Process not Perfection

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Is done really better than perfect? Maybe in marketing or bed-making, but perfect sounds like a good idea when engaging in say, heart surgery or packing a parachute. Habits, though? Where do they fit in? I’m siding with done. To any degree.

I’m two weeks into my made up Three for Three system. I’m counting the “dones” because there is no perfect here. This is life. It’s more about mastery than perfection. And it’s all 100% subjective.

There is a quote from Swami Kripalu that I have always marveled at and I’m on a constant quest to embed it into every judgmental cell of my being: “Self-observation without judgment is the highest form of spiritual practice.” And how.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Eliminating things is way easier than adding in new practices. At least the things I chose to let go of. It took absolutely no effort to deny alcohol. I mean aside from thinking somewhere on the periphery while preparing dinner that first night how lovely a glass of wine would be while chopping veggies, there has really been no thought of wine or alcohol of any kind.

While I was making my list of positive changes I wanted to adopt this year, there were other food items that I wanted to eliminate or greatly reduce: meat, dairy, gluten and sugar. I secretly bundled two of those into the curriculum of month one of “Project Me” and, like their buddy alcohol, they have not been missed. No meat or gluten for 14 days. Check.

BUT, if I do have meat and/or gluten, I have already given myself permission to let it go and not be judgmental. Alcohol is the focus. That was the one thing I promised myself.

I also want to clarify the reason I am doing this. To myself as much as anyone. I have identified those 5 foods as working against me. Or perhaps it is my affinity for them that becomes detrimental. Alcohol invites me to stay up too late and cozy up to lethargy. Meat has become more of a compassion issue over the years, but I also know too much of it too often promotes prolonged couch sitting. Gluten is glue to my digestive system. Nuff said. Dairy is inflammatory to everyone and I am everyone. Sugar is my best friend. I love sugar. I have let her go before and plan to move to another state to avoid her enticements if I have to to say bye-bye again. But not yet.

I always have these five frenemies in the back of my mind. I am hyper aware of each teaspoon of sugar that goes into my coffee and of how much butter I am using on my gluten-free toast. I have let go of cheese for the most part and don’t miss it. But just knowing this is the direction in which I’d like to go, keeps me from overindulging and seems to be working in my favor.

Plus, I have made no promises to let go of any of these things forever. Or maybe I will. But there is no pressure to label myself anything or any pride involved in being something-free. In fact, I would like to be the type of person that becomes so attuned to the needs of their own body that they eat and nourish it with exactly what and how much it requires.

Can you imagine? Not succumbing to peer pressure, advertising or non-supportive habits? Sounds kinda magical.

The side effect of eliminating all of these things, slowly and mindfully, is to create space and clarity. Clean energy to be used for higher pursuits. Give myself and my body the best opportunity to digest and thrive, thereby clearing my mind and sparking the moldering embers of creativity. To give myself every opportunity to be shiny.

Weight loss could also be a side benefit, but it’s not the driver. I haven’t weighed myself at all. I know I need to lighten up, lose weight and reduce inflammation and I believe that will happen naturally. I want to be my ideal size, but I’ve actually grown quite fond of my curves and thickness over the years. I like being huggable and grounded. But, if the universe decides my best body mass is 120 pounds I’m down with that too. I’ll adjust.

Now, for the moment of truth: The adding in of helpful habits. (Big sign, eye roll.)

The morning practice and daily writing? More difficult. For me it’s about structure and time. If I get up early enough these things will flow with much less effort. (That’s my belief.) The holidays and company have given me many convenient excuses not to do this. But honestly, even when I get up at 5:00 AM I manage to somehow fill the time with other things.

But I’m not giving up. Quitting would not serve me. These two practices are still tugging at me.

Let’s start with the morning practice. In my mind it was to be about an hour and include meditation, breath work and yoga. In reality, on my best days, it turned into 15 minutes of all of that. However, I am reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and one of the methods to skillfully adopt a habit is to commit 2 minutes to it daily. In the case of my little routine that would look like sitting on my mat for 2 minutes. Maybe eyes closed and breathing. Maybe looking around my backyard. The habit is rolling out my mat and sitting down however I spend that time is irrelevant. In theory this mat sitting will evolve into the hour I had envisioned. Maybe two minutes at a time. Better than avoidance.

The writing has had a higher success rate. I have wondered more than once why I chose writing. I love to write. I hate to write. I love to think about writing and to have written, but the process sometimes feels arduous and the words won’t flow and who wants to read this drivel anyway when I’m bored with my own sentences. But bad writing is still writing. Good and better writing comes with consistency. And lots pages of bad writing. I have been able to meet my goal of 1000 words per day about 65% of the time.

As I consider my choices, and that voice of lethargy disguised as common sense that tries to talk me into other distractions, I am also fortifying my decisions by reading about habits, by reading about food, by writing about what I’m reading about. I believe that is called studying. And I do not have a specific goal in mind for any of it. No weight loss or book deal, no financial gain or gold stars.

The process is the struggle and the reward. To let it go is to fail. To skip days, fight against it and whine, but still do something, anything? That’s progress. Process not perfection.

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 14 – Focus

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I can’t do it all. There I’ve said it. My to-do list on a daily basis would make a Marine quake in her boots. Probably not, but she would surely see that even getting up at 4:00 AM would not help me accomplish the ridiculous tasks I have set for myself.

In truth my list is ongoing, it’s sort of a weekly list, spill into next week, sometimes never get done list. Focus. That magic word has eluded me so much of my Gemini existence. I want to do, see, be so much and believe I can, really believe it. If I focus too intently on one thing, I might miss other awesome things.

My ability to jump from this to that and back again has been a source of frustration to me most of my adult life. Shiny Thing Syndrome. Right now I am actually supposed to be looking for clip art, but I saw the blank page and jumped on it. Hopeless. Others find this to be a somewhat attractive quality.  While I may find the single-pointed focus person admirable and believe I could be that way if I wanted, they may find my ability to let go of the balloon in order to pet the puppy impossible.

My laptop and I have a lot in common. At any given moment there are 5 or 6 programs open, with at least as many tabs and/or pages open within them. No less than 90 files cover the beautiful photos rotating as my screensaver. The more that is open the slower it runs. Hmmm.

I throw a bunch of balls up in the air with the best of intentions only to either become overwhelmed and duck and cover or lose interest all together and wander off. The balls drop, some roll away, the ones that are left will get tossed up again.

It is with age and perspective – possibly an iota of wisdom  – that I have learned to appreciate my way of being. It has its challenges, but I am aware of them now. I have smoothed some of the edges and refined some of the processes. When I get caught up in the list and the lack of check marks I can just shrug a little, promising to do better next time.

Whatever better is.

I know I’m in danger when the list has become the priority rather than its contents. When I let go of a physical list there is always a mental one.

Focus. Let go. Focus. It’s a distillation process.

When I was in India I remember watching an elderly man in the country side from my bus window. He was some sort of shepherd. He had a handful of goats and he seemed to be walking them from here to there. I remember thinking, but what does he do? What I was really thinking was how does he measure his success? Then it hit me. He doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. He is being, not doing. It was such a revelation for me, that someone could be content just by being content.

He has no list, no schedule, no time card. For all I know he doesn’t even have a birthday or a permanent address. What he does have is peace.

I have no goats, but I can have peace, I just have to see through the mirage shiny things. The yoga helps, the writing gets it out and photography brings me present. These are the doing practices that help me be with the rest of it.

Focus. Let go. Focus. Be. Repeat.

[Photo: Catching the morning light making shiny things out of nature. Just add water.]