In Recovery

I am a recovering perfectionist.

(I write of this often.)

One of the most helpful tools I have learned to use to work with this -ism is the following mantra:

“Done is better than perfect.”

― Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Boy, has this helped me make great strides.

Before this quote found its way into my psyche, I would procrastinate out the wazoo, or sit on and spin out over a project, desperate for it to be “complete” enough to put in the public eye.

Problem was, nothing was ever “good enough” to be complete.

It was hard at first, but by now, I am much better at just getting it done and out there. Through practice, I am learning the value of getting it done and letting it go.

I can always make changes and improve later.

Better done than perfect. Because perfect never comes.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: perfection

A Stitch in Time

When my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001 and was going in for surgery to have it removed, I immediately knew I wanted to fly down to be with her.

But I was 6 months newly sober, so it was daunting to fly across the country, leaving behind my support system. But more frightening than that was the fear that my mother would die while on the table, or that they would find more cancer than they could treat.

It was a challenging time.

I knew that I would be experiencing many emotions as I navigated her illness and surgery, and I really wanted to deal with them in healthy ways, not fall back into old coping behaviors.

Someone suggested to me that I take up knitting as something to occupy my hands and eat up some of the extra energy (aka anxiety) that I would be experiencing.

Thankfully, I took their advice, bought some knitting supplies and took them down with me. And as I waited for her to come through the surgery, I began to knit.

My mom had been the one to teach me how to knit in the first place, so it felt really right to sit and knit, waiting for those awful hours to hear how the surgery went. Anyone who has gone through it knows how difficult that waiting can be.

I only remembered one stitch, but that was enough. I had no pattern, so I just started knitting a row about the width of a muffler and took it from there.

Thankfully, my mother came through the surgery very well. I moved back into her hospital room, and the knitting came with me. In fact, it would continue to be my sober companion for the rest of her hospital stay and afterwards as she recovered at home, because I ended up staying longer than I had planned.

My mother had her surgery on September 10, 2001. We were both sleeping in her hospital room that next morning, when a friend of hers called my mother and told her to put on the news. We watched together as my adopted home city was terrorized.

In shock, I immediately did two things: I went to a meeting and then I went to donate blood.

Then, I went back to the hospital, where knitting became a lifeline again as my world was rocked from its axis a second time.

I was so desperate to get back to NYC, but could not leave until they allowed flights again. I knitted with fervor through those days following 9-11, as I helped my parents take my mom back home and settled her in.

And then finally, I was able to return home to NYC, and my knitting accompanied me on the plane and through the weeks as our city began to heal.

Eventually, I stopped knitting…though from time to time I will pick it up again when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan or I feel that I need it as a way to stay calm under duress. I guess that is just the nature of my relationship to it. I am grateful it is there for me when I need it.

I still have that piece of knitting from that time when my world was rocked to its core. It is a very, very long muffler-type knitted piece that is a bit misshapen and not at all suited for anything. But it stands as a reminder to me that there is always a way to show up and consciously move through even the hardest of times. That I can survive anything, be of service and even be creative even as my world is falling apart.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: knit

Making Room

In certain recovery circles, there are different slogan versions of the same general theme: “Let it go.” “Turn it over.” “Let go and let God.”

These are usually said in reference of some condition, person, place or thing that is a source of stress, resentment, anger or some other emotion that is potentially dangerous for the person’s serenity/sanity/sobriety.

I’ve had people listen to my tale of woe, and offer as help something like: “Just let it go.”

I always found this very frustrating.

I mean, OK, sure, yeah, I’d love to “let it go!” Who wants to be obsessed with something? Who doesn’t want to release some shit that has a hold on them. I am all for letting it go! But how in the hell do you do that really?

I mean, I can’t just will it away. Been there, tried that. Doesn’t work.

Pray it away? Nope. That has never worked for me. Works for you – have at it. Good for you. Not my thing.

Best thing I ever heard around all of this, something that really helped me understand how this releasing, this turning it over thing really works (at least for me,) was this.

Someone wise once said to me: in order to let it go, just try to loosen my grip around that particular complaint, problem, issue, person, or thing.

To just see if I could release my grip just a bit…

And you know what? That I could do.

I could just try to loosen my hold on it a bit.

And no, the issue did not just disappear as a result. But sure enough, that loosening allowed something to move a bit, and that, it turns out, became the beginning of a shift.

That little release made space for something else to enter into the picture…

What a difference! I was no longer frustrated whenever I had that suggested to me, because now I knew that they key, the starting place, was to just loosen my grip a bit.

It is urban legend that Quincy Jones apparently said to Micheal Jackson, “If a song needs strings, it will tell you. Get out of the way and leave room so that God can walk in.” He later rephrased this to, “You’ve got to leave space for God to walk through the room.”

I am not religious nor do I use the word God to indicate what I believe in spiritually, but I do love and have come to understand this phenomenon experientially in my life: this consciously leaving some space in a situation for something greater than myself to come through with some help, or some magic, or some beauty. At the every least, some new information! I have experienced it a multitude of times.

So now I have my  own version of those slogans:

Let it go?! I don’t know. Leave some space? I say yes!

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: release