Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Blunders of an Overachiever/Perfectionist...and Then Forgiveness

Trying to be perfect sucks. It’s taken me thirty years to admit this. I’ve had plenty of time to try to be perfect, and of course, I’ve failed miserably (as all overachiever/perfectionists eventually do).

My overachiever/perfectionism started in early childhood. When I was four or five, I was learning to make my bed. I dreaded it with a passion because, unbeknownst to my parents, I was spending toddler-hours making sure the sheets were perfectly smooth. I had tried to smooth them with my tiny hands over and over, but wrinkles remained. Can you imagine a five-year-old trying to make sure the sheets had no wrinkles in them!

I remember the relief I felt when Dad showed me a trick: you could put the sheets together with the blankets and pull everything over the bed at the same time. And—get this!—wrinkles were okay. If I had learned to accept wrinkles in all areas of my life, perhaps this story would be different. But it’s taken me a long time.

My attempts to be more “wrinkly” with world began about a year ago, coinciding with a realization that my life was no fun and filled with too many chores/work/responsibility. With the help of some of my more wacky friends, I attempted to cast off my normal mode of being consumed by details, to reject the responsibility I normally embraced. I am sure this will be my lifelong project because I have slipped many times into super organizer mode since then.

Recently I felt I had a breakthrough coinciding with my blog entry about the wild dogs that attacked me. You can imagine the conversation I had with my parents afterwards which stopped just short of “Get your ass on a plane, young lady! You’re grounded until you're fifty!” All parents must wish for the ability ground their children well into adulthood.

So, my breakthrough was that, for the first time, I actually admitted that I had made a huge mistake to myself and to them. What a relief to be able to say to my parents and to myself, “Hey, I’m human. I messed up.” Perhaps the dogs scared me into humility, perhaps church has made me aware of the beauty of asking for forgiveness, but suddenly, I found it easier to say “I’m sorry” and mean it. I found it easier to forgive myself for mistakes, and conversely, forgive others theirs.

This newfound power to apologize and forgive has helped forge a new friendship with A that I would not have attempted at any other time in my life. Perhaps you could say I was a fool for accepting his apology, but there is something magical in the act of forgiveness, in the power to forgive, in the healing of being forgiven. This concept has made me reevaluate my judgments regarding the choices my friends have made, especially in the areas of love. Perhaps forgiveness is an important part of love that I have overlooked. Perhaps it is the most precious of gifts—after all, it can be the hardest thing to ask for and the hardest thing to give.

I recently found out that the girlfriend of my Chilean friend, C, had cheated on him. The cheating had happened three months ago, but I could see it still hurt him, that forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Of course, his friends and family were not happy that he returned to her. Though he had forgiven her, his friends and family were not so willing. C is a relatively new friend of mine, but I felt the same way, a reticence to forgive this woman who had hurt this incredibly kind man. I had a heavy heart that day. At the same time, I was very proud of him too, for his ability to love and forgive in the face of betrayal. Maybe some might call him a fool, but we could learn from him too. His act of forgiveness might strengthen their love. But if that love breaks, he can walk away knowing what he's made of, knowing his own inner strength.

Well, that's all I got for now...please forgive the amateur philosophy. I hope you enjoy and find it in your heart to forgive a little today too.

Que te vaya bien,
C in C

No comments: