things and vegging out all day. I think we can all agree that Netflix is more appealing than writing your term paper, or finishing that PowerPoint deck for work on Monday. But more often than not, there’s usually another layer of something holding us back.
  • Is your procrastination coming out of fear? If I’m being honest, for me it always comes back to some kind of perfection paralysis fear. My post is not going to be perfect, my approach is never going to be just right; I could always be doing more, it’s never going to be enough, why even bother trying at all?
  • Is your procrastination coming out of being overwhelmed? I know that a large part of mine is. Right this very moment I could list any one of ten different people that are doing leaps and bounds more than me with this writing thing. Often, we can get caught up in not knowing where to start. I might have writers block, or even a mess of ideas that I have no clue how to organize that feels insurmountable.
  • Is your procrastination coming from a disillusionment that you have more time than you think you do? This one gets me all the time. I will never be early for anything I do in life because my brain always assumes that I have more time than I think. But again, this is a part of growing up: realizing your real parameters, preparing for the inevitable roadblocks, leaving yourself extra time to accept the unexpected.
  1. Acknowledge the Source and Move On…the Key word here being MOVE. I wish that I could sit here and tell you that there is a magic remedy to these roots. There’s not. We’re all scared of failing something. Guess what? We need to start anyway. You may not end up with a perfect PowerPoint deck for work, but I can guarantee you that in most circumstances, your boss will notice if you don’t get it done at all. You may be putting off that term paper (or blog post) because you’re scared of bombing it and failing that class (or writing useless crap that gets you nowhere), but you will definitely fail if you turn in nothing at all.

On this topic I am throwing down the gauntlet to declare that good things don’t come to those who wait, they come to those that will themselves to start. And as far as the disillusionment of having time on your side, I’m here to tell you that Murphy’s Law is real and it is the rule, not the exception. So we need to start training ourselves to hit the GO button. I say ‘training’ because it’s like a muscle, it takes practice, dedication, and consistency. Doing something is better than doing nothing. And true, you may not get exactly where you wanted to get, but on the other hand, you will never get anywhere at all if you don’t start, and then you will never know what could have been. I may not know exactly how to get through that post, that work project or that paper; but I know how to turn off the TV, I know how to start the computer, I know how to create a fresh document. So break it down into smaller steps that you can do, find the little wins along the way, and eventually it will all add up to the big W.

Additionally, when we put off our responsibilities, we ultimately rob ourselves of the prime circumstances to produce our best work. Now I’ll be the first person to admit, I need a deadline, I need the pressure of a time limit, that helps me…at least I think it does. Truth: I have always been a terrible procrastinator, so I tell myself that I work well under pressure because I’ve never given myself another option. What could I do with an extra day to edit? Would I be a less neurotic person with lower blood pressure and a better product? I’ll tell you what, I’m working on finding out.

  1. Realize that the Law of Inertia is Real. For those of you that zoned out during eleventh grade physics, the law of inertia states something like “a thing in motion stays in motion and a thing at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” And for those of you that actually paid attention and did well in physics and then went on to do something fabulous with your lives like actually studying science and are sitting there thinking that I have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m willing to concede that, but gimme a break, alright? I’m doing the best I can, I’m obviously a writer for a reason.

Where was I? Oh yeah…inertia. In Part I of this set, I talked about not having written my blog for a good six weeks. And reality is, halfway through that, I hadn’t written in so long, that I lost my momentum, and it only further added to my dilemma. Now I had to share why I wasn’t writing, write something remarkable to come back, figure out how to not get off track again, honestly the whole thing just feels massive. The point is, starting up from a state of rest is tough, and often a much bigger challenge. So do yourself a favor and don’t waste your momentum, do everything you can to keep it going.

  1. Realize that Multitasking is a LIE. I know that there are a million books and articles out there about multitasking, and that it’s a great “skill” that we all like to put on our resumes. But honestly, I think that in this age of phones that can play music, computers that can surf the net and live chat, and Pert Plus 2 in 1 conditioner, we have bought into a rouse that multitasking is a skill that we can not only accomplish, but are expected to master.

Maybe our technology, and possibly even our shampoo can multitask, but we humans certainly can’t. What we call multitasking is really just interrupting ourselves from accomplishing any one thing at a time in a timely manner. Several organizational studies today show that multitasking is the antonym of focus and the nemesis of productivity. I NEED to learn how to focus again. Even just in the time-span of writing this post, I have checked my phone twice, gotten up to add sugar to my coffee, started three other posts, and contemplated going on Pinterest to research my Thailand trip (Reality Check: I have procrastinated finishing this two-part post so much that I am now sitting in Hong Kong International Airport three hours away from landing in Bangkok). Not to mention the fact that I don’t ever write in straight sequence, when I write, I spill all of my ideas in random order and flesh them out in random order as well…sorry if that’s apparent. If you’re like me, getting distracted by everything that you have to do and then trying to do it all at once, we need a new plan. So by all means, make a list of everything that you have to do, and tackle them, but take them on one at a time. Practice finishing each one and then moving on to the next. It will be hard at first, but you will be more productive. Getting four things done on a list of ten is better than tackling all ten and getting none of them finished at all.

  1. Remember What the Real Goal Is. We have to figure out how to do the hard job of reminding ourselves that we want the overall result more than we want to spend the day watching Netflix. We have to learn to remember that sometimes the destination IS worth more, knowing that our end goal is worth more than the reward of instant gratification. We have to remind ourselves that we chose the thing that we are putting off because we actually DO want it. We chose to get that degree, to go for that promotion, to run that race, to lose that weight, to write that blog.

Plato once wrote, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” There’s also a saying somewhere by somebody that goes something like, She that knows discipline knows freedom.” This is the Truth of Discipline. Discipline is the key to freedom, the key to unlocking the person you have inside. Discipline is the key to our potential. Discipline is choosing your goal over instant gratification time and time again. This means committing to the right road rather than the right now, to accomplish something that means a great deal more to you. And after a while, you realize that choosing your goal is choosing yourself. Safe Travels!

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”
— Beverly Sills

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

Procrastination Station: Part I – Priortities, Productivity, and Eating Crow

For those of you that have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in about 6 weeks or so. I can’t really explain why, I haven’t exactly unpacked that thoroughly yet; but I can tell you that starting up again has been a quintessential Achilles heel and my own personal form of torture.

It’s easy for writers to have ideas, it’s difficult to actually make them into real words that flow together in a succinct piece. Honestly, I truly believe that the hardest thing for writers to do is write. See, an idea is perfect before we ever mess it up by trying to flesh it out with words – words that might not be as right or as perfect as our ideas seem to be. As soon as you start to put words to an idea, you are committing to a direction, narrowing down how it comes out, making choices with every key stroke, hoping that they are the right ones. Speaking of making choices, this brings us full circle back around to my very first post on perfection paralysis, and a very specific tool of paralysis that I would like to explore: procrastination.

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Procrastination is the opposite of productivity. Or more to the point, procrastination is a lack of productivity towards what matters. I specify “what matters” because I think it’s important to highlight the fact that one can be very productive, without actually working at all towards the goals that we have laid out for ourselves. Do you know how many times I have cleaned the house and done the laundry just to get out of opening my laptop to write?

Everyone has struggled with procrastination at one point or another and has suffered the effects of this self-made toxic swamp. Our train pulls into Procrastination Station, which seems to be this really awesome and attractive party town, and before we know it, we’ve been roofied by Netflix, robbed of all our time and energy, and left with no fuel to get out. As if this isn’t bad enough, the effects of procrastination usually turn us into the worst version of ourselves.

I would like to take a moment here and point out that I believe that the effect of procrastination on us is directly related to our level of maturity. I will elaborate: we didn’t care about procrastination as kids because back then we believed that our time was limitless – ergo, priorities are not something that are understood until later on in life.

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You remember when you were a teenager and you had absolutely no issues whatsoever spending an entire day in your pj’s marathoning America’s Next Top Model? Those days were great. We ate whatever we wanted and couldn’t for the life of us understand why on earth our parents – who, in the all-wonderful privilege of adulthood, had no one telling them what to do – insisted on getting up and, ya know, doing things. Why would anyone choose to run errands, garden, or clean the garage when you had the option of staying in bed?

What ever happened to those carefree days?

You grew up, that’s what happened. Congratulations, you’re an adult. When we are young, we see time as this infinite, slowly moving thing that’s only there to torture us with how slow summer vacation can come. But somewhere between our last precious summers as adolescents and the first time we realized that we actually need to schedule hang out time with our family members and friends weeks ahead in our calendars, we grew up. See, maturity comes with recognition of our own mortality, and thus, knowing that you have a limited amount of time to do the things you want to do. Growing up means that you realize that even if you live to be a hundred years old, you can’t do it all.

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There are so many things that I would love to be, careers that I would love to have. If it were up to me, I would be the wandering artist and the tenured professor; I would be the at-home mom that’s there for everything and the kick-ass business woman who works 29 hours a day and still has time to go to the gym; I would live a lifetime as a city mouse and a lifetime as a country bumpkin. But alas, having a limited amount of time on earth inherently comes with the inevitable truth that we have to make choices. Choices means prioritizing. Often times we get confused and caught up by our multiple desires, and we think we must be crazy because we do want it all, and everyone else that’s content must know something that we don’t or they must have less that they want out of life. The truth is, having priorities doesn’t mean that we don’t want multiple things, the very definition of picking priorities means doing the adult task of deciding what we want most.

But back to the main question: Why does a lack of productivity have such a negative effect on us as humans? The truth is, when we are not productive, it holds up a mirror to our own mortality; it reminds us that our time is limited, and thus lowers our self-esteem by instilling in ourselves a disappointment for not having utilized our time to the fullest. So what do we do? We metaphorically kick the dog, or realistically, yell at our spouses.

