Messy Is As Messy Does

Messiness has gotten a bad rap.

From childhood on, I was taught to value tidy and clean over cluttered and dirty.

Being seen as a “mess” is something to avoid at all costs today. There is shame in being seen as messy.

Look at any social media feed. Selfie taking has been developed into an art form. There’s been an increase in nose jobs, and the reason for them? It is people wanting to look better for their selfies! No one, for the most part, is proudly posting their mess. Unless it is an apartment reno in process or a confessional “staged mess” to make a humorous point of some kind.

With such socio-cultural pressure, it is no wonder that I learned to strive for perfection in all things, especially the presentation of my self.

I literally dreaded being seen without makeup or with a hair out of place.

And God forbid I was to have a negative emotion! Shove that way down, baby! Slap a grin on it and pose.

Trouble is, the very nature of life is change. And change, my friends, is messy.

Ergo, life is messy.

It has been quite an unraveling, this perfection mechanism. I’ve had to unpack a load to get to my mess.

And once I found my mess, I had to come to love it.

I will be honest. at first, all I wanted to do was get rid of it!

Thankfully, I have some teachers in my life who are artists. Artists know the value of mess. They helped me understand that it is in my mess that my talent lives.

And so began an embracing. Of my mess. Of change. Of life.

It has been challenging at tines, sure. This is not an overnight process.

But boy is it incredible.

My home is neat and tidy. I am an organized woman. I crave order.

But I relish getting messy and allowing myself to be seen in my mess too. And the most fulfilling parts of my creativity are gloriously messy!

Today, I am a love-able mess living a messy, wonderful, creatively fulfilling life. And I say that with pride, not apology.

Messy is as messy does is more than fine for me.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: messy

Done is Better Than Perfect

Well, it happened.

I thought I published yesterday’s post, but I just saw that I did not.

There is a part of me devastated by this error.

I call this part of me “Perfectionista.”

If I am not vigilant, she drives me. She wants to get things right. She wants to be the best at whatever she does, all the time. To be seen as the best. Perfect.

She hates making mistakes.

So breaking my daily posting streak of many months? Not going over well with her.

I try to reason with her. Technically, I did write it yesterday, and though clearly I messed up and only thought I published it, I created it yesterday. And after all, the point of me doing it daily is so that I do at least one creative act daily to stay connected to my creativity. That’s it.

So cool. I did that. Yay me!

But that part of me, Perfectionista, she wants more. And what she wants has to do with what she thinks others think of her.

And she is loud.

She creates suffering for me. She is going to incessantly remind me of this flaw, trying to create a very unsettled feeling that will saturate my system.

“You blew it,” she says.

Hers is a world of extremes, of black and white thinking, of a self-generated pressure to meet somewhat randomly selected standards and performance deadlines and levels or else…

She lives in world with an almost life and death internal pressure to seem perfect to others.

I cannot live from her world view. It’s too exhausting, too exacting. And empty.

I. Just. Can’t.

My world? I try to simplify these days. What a waste of precious time, worrying what others will think about me missing a randomly-decided goal.

More and more, it’s about doing my best on any given day and letting that be more than enough.

Don’t get me wrong: I still strive to be “the best.”

The best I can be on any given day.

As for what others think of that? No longer my business, thank you very much.

Inspired by The Daily Word Prompt: simplify

A Critical Juncture

I am a recovering perfectionist.

In “A Skin Horse Awakening”, I wrote about my perfectionism, and what I believe the genesis of this “ism” to have been in my life. (Or perhaps I should say “who.”) I don’t believe I was born with the affliction of perfectionism.

Let me walk this back. Perfectionism is bandied about a great deal these days. People jokingly refer to themselves as a perfectionist, and we all think things like “Oh, they work really hard to get things right,” or maybe that they are a bit anal (as in detail-oriented,) maybe a little bit OCD.

According to Wikipedia, Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.[1][2] It is best conceptualized as a multidimensional characteristic, as psychologists agree that there are many positive and negative aspects.[3] In its maladaptive form, perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal while their adaptive perfectionism can sometimes motivate them to reach their goals. In the end, they derive pleasure from doing so. When perfectionists do not reach their goals, they often fall into depression.

