When I was about eleven years old, I went through a period when I was obsessed about not making mistakes. I would begin every day with a structured routine: my grooming, my handwriting, and even my speech had to be perfect. (Even the magazines in my drawer were arranged by date... and in a spiral pattern.) I went so far as to have scripted dialogue with my parents, which no doubt started to worry them.
But even after the most perfect beginning, things started to break down by mid-morning every day: perhaps a classmate said something and I responded with sarcasm, or I realized that I didn't do all of my homework, after all. The spell broke. Because my day was then deemed imperfect by me, I felt unworthy for the rest of the day, and thus, I didn't care what happened from that point until I went to bed at night. (Note: this lasted a few years and eventually landed me in the company of some really nice therapists.) In retrospect, I realize that my obsessive behavior was a feeble attempt to create a sense of order in my imbalanced life, but at the time, I really believed that I could achieve perfection. (Insert laughter here.)
In my naivete, the thing that I got wrong the most was that I believed that there was one "perfect" way to be. To me, at the time, "perfect" meant to be respected, because respected people were those who were free of blame, free of mistakes... so I thought. It never occurred to me at the time that someone who was respected by some might not be respected by everyone. After all, who decides what's perfect - or even respectable? I guess that's where being true to oneself comes in: if you're genuine, no one can argue that you're not being perfectly you. It also never occurred to me that most good people generally like people who show some of their faults. Not that we're defined by our mistakes, mind you, but they are what make us most human. When people recognize other people's humanity, they actually like and respect them more... there's a paradox for you.
As I reflect on this New Year, I am reminded of how excited I still get to make resolutions. They are the chance to do something to make things a little more perfect, in a sensible way. Part of the challenge, for me, is to see how long I can keep the commitment. (I also experienced many years of my youth of being unable to commit to anything!) So in 2009, for example, I decided to keep a daily record of everything unusual that I had done - every party, every trip to the store, every major project, every person I saw that day, and so forth. I kept the commitment, and now I have a full record of the outings and visits that I did for the whole year. I then did an abbreviated version for the following year. The calendar doesn't look like much to me now, but it might be nice to share with my kids someday... especially considering how fuzzy my memory has been lately. What resolutions have you made, if any? How have they worked for you?
Somewhat related to the calendar is this blog, which is meant to be like a public diary of my thoughts. It's not quite as ephemeral as my Facebook posts, and not quite as personal as emails to my friends... but it's something to share. I resolve to post something on a daily (gulp) basis this year, whether it's about faith or homeschooling or something entirely different. Feel free to comment, and let me know what you think.
Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in. -Leonard Cohen