Procrastination doesn’t just have a negative effect on our overall goals, it affects the people we love. I picked a fight with my husband yesterday simply because I had wasted my entire day watching Sex and the City reruns. Was laying in bed all day in my pajamas listening to Sarah Jessica Parker wax poetic on her glamorous yet imperfect love life in Manhattan glorious? YES. Did it help me get any closer to my writing goals? Any closer to publishing a post? No. Did I feel like a miserable blob when I rolled over and realized that the sun had gone down and the entire day was practically gone and I had accomplished nothing. Yes. Obviously I did the healthiest thing I could think of and I blamed my husband…if he had not been busy watching football we could have gone to the store much earlier together.

TAKE NOTE MEN: We watch smutty TV all day because you watch Football!!! It’s YOUR fault I haven’t showered, or gotten dressed or done my weekend laundry!!!

Am I right ladies?! I mean how dare he sit on his own couch in his own house watching football on the one day he has off after working an 80-hour week?!!

That’s right, I completely decided to ignore the fact that his own activities had no bearing on the truth that I was a total waste of space and oxygen and human existence yesterday.

Real love and real friendship is someone telling you the truth. Sometimes we can love and hate people for the same thing. Yesterday, my husband saw right through my smoke and mirrors and called me out on the fact that I wasn’t really angry at him, I was angry at myself. Sometimes I hate that he’s as smart as I am. On top of that, I was even angrier at myself because I couldn’t even argue that I was taking in new story material…I was watching reruns! Writing this all out makes me realize that I probably still owe him big for my ridiculousness yesterday. However, that’s relationships and forgiveness.

My new friend Parita, owner of the blog myinnershakti.com, and someone I look up to, recently wrote a piece about making the best of your time here. In her article, she challenges her readers to ask yourself: is what you are doing with your time right now really how you want to be spending your day? We can apply this question here and ask, when your head hits the pillow that night, will you be happy with what you accomplished?

Recapping: maturity is what helps us to understand the need for, and identify, priorities, but procrastination breeds self-loathing for lack of working towards those priorities; this in turn, turns us into useless, dog-kicking, swamp monsters.

The question is, how can we get the train to move on from swampy Procrastination Station to ProductivityVille? Since we’ve discussed the reality and effects of procrastination, in the following post I will unpack some specifics on what I am learning about fighting procrastination and share a few key truths that will help fuel the train out of town. Stay tuned!

Little Orphan Everybody

I used to think that my life was uniquely ridiculous and messed up; that I had certain dysfunctions because my childhood was so, well dysfunctional, being a ward of the state and all. Now all that is partly true, but I also spent a good amount of time thinking that most of the world out there had totally normal families with no issues.

Having walked (sometimes crawled) the earth now for 28 years, I’m calling bullshit.

You get a few drinks in with somebody and they will divulge everything to you. And I have to tell you, I finally feel normal.

I used to think it was just me that had crazy family members that would marry the same guy three times over, family members that are alcoholics, addicts, abuse victims, survivors of suicide, recovering from eating disorders, or comprised of confusingly appendaged nuclear units.

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Guess what? Turns out, everybody is like that. This is gonna sound wrong, but I’ve never been so happy not to be special in my entire life. #sorrynotsorry

I also spent a good amount of time in my adolescence thinking that there were a lot of right ways and wrong ways. This was partly due to the my perfectionism born out of the bottom falling out of my home life at a young age, and also partly due to what I understood from the church: that there was a right order to life and if you didn’t follow it, you will be judged, and your life would be irreversibly screwed.

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I would also like to take this moment to call bullshit on that. I now know people who had kids before they were married, who didn’t go to college right away, who got divorced and remarried, who got fired, who started new careers, who drank in high school, who got by with C’s…guess what? For the most part, THEY’RE ALL FINE! So imagine my shock when they didn’t disintegrate or burst into flames years down the road…WTF?!

Not to be a downer, but the long and short of it is being ‘good’ and doing ‘right’ doesn’t always guarantee you a good life.

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At least, not one in the sense that I thought. No matter how perfect you try to be, how many ‘right’ choices you make, shit happens. You lose people. You fail, people let you down, you lose jobs, you get dumped, some dreams don’t work out. There are no guarantees. Just surprises. And that’s okay, because it turns out at least we’re not in it alone.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that my favorite people are those that will share their crazy, the ones that aren’t afraid to tell the truth. The ones that aren’t scared to divulge that one of their parents had an affair, that they got fired for failing the drug test, that their brother had a love child at 17, that their uncle is technically married to their cousin, or their cousin is technically their brother, or that their family tree looks more like a bush…

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If you haven’t reached that point yet, you’re not fooling anybody. Just let it out. Come to the other side, where we all know that the Island of Misfit Toys is actually just a planet called Earth.

On the other hand, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, stay where you’re at. You’ll ruin the vibe.

Whatever. I’m totally normal.

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High School 2.0

I wasn’t going to do a post on this because it seemed personal and more inconsequential to the outside world than my previous posts. None of this information is revolutionary. Also, it makes me feel like a huge dork and waaaaay too vulnerable…which is exactly why I decided that I needed to share it anyway.

I recently went to my 10-year high school reunion…

I waited until the absolute last minute to decide to go to that reunion. Thinking about walking into that reunion felt a lot like walking into high school freshman year. All of a sudden my palms started sweating, my throat went dry and everything that I was wearing felt wrong and my hair forgot how to be normal…I had all but resigned myself to not going, especially since I had thrown a big retirement party for my mother that afternoon.  Anyone that knows me knows I am a curl up on the couch under the blankets, binge-reading and watching Netflix kind of decompressor, not one to rally and go out after having spent the last 24 hours surrounded by people…say it with me: Introvert.

I moved to California to go to college and then back to Chicago after that, and truth be told, I don’t hang out with anyone that went to my high school from my graduating class. So who was I possibly going to talk to? And for those of you that weren’t there, let me just give you a glimpse into the nerd-dom that was my high-school career:

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I didn’t go to a grade school in my community that fed right into my high school. I knew a grand total of two people going into high school. I didn’t have an established group of friends at school, so I ended up getting along with a little bit of everybody. I got good enough grades. After giving the swim team the old high school try my freshman year, and realizing that it wasn’t a good fit with asthma and needing knee surgery in the middle of the sophomore season, I ended up in the theatre (mostly because I was terrified of saying no to the directors) I did contest plays and group interpretations, and then devoted my every waking minute to the Speech team when I wasn’t working on the newspaper staff. I eventually became president of the Drama Club and the Editor-in-Chief of the Newspaper…so obviously I was the most popular kid in school…Oh, no wait, my life isn’t an episode of ‘Popular’…yeah now I remember, I was a huge dork.

So there I was, feeling great about my excuses for NOT making it to my reunion. But then I stepped back and realized that that was exactly all they were, excuses. At the same time, it occurred to me that I have been at this juncture before.

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I know that this is really cheesy, but I didn’t go to my prom. I had some interesting experiences in place of it, but looking back, I kinda wish I had. I always thought that I would go to my own prom growing up, then the time came and went and I just didn’t. Standing there deliberating over whether or not to go to this reunion, I realized that I had the exact same thought process. I always thought that I would go to my reunion, (who am I kidding?! I totally daydreamed about being a rich writer/actor/oscar-winner/director/philanthropist at my reunion, arriving in a helicopter prepared to lift everyone to my Chicago-based penthouse where the real party would commence – don’t ask me how I was going to fit everyone in one helicopter, planning was clearly not part of the daydream…And don’t act like you didn’t have similar day dreams of crazy success, I know I’m not the only delusional one…).

This specific pattern was one that led me to some regret in the past. Now there are a lot of bigger things to regret for sure, but the point is, I didn’t want a repeat of that. I didn’t want to miss out on another opportunity that only comes by once. For better or for worse, you only get one real ten year reunion, with all its awkwardness and anxiety.

I was sure that the reunion would suck, (not in any way due to the planning, our class president did a great job). But I also realized that I didn’t want to spend the next ten years wondering if that reunion sucked, I would rather just have that experience, sucky or not, and know. Admittedly, the decision to go didn’t quell the rising nerves, crazy hair or wardrobe crisis that I was facing. I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack…

Then I remembered that I am a GROWN WOMAN. I’m self-sufficient, and accomplished and I have spent the last ten years learning how to be me. In the famous words of that wise sage, Drew Barrymore:  “I’m not Josie-Grossie Anymore!”

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I think we all kinda feel like Josie Grossie…I’m pretty sure that we all spent high school trying to be relevant, just trying to be seen, just trying to matter. Thank God that we can all now just spend our time with the people that we love, just trying to survive, pay our bills and enjoy life. Nobody else has to live your life, so what does it matter what anyone else thinks of you anyway? I know how to feel comfortable in my own body and my own clothes and I am comfortable with who I am. I am capable of holding great conversations with people. I have 2 degrees in pretty social industries.

While my daydreams of stardom clearly didn’t happen yet (sorry guys, maybe in ten years) there are a few things that I did learn:

NUMBER 1: Alcohol at a reunion is a great idea. Too much alcohol is not, but for the most part, it’s awesome to have something to lubricate an awkward situation to help everyone be a little more brave and take a chance on talking to someone that they know but might otherwise pretend not to out on the street during your lunch break in the middle of the work day.

NUMBER 2: NO ONE is better than anyone else, and NO ONE is cool in high school.