When I say that I don’t believe that I was born a perfectionist or with a perfectionist gene, I am saying that I learned to be hyper-self-critical. I guess maybe perhaps you could argue that my being extremely sensitive is genetic, and therefore in a way that part of my perfectionism is genetic, as in I am extremely hard on myself and yet I am very sensitive to feeling like I am being criticized…maybe that being “so sensitive” is genetic?

If such a thing even exists. I can never know another’s internal experience, what life feels like for them through their nervous and other systems. I can only know my own.

So really, how can anyone, from my family (“You’re too sensitive!” “You are so sensitive.” “Don’t be so sensitive!”) to psychologists/people we label experts at such things be able to say that someone is “highly sensitive” or whatever? What do they mean? Are they really saying we are very emotional? More emotional? What does that even mean?

(I think perhaps it means that they are uncomfortable with our amount of feeling so they label us as “highly sensitive.” A label to explain away their discomfort.)

And if someone doesn’t “feel life”the way I or someone else labeled sensitive does, are they “insensitive” or unfeeling? Just because they do not seem to experience life the way I do, they are less sensitive? You see what I mean? (It is somewhat crazy-making for me, actually.)

Anyhoo. Perfectionism. Not genetic, in my humble opinion.

I learned to be hyper-critical of myself and to expect extremely high standards of performance from myself. I learned to care deeply and to depend greatly on what I thought others’ were thinking of me. To value other’s evaluation of me above all else, especially my own.

This relationship to myself and the world and myself in the world was learned. I learned it from a master, my father. I am not sure where he learned it. I am quite sure he suffered as much from it as I have. I am also sure that he had great regret later in life around the price of his untreated perfectionism on his relationships with himself, the world and the people he loved.

I am so grateful that I am in recovery around this. I do not have to suffer at my own hands anymore, or cause undue suffering in my loved ones out of my perfectionism.

One of the most tremendous sources of help around this for me has been the work of Brene Brown. You may have heard of her TED Talk on Vulnerability. If you have never watched it, I highly recommend it. Seriously, stop reading this and go watch it! Then come back ; )

She has been on my mind the past few days as she posted on Facebook from Houston, where she was volunteering her clinical services, making a plea for donations of clean, new underwear for those recovering from the hurricane. First things first, please take a view.

Here are three ways to give NEW (still in package) underwear. Please keep in mind that we need a variety of sizes for men, women, boys, and girls, including XXL.

1. https://www.amazon.com/…/2O89ZX93O…/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_1

2. Collect new, packaged underwear and mail it to the address below. It’s our local Hillel and they are collecting for us. This is a really great neighborhood or school project. If you’re purchasing, we recommend Hanes or Fruit of the Loom. UFE doesn’t process or give out anything but underwear!

Undies for Everyone
1700 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77005

3. Give cash and Undies for Everyone will purchase wholesale: https://secure.lglforms.com/form_e…/s/uFpr61ITEItxPeN4Lo9zpA

Brene is an amazing woman. I could write blog after blog about her and how she inspires me. It has been through her work that I have had true shifts around my perfectionism.  I mean, I could understand before that I was one, but then what? What do I do to help myself out of it? Through it? She defines perfectionism a bit differently, and that difference has made all the difference in my being able to make shifts and heal. She defines it so:

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

She writes further:

Perfectionism is defeating and self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.

Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough so rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.

Feeling shamed, judged, and blamed (and the fear of these feelings) are realities of the human experience. Perfectionism actually increases the odds that we’ll experience these painful emotions and often leads to self-blame: ‘It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because I’m not good enough.’

To overcome perfectionism we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion.

When we become more loving and compassionate with ourselves and we begin to practice shame resilience, we can embrace our imperfections. It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts and strengthen our most meaningful connections.” B. Brown (2009).

Wow. I mean, just yes. And yeah, this is a daily practice. It is a struggle one day, a breeze for the next three days, and then the shit hits my internal proverbial fan and it feels like I am at day -4. And then I feel free of it again. But Wow and Yes. And I’ll take that over interminable suffering in the depths of the hell of my own mind being run by unchecked and uninformed perfectionism.

If you know of what I speak, I recommend her work and any of her books.

It is a lifelong process, but it is truly gratifying to find true relief.

Oh, what a journey it is, this coming to life. This learning to relax into all of the things I used to hate so about myself. To even begin to embrace and yes, even find love for all my parts. Especially the ones most imperfect.

