If you listen with your eyes and hear with your mind, clarity will amaze, surprise, and dumfound, because we’ve been previously preoccupied. Whatever life holds, surprises are entwined into micro bombs throwing us off track. Getting back on track, for me, is a continuous task forcing me to sit down and take serious stock of what’s going on.
Saturated over the past months are clues as to what the future parade holds. To be honest, as I consume, plan, and anticipate, it’s overwhelming and exhausting looking at the next year(s), and packing into my mind a future of desirable sound bites of less stress.
I’ve looked at my life and wondered how can I listen and see more? How can I push aside the unnecessary for an existence of comfortable and useful reality? How can I watch the parade instead of marching in line with everyone else? Yes, I’m thinking individuality more than conforming.
Talking on the phone, instead of texting or emailing, isn’t a new concept, but rather a rare one. It’s refreshing and often surprising initiating a call to a friend whose voice I’ve not heard in months or weeks. Today’s communication is computerized emails or texts. This is not to say I’m against this form of parade, but sitting down with a dear friend for a catch-up does the soul good. I know COVID has been the bug-squashing life, but with vaccines and boosters, freedom is slowly coming into reality.
Since taking the approach to still watch the parade and not just be an onlooker, I’m reaching out to one friend each week. I’m hoping we can create a routine to speak to each other, rather than continually emailing, texting, or zooming.
Speaking of routine, precisely what is on our to-do list matters as much as our ability to get through it. We tend to think of our to-do lists as our taskmasters, telling us what we have to do in order to feel like we’ve done something with our day. It’s true that to-do lists can help us be productive by keeping us focused on what needs to be done (and ensuring that we don’t forget any vital tasks), and that role can’t be overlooked. However, life’s too short to have dreary, un-fun to-do lists governing our hours each and every day. There’s also a certain level of stress that can sometimes get attached to our to-do lists—just looking at your list can feel like a monumental task in itself! I feel sitting down and rethinking that things-to-do list will give a better front row seat to watch your life’s parade. I’m finding more joy in this chaotic world, if I strategically place a few enjoyable tasks: talking to a friend, listening to music for an hour while doing absolutely nothing, or taking a walk before I start my daily routine. No, an organized human can’t avoid lists, but not placing all-or-nothing bets on their importance will allow more enjoyment to watch your life’s parade. Whether it’s a detail we’re paying attention to or a detail that has become mundane and barely noticeable, there’s no denying that details play a vital role in our daily lives. But deciding a detail’s priority gives more happiness.
For whatever reason, my mind has always been more easily entangled with shortcomings and what’s wrong in any given situation over recognizing its good. I’m a realist, but if I’m honest, I think more of a perfectionist. Tweaking this mindset is one of the most important things I must do in order to really enjoy sitting down watching my life’s parade.
From gathering my college research and sessions with a therapist, perfectionist mentality is a dangerous life-buster. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I never have enough money, attention, affection, recognition, or achievements under my belt, I’ll forget to be grateful for the gifts that I’ve been given. I’ll cling so tightly to my distorted and disordered desires and the fear of not having or being good enough, that I’ll only be able to see the things that I lack. My eyes will be squeezed shut so tightly, that I’ll miss seeing the gifts that I’ve been blessed with. I understand more and more that to demand perfection of myself and my circumstances is not only futile, it is fruitless. So to really sit and watch the parade pass me by, I’ve tightly identified several ways to quiet my perfectionism and to hear and listen what’s in front of me.
A. Remembering perfect is the enemy. Perfection keeps us trapped in exhausting shame cycles, feeling we aren’t good enough. When I refuse to settle for anything less than perfection, I keep my life small and manageable. I don’t take risks, try new things, or let myself be a beginner at anything. In the past I’ve missed out on so much joy and growth. Stepping out of my comfort zone, like living in a foreign country or writing a culturally dark book to read, becomes a willingness to make mistakes.
B. Focusing on giving thanks in all things. I now see that gratitude quells criticism and perfectionism. It can seem counterintuitive to practice gratitude for the blessings amidst the hard and painful steps of change. Gratitude does not belittle the challenges we go through or the hurt we experience, yet it does help propel us forward each step of the way toward wholeness. We can be thankful for each blessing or piece of progress in our life, no matter how small. The discipline of focusing on all of the blessings in my life and building up a muscle of gratitude has been instrumental in my own mental health journey.
C. Accepting that there’s something wrong with everything. Living in a beautiful yet broken and flawed world means that circumstances are rarely if ever perfect—taking it even further, remember we’re humans. So, striving to make myself and others behave or react perfectly is exhausting and disappointing. Being present watching our life’s parade gives peace-of-mind. I believe grace and gratitude make our lives rich rather than drowning in perfectionism.
D. The problem with “should” means to me, there’s something I’m not doing and that I’m supposed to do. By eliminating the word “should” from my vocabulary, I empower myself to focus on my own set of goals, uniquely ones I’m good at, instead of following someone else’s path and dreams.
We’re in the mists of much to digest and understand, rather than take part in this activity, choosing to watch sitting isn’t such a bad idea to get most of the facts that you need.
Amen! Thanks for sharing these insights. Gratitude and allowing what is are truly valuable tools for increasing joy.
Thank you Eliza! Life can be complicated but really when you sit down and take stock of what’s important, I think we’ll be much happier.
Hello, Cheryl: This blog post couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment when my To Do List is profoundly complex and demanding and my need for perfection (thanks, Mom!) higher than ever. Thanks for the moment to slow down long enough to read your aptly and beautifully written essay on why we MUST take time to ENJOY what life has to offer and focus a little less on the LISTS one must achieve, then life will be filled with more enjoyable moments over all. Welcome back to the US and may we get to have one of those phone chats, where we both take a moment to say, “Hi, How are you doing?” And listen closely to the response and all it may illuminate. Blessings to you both!
Thank you Donna for your thoughtful comments. I find each day better spent, without the urgency of doing all that is required, more important to me. NOT busy each second as if I’m racing to get to finish line, gives me more happiness. Joy is being in joy—without trying too hard following the lead of others.
Thanks, Cheryl – I found what you wrote very mindful.
Zoe, it is a heartfelt reply to your comment that moves me. Your voice of friendship is one that I truly appreciate and value.