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At your reunion, the beautiful and popular people will still be beautiful and sociable and close. But you come to see everyone in a new light. With luck, everyone has grown up and realizes that inevitable truth: that we are all nerds just trying to go through life without looking stupid. Everyone was just as uncomfortable and nervous as everyone else. I think everyone feels just as nerdy, just as out of place, just as desperate to be accepted, just as awkward around their past secret crush that they never worked up the courage to talk to in the past…So I decided to dive in, and go big or go home. I spoke with people that used to intimidate me. I spoke with guys that were outright mean to me in school. I even connected with some great mentors again. And I had a really great time.

NUMBER 3: At the end of the day, having friends always counts for much more than how you come across them.

I used to worry about fitting in with the right people at the right times, not to the point where I forced friendships, but I was always a little jealous of the girls at school who just seemed to belong to a specific group. They knew where they fit. Some people say the friends you make in high school will be for life, some people say it’s college, some people say it’s grade-school or on your first job. The truth is, the more people I meet, the more obvious it becomes that you can meet great people that will enrich your life at any point, from anywhere.

Each group is pretty much equal. It doesn’t matter what circle you are in as much as it matters that you find a circle eventually. Size doesn’t matter as much as quality. If you have a few good friends that you can trust implicitly, that will be there through anything, that will tell you the truth when you need it, that will love you no matter what, that understand and share your sense of humor, you are a rich person.

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Date, Don’t Dedicate!

I was recently speaking with a young friend of mine who was sharing about the difficulties of relationship dynamics at a Christian College. Having ended up at a Christian college myself and having gown up in youth group, I knew all too well what she was experiencing.

Many young Christian twenty-somethings today grew up with the notion that ‘Kissing Dating Goodbye’ was the surest way to pure, Godly, long-lasting marital bliss.This idea swept through the Evangelical Christian community as though Josh Harris was the leader of Hillsong. I kid…but it was pretty prevalent. Young people were fast taught that the way to stay pure of body and heart was to adopt a practice of courtship versus dating. This idea basically involves entering into a very serious agreement, basically a promise of engagement with a young woman’s father if a young man was interested in pursuing a girl, then agreeing to supervised hangout sessions and being watched by the entire church congregation and a bunch of other fine print. Courtship advocates against the dating of multiple different people so as to not give multiple pieces of your heart away or spoil yourself for your spouse…I have visions of passing unwrapped Starburst around in a circle: what a waste of a good piece of strawberry deliciousness.

I’m not even going to go into the flawed reasoning and detrimental effects behind telling adolescents that they are chipping away a piece of themselves with every new relationship encounter…suffice it to say I feel this is completely backwards. Dating, when done with brains, can be really educational and most of the time you gain something important, a learning experience, often a good one. And I think this applies to everyone, whether you had a religious upbringing or not.

Okay, so before you lynch me for for my opinions based on the title of this post, I implore you to consider my reasoning:

First off, let me just say that there’s a reason why dating is not engagement, and engagement is not marriage. Each stage has it’s own delineation for a purpose. Period. Dating is for determining the fit of a partner, engagement is for serious execution of your plans (to see if they hold water) and marriage is the FOREVER (supposedly), in a good way though. I like to think of these stages as theoretical, actual, and concrete.

I know there are some people that feel strongly that being engaged is the same as marriage because you gave someone your word. Guess what? It’s not. You know why? Because you don’t need a divorce to get out of an engagement. This is a purposeful distinction in this day and age. And that’s a good thing because people who utilize the engagement period for what it’s really for tend to get a lot out of it. And I don’t have a problem with the level of accountability the church brings into the idea of courtship, I think how accountable a couple wants to be to everyone else and their mom is something for everyone to determine on their own.

I do have a problem with bypassing the idea of dating altogether and accordion-smashing it right into engagement as though they are not two separate, necessary, important steps on the way to finding a life partner. My young friend hit on a key point of frustration this produces in the Christian community: the expectation that you should somehow divinely know right away whether the person you are interested in going out with is “the one”, since if they’re not, it’s probably a huge waste of time and a sin, and if they are, you’d better get engaged yesterday. This kind of all or nothing, win or lose, thinking not only places way too much pressure on young people in a situation that’s already enough of a challenge on it’s own, but it comes at the expense of some highly developmental learning experiences. And more often than not, leaves several young people feeling lonely, rejected, confused, self-conscious, and paralyzed in romantic pursuits.

I challenged my friend to apply this thinking to any other important decision-making process. Imagine if you were shopping for your wedding dress or suit and were told that you have your choice of any garment you wish, but the first one you picked up you had to buy, so you better make sure that you choose the right one! Talk about a panic attack waiting to happen. We all know that certain garments look/feel/fit better on the hanger than on a person.

wedding terror

That’s why the good Lord made dressing rooms–can I get an Amen??? So you can try that garment on for size and color, fit and flare, etc. To most people, what you wear on your wedding day is a big deal. Think of how many different outfits you try on for your wedding day to find the right one, and that’s only your clothing…Now ask yourself, why would you give yourself more options in your choice of attire than in your choice of mate? Why would you allow yourself to get to know more dresses than dudes? Why try on more suits than suitors? More gowns than guys? More tuxes than teammates? You get the idea…

Now, are there people that buy the first wedding dresses they try on? YES! Lucky them. They are the exception, not the rule. I’m not saying that courtship cannot work, I went to school with a few people who are very happily married now due to this process. I am saying that I do not believe that it is the best option for the majority of people and there are studies available today that support this.

Young people should be able to go out and get to know each other–dare I say “try people on” to find the right fit–without the pressure of having to buy the whole outfit first. Buyer’s remorse is real, y’all; that’s why I don’t shop at Forever 21 anymore, with their bogus return policy…also, their clothes don’t fit these curves. ~~

Dating is meant to find out who that other person is, who you are with them, and whether or not they are the right fit for you.

Some would argue that a series of “failed” dating endeavors is the sort of thing that leaves people damaged and broken. First of all, if the purpose of dating is to determine whether or not the person is a good fit, then both outcomes are a success. Whether the relationship continues into happily ever after or not, you have indeed succeeded in finding your answer. Second, let’s be clear, I’m talking about the real act of dating, (going out for coffee, dinner, a concert, a picnic, a movie) not hooking up with everyone that you ask out to coffee. Although physical chemistry is an important part of any relationship, I’m talking about the dynamics prior to that step. I would encourage young Christians to be smart, get to know several different people at a time. There’s no reason for things to be so serious right away. In fact, making things so serious upfront and early is really what leads to repetitive heartache more than anything else. Remember, you set the pace for your dating relationships: if you’re going out with someone who is uncomfortable with that pace, it’s a good sign there are other things that won’t mesh well either. Move on.

When it comes to finding a mate, I think that some Christians have forgotten that life is about experiences. Experiences are good things. The more experiences that a person has, the more well-rounded, interesting, intricate, knowledgeable and wise they become. I’m not talking about throwing your morals to the wind, I’m talking about facing the wind with them in tote. Be smart, yes, but be bold. Think about what you are doing, but for heaven’s sake, DO IT.

“But I don’t have to date a bunch of people to know the kind of person I like. SO THERE.” You may be right. It didn’t take me long to know that I like chocolate. Great. But that’s only half the equation isn’t it? The real question is, do you mix well with what you think you like? Chocolate is good, but not everything goes well with chocolate. You might be a mushroom….just sayin. There’s nothing wrong with being a mushroom, but there are things that go better with mushrooms than chocolate.

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Dating doesn’t only teach you about the other person. Dating teaches you about yourself, and through the process, who you are with this individual. What do they bring out in you? Do you like who you become with him? Do you bring out the best in her? Remember, just because two ingredients are great by themselves doesn’t mean that they compliment each other when thrown into the same dish.

“But doesn’t dating like that require, like, a good amount of vulnerability?” Yeah. It does. Finding the right person takes putting your real self out there. You’re going to have to grow a pair. It takes some self-esteem and self-confidence–which are coincidentally both really attractive qualities. It takes honesty. You’re going to have to take the good in with the bad. You’re going to strike out sometimes. Guess what? Coping skills are an essential part of adult life. Or, if you’re not into that, you can just watch the game from the bench, you know, single, and unscathed.

I think with all of the well-intended Christianese, we have given young people way too many shields. C’mon people, guys and girls can “guard” their own hearts. Too many people never make a move because they are “waiting on God.” Maybe He’s waiting for you to stop being such a chicken.

I know people that believe that the time for young people to start dating is when they are ready for marriage. In all honesty, this sounds about as sane to me as saying that children shouldn’t move out until they are ready to buy a house. Or maybe they shouldn’t know what a grocery store is until they are ready to start buying their own groceries. Because learning early on about budgeting, fiscal responsibility, comparison shopping, how to tell the good veggies from the bad ones, where the healthy foods are, that’s all just a waste of time and will probably lead them astray. Why don’t we just go ahead and try not to tell our kids about how babies are made until they are ready to be parents?

It’s the job of a parent to raise children to become independent and self-sufficient. Children need guidance, yes, but they also need trust, and the room to test what they have learned, and to have experiences. I know many parents who would argue they want to keep their kids from sharing too much of themselves too early, kissing too early, becoming physical too early. We are supposed to teach our kids what’s right and safe and warn them of the real consequences and then hope that they can make the right choices for themselves because no matter how much we want to guard them, they will have to make the choices for themselves sooner or later one day. And in many cases, sooner means more growth, maturity and coping skills for the future.

Look, I understand the intention of wanting to keep teens focused on what’s important: schooling, friendship, packing ten missions trips into a summer so they can’t have any time to get into trouble or think for themselves…But I really think if we step back and look at this logic, there’s a realization that it’s driven by fear; fear that our kids will make mistakes, that our words won’t be heard or heeded, that they will stumble, that they will come to regret their choices. So instead of giving them a little slack and seeing what they do with it, we shelter them; and all the while they are losing out on prime learning experiences, growth years.