To pull my own self down off the self-built marble column I had constructed so long ago into the real world where I can be with others, be a fully-fleshed human being among human beings. To smash the statue-like full body persona I had so carefully made and let the flawed imperfectly beautiful person I am start to live and breathe and love.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: critical

Shallow Depths

Deep within
There is a certain part of me
Who stills believes
Life would be so much better
If I'd been born beautiful:
A super model, a movie star

Shallow, I know,
But that part of me's convinced
Nothing sways her
She doesn't care that you
Can't cherrypick and you'd get
All their shit too (and that we all have shit)

She is absolutely sure
To be adored for your looks
Would beat the rest
That being loved for a face or body
Is more than enough for her
And she won't hear otherwise

This part of me
Would make a deal with a thousand devils
It would sell my soul
For the chance to find out
If life really is better for the super stars and models

I've given up trying
To win her over to Self-Love Land
She cannot comprehend adult logic
So I hold her hand
And I say "I hear you," then lead her into the deeper waters to play

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: shallow

Sexual Healing

Growing up in the 70’s, my sexuality was shaped by what are now considered to be pretty tame resources.

Remember that this was before the internet brought free porn into our homes, and nudity and sex acts were the norm in film and television.

It’s true: “free love,” second-wave feminism, women’s liberation, and the sexual revolution were making major strides in the 1960’s and 70’s. The 70’s saw many influential innovations. Edible underwear was invented. (Still being sold today.) Video Home Systems (or VHS) and Beta Systems were made available to buy in the mid-late-70’s, which the porn industry apparently mavericked for their retail use.

Like many middle class Americans, my parents didn’t have a VHS machine until the 80’s, so videos were not available to me. (We were also the last family I knew to get cable. My parents were against paying for TV for some reason. Maybe there were late night cable porn resources around in the later 1970’s, but not in our house.)

Despite there being many women who were battling for my future and the future of many young girls like me against the woman-as-sex-symbol stereotype, I remained steeped in the cultural and mass media imagery, messages and attitudes that kept that stereotype alive and well. And boy, did it all do a number on me.

I grew up in Houston, Texas, in a mostly white, middle class neighborhood.

Other than my brothers and the time this one guy was driving around the neighborhood without pants on, fondling himself, asking kids for directions, who I had the misfortune of being “exposed to,” I was not exposed to male nudity as a child.

But female nudity abounded, and shaped not only how I thought about myself and my body, but how I thought everyone else thought about me and my body.

So much so that the “me” in the sentence above and “my body” became synonymous in my mind. I WAS my body. My body was me. As in, I based my entire self worth on my appearance and whether or not I felt men were attracted to me.

(I still struggle with this encoding. But I digress. More to come on that later.)

Though I was born into the “Golden Age of Porn,” the “porno chic” years of 1969-84, I was not exposed to any of the films that were made famous during those years, notably Warhol’s Blue Movie, Mona, later The Devil in Miss Jones and Deep Throat. (They probably didn’t make it to mainstream theatres in Houston at the time, but even if they had, I’d never have gotten to see one.)

But we had magazines. Playboy and Hustler. Others. It was the photographic depictions of women in men’s magazines that primarily influenced how I saw myself as a woman.

My first memory of seeing and being influenced by a photo of a naked woman was actually a record cover, and this woman was not exactly naked. It was the cover of Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass album “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” (1965.)


This was one of my parents’ favorite albums to play. I heard it often from an early age, and I loved dancing to the music, making up dances to the songs, which were saucy, sexy jazz concoctions.

But more than that, I was obsessed with the woman on the cover. I was attracted to her. (Maybe it was the appeal of the whipped cream. I was already way too into food: my eating disorder was gesticulating already.)

But it was more than that. On some level, I knew she was considered exciting, attractive and desirable, and I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

Also, TV shows such as “Love, American Style” Rowan & Martin’s “Laugh-In” were popular during my early years. Both had racy sexual references and innuendo and young women dressed in sexy outfits. From these shows, I learned that if you were sexy and young, you got positive attention from men. Think young Goldie Hawn dancing in those strobe lights in that green bikini with her painted body. The young women on the show actually wore babydoll dresses and Mary Janes because those were in fashion. Talk about confusing messages!

True story: If little me was asked at the time (when I was 4 or so) what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said “a go-go dancer.” I even had little patent white go go boots at 3!

