“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction and aim for that. Shoot the moon.” Annie Lamott, b. 1954
These words struck me as I got a little hung up in getting everything ready, perfectly-ready, nothing-can-go-wrong-because-I’m-going-on-such-an-important-trip-to-be-with-the whales-and-dolphins-and-it-all-must-go-perfectly-ready. Yes, that kind of ready that will ruin the present and probably my future trip if I start it so stressed out that I end up getting sick.
Breathe. Stop. Repent. Pick a new direction. Phew! Done. That was all there was to it.
Have you ever done that? Realized you were so hung up by the stories in your head that you noticed your overwhelm and just, in the words of Annie Lamott, repented or changed directions? How did it feel? Did it feel so good that you actually freed yourself to be more creative, more aligned, more productive and more of who you really were?
Did you ever not stop the stories, the perfectionism, the heartbreak and found out that nothing is as bad as what your mind can make up? We all do this. That’s how we learn sometimes—by getting it wrong and then learning, and hopefully remembering to change direction.
Maybe as Easter approaches and some people engage in the ritual of Lent, which suggests that we repent (hey that rhymes, what fun!), it’s an opportunity