Somewhere along the line, we decided that by sheltering our kids, depriving them of the chance to have certain experiences, that we are somehow protecting them from the big bad world. In actuality, many Christian kids are being stunted.  Yes, your children will make mistakes, they will disappoint you. No, not all experiences are good. But wouldn’t it be better for a young woman to know that and learn how to handle at 13 rather than 30? It would also be good for her to know that not all things that are different are bad. Families will spend so much energy and so much money sending their kids to private school their entire lives to ensure that they don’t get ruined by the big bad world. Guess what? There’s only one world. And everybody has to live in it, and work in it, and survive in it. These kids get out of school and they leave their Christian cocoon where everyone had the same experiences and the same beliefs and they realize that’s not real life. Can you say shell-shock? “Maybe we should have set aside some of that tuition money for PTSD therapy for little Hosanna.” All of a sudden, she has a boss that doesn’t start the work day with praying for her, her coworkers are Jewish Buddhists, and meanwhile mom and dad are feeling good thinking that they just spent $250,000 worth of tuition turning out the perfect human being, when in reality they just took out a 25-year mortgage on an identity crisis induced by the severe deficit of coping skills due to a complete lack of exposure to ideas and people other than themselves. It’s a good thing that forgiveness is so deeply rooted into the Christian faith. You know what can’t be forgiven? Student loans.

I think I got off topic…I digress. I guess what I’m trying to say is I know plenty of people that “kissed dating goodbye”, which I can’t argue with at all…singleness is a choice everyone must make for themselves.

 

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers; A Trigger’s A Wonderful Thing

I absolutely hate going to restaurants that have an endless amount of food options to choose from because, without fail, I cannot decide until I have read every single one, analyzed, categorized, weeded-out, regrouped, narrowed-down, weighed, and zeroed-in. Of course, inevitably I have no doubt chosen the wrong thing because how could anyone determine what the right option is on a menu as extensive as the Torah. Thanks CheeseCake Factory…I’ll just have the Alfredo.

I have battled perfection paralysis all my life. As an adult, it’s gotten worse. The simplest decisions can seem insurmountable. Second-guessing becomes second nature and the task of finding that one right answer to every question in a sea of inevitably irreversible wrong choices fast becomes a recipe for spiked cortisol levels and multiple panic attacks. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being cautious. I take pride in the fact that I am a cautious person. Caution is prudent, but perfection is crippling. Sure, not making the wrong choice feels good, but making no choices at all, taking no chances, doing nothing, gives you no results at all. And I, for one, don’t want to be standing in the same place ten years from now, or even next year for that matter.

So this year, with this blog, I am taking some steps to face down this monster because I am tired of being stuck in place. Knowing that I am not the only perfectionist out there, and knowing that when writing, you should write from what you know, I have decided to share some steps that I have uncovered as nuggets of wisdom to combat this beast.

1) Find the flaws in your thinking. I remember when I was a teenager, my mom allowed me to repaint my room. It took me forever to decide which color to go with. I went back and forth for weeks about what to do. I remember feeling like if I just wait long enough, if I just look at all the options, then I will find the exact right color, the one that is meant to be on my walls surrounding me for all the years to come.

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There are notably some innate flaws in this line of thinking. There might be a few things less consequential than what color you paint your bedroom walls as a teenager, but I was sure that there was a right answer, and it plagued me. Obviously I was approaching this situation as though I was never going to get the opportunity to paint a room ever again in my lifetime. I had one chance to get it right! This thinking resulted in my bedroom walls being painted no less than 5 different colors, and I don’t mean in a row, I mean all at once (yes, I painted my ceiling too–orange.) God bless my mother. I feel it important to share here that my walls were still painted like this when my husband proposed…he knew what he was getting into.

2) Know there is no such thing as “right.” Perfection tells us that there is one right answer. This is scary because this thinking shows us that the odds of making the right choice are automatically, ghastly stacked against us from the start. But the truth is, in 95% of life’s choices, there is no right answer. Also, if there is no right answer, logic tells us that there is no wrong one either. And guess what? That extra 5% of situations where there are right answers, they don’t have endless options, there’s usually two.

“Okay, so there might not be a “right” answer, but what about a best answer?” If there are a million right ways to do something, there will always be changes, even if they are improvements, that you can do to your project. This is why we perfectionists need to learn to accept good enough to move out of the village of Perfection and into the town of Pretty Good. And let’s face it, as perfectionists, our choices and our work usually actually ends up being Pretty Damn Good.

3) Stop worrying about tomorrow’s consequences of the wrong choice, and start considering what you are missing today. I’ve been trying to write a book about my life, how I grew up and my experiences as an adolescent since I was 16. My fear is that I will not get it right of course. Whatever I write today, there’s a good chance that I will feel differently about it five years from now. The novel, the play, the blog post that I write today would be completely different if a younger or older me wrote it. This is a reality that I will have to accept to move forward. On the other hand, the longer I wait to dive in and write what’s on my mind, the more opportunities I miss to capture the present. I’m pretty sure that I cannot put myself back in my 16-year-old mindset. I can try to think back, I can draw on my experiences through the haze of my memories, but it will never be as fresh, or as raw, or as authentic. That’s why experiences, and the present and producing what you can, doing what you can right now matters so much. Tomorrow you will be a different person, with different experiences, and perhaps different perspectives. Capture what you can now. I don’t think that there is any going back.

4) Now is the best time. You’ve heard it everywhere. Carpe Diem. There’s no time like the present. And I am learning to admit that a published and produced play today is better than dreaming of the perfect play that I could produce tomorrow if I just let it marinate a little more. I can’t call myself a writer if I don’t ever finish any pieces. You can’t be a blogger if you don’t ever post and haven’t got a platform. You can’t be an actor if you never go to the audition to get cast.  I am working hard to remind myself that my good ideas produced and in action today are better than my perfect ideas of tomorrow not yet taken shape. Perfectionism can be overcome when you realize that reality is better than possibility. You are what you do and what you produce, not what you think about doing or think about producing.

I’ve been terrified to work on this musical that I’ve been developing for almost 2 years with a very talented musical theatre friend of mine. Setting aside that I am a major nerd for a moment, I’ve gotten almost nothing accomplished on this project as of late, and it’s all my fault. I have gotten so caught up in being afraid that I will mess up the story and fail miserably that I haven’t done anything. What if what’s in my head is better than what comes out on paper and I ruin this wonderful premise? Again, the thought process here is that if I don’t work on it, then I won’t mess up the story. I secretly hope that one day the heavens will open and bestow upon me the perfect plot, characters and content, if I just wait until tomorrow, epiphanies will abound. All of this is driven by the flawed belief that the musical that I will write tomorrow us better than the one that I can write right now. Again, this is “flawed” because the reality is that tomorrow never comes. Literally, by its very definition, tomorrow will never come.

The real step here is that I need to stop being afraid of producing crap. I need to accept what comes out. Will every line of everything I create be gold? NO. But since when is that a criteria for eventually producing great work? John Patrick Shanley’s work won multiple Oscars when he created “Moonstruck” and “Doubt.” However, “Joe Versus the Volcano” was a dismal failure when it came out. So maybe I can avoid writing crap if I never get around to writing anything, but that also automatically guarantees that I’ll never write anything good either. You can always edit, or scrap something and start over; but you can’t improve upon something that doesn’t exist. You either take the path or you don’t. You either turn the knob and see what’s behind door number one or you don’t. Theorizing about grad school doesn’t get you that Ph.D. And the clock is ticking either way. What are you going to have to show for it? Action begets answers, whether or not they are the answers that you were hoping for, at least now you know and you have more information to work with. Theory begets more theory, nothing concrete to work with or build upon. Be smart. Make educated decisions, but make them.

5) Stop worst-casing; Start expecting awesome. I think it’s pretty obvious from the examples that I have shared above that there is an innate tendency for those suffering from perfectionism to worst-case and what-if every situation to its ultimate negative conclusion. Worst-case thinking only feeds the perfection beast, it is the food that giant feeds on. This is a habit that must be broken to triumph over perfectionism. You must work against your ingrained tendencies to jump to the worst conclusions. It is a muscle that must be worked out daily. Do things we fear happen sometimes? Yes. They will. But not all the time; probably very rarely in fact. Feed your self-esteem beast instead. This one is a better pet to keep and deserves your love and attention, and will help you to cope with whatever results come out of taking action.

6) Many things can be righted if you choose wrong. Okay, so there might be some rare things that you cannot undo or redo. But for the most part, life can be fixed. It might not always be easy to do, but usually you can make it happen. Especially in a America, this is the land of 50 second chances (at least that what I keep telling myself).

A good solution today is better than a perfect solution tomorrow. Quick and dirty wins the race. 80% is DONE. Good enough is Good enough. Perfection is the enemy of the done. They’re all true. Pick your favorite and run with it.

Am I saying that you should always go with your first draft? Your first inclination? Your first gut choice? I don’t know…maybe. Maybe edit and go with the second. But if you are a perfectionist, plagued by the paralysis of the perfect choice, then definitely don’t wait and go with the 15th re-write.

This, my first blog post, is by far not what I thought it would be. My blog aesthetics are not what I thought they would be or probably even what I will stick with. I had no intention of making this post my very first. I think that the title is probably all wrong and I am worried about whether or not having a better title and a better first post will have more of an impact and what if I have completely blown it with this first post, turned away readers and missed the boat completely???!!! But this is the post that came out today. It’s the post that is most developed right now. It’s in the right format right now. And I’m not getting any younger. So I pulled the trigger…Let the wild rumpus start!

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