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These were my role models. This was the kind of woman I wanted to be!

Later, I found my brother’s girlie mag stashes and would go in when they were out to pore over them. I was fascinated by the women’s bodies, so different than mine. I knew that I fell way short, but I remained hopeful that maybe someday, with enough hard work, I could create a body close enough to rate some man’s favor.

When I was old enough, I started to read the articles (yes, I really did) and the infamous “Letters to Playboy.” These were my education in what was interesting to men about women. Through them, I discovered what men really thought about women. What they really wanted of us. And it all had to do with our bodies.

I learned that I was here to be attractive to men. That what I looked like and how attractive men found me was my purpose on this earth. That there was little value to me other than my sex appeal, and that if I wanted any happiness on this planet, I better work hard to be and stay appealing to men.

And so I did. I became the perfect female consumer. I bought into it all hook, line and sinker. The beauty products, the clothes, the way of being in the world.

I transitioned from my brother’s hidden away men’s magazines to the magazines of my adolescence. Though they were women’s magazines – Teen, Cosmo, Glamour, to name a few – the messages of their content were actually perfectly aligned with the former’s messages about the female role in society. In these magazines I found my road map, the formulas for winning and keeping a man, 100 ways to keep him satisfied in bed, and how to stay looking young and sexy forever.

Every issue of these magazines had different versions of these same themes, over and over. (And if you buy these kinds of magazines today, they still do.) And I bought them and bought into them all, every time.

How I related to boys and then men was all shaped by that early imprinting. I look back and feel like I didn’t really get to have real relationships with men (and women — since they were always the competition for the men) until much later in life. Because through all my dating and early relationships, I was living from the outside in, trying to be the women I had seen in those magazines pages. Trying to find and live the life promised to me in the ads in the magazines and on TV if I succeeded in making myself into one of those women in the pictures.

It took several years after moving to NYC as a young woman for me to learn how to leave my apartment without make up on.

It has taken many more years for me to unravel all of that social and cultural conditioning to find within my own idea of being a woman, of my own sexuality, of what I feel is my intrinsic value and purpose on this planet. It turns out, none of it depends on what men or society think of how I look.

It has been a tough going, this “unlearning.” I was thoroughly brainwashed. I drank the Koolaid. Despite years of hard work to reprogram myself, I still find little pockets within me that harbor beliefs like that Victoria Secret models are better people and deserve more than women like me. Or that if only I looked like this model or that model, my life would be perfect. Little pockets of self-hate that dismiss my worthiness as a human because I do not have large boobs and perfect thighs.

There’s still a part of me that is scared writing this blog post. That I will be labelled as “ugly” just thinking these thoughts/going against the grain.

I take those parts by the hand when they reveal themselves to me and I whisper the truth in a loving tone and tell them I am so sorry they have ever felt anything less than beautiful just as they are, inside and out.

Today, I try my very best to love my real body. I pour my resources into that. (I no longer buy those magazines nor do I need they ideas they sell.)

I love being in my body, and I love my awakening true sexuality. I love feeling desirable. (Who doesn’t?) But I no longer seek to feel this feeling from outside of me.

Today, feeling attractive and desirable is on my terms, made from an internal collage made out of my true essence  – what I like and feels good to me. This inner imagery replaces the old template.

There is no longer a buxom babe at the centerfold of my spirit, beckoning to me with promises of happiness and fulfillment if I am able to become her.

There is me, and the unique beauty that I bring to the world this time I am here.

Like many women my now-age, I look back at the loss of all that time trying to be a sex symbol as a tragic loss of my life’s precious energy.

I waste no more such precious time today.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: edible

Intentional Flaw

At one time in her life, my mother used to quilt. She spent countless hours sewing beautiful creations.

She told me once that there was an Amish quilting tradition wherein the quilter would intentionally put in a flaw so as to not offend or mock the perfection of God.

They purposely plan a mistake.

I have always loved that. I don’t know if it is true or not. (If you Google it you find lots of theories and research.)

I don’t care. Meddle with it if you wish. I think it’s lovely.

It helps me, a die-hard recovering perfectionist, to think about that. To lighten up a bit about trying so hard to be perfect (whatever that means) at whatever I do.

To stitch in some intentional flaws and see where it takes me in my day.

And sew it goes.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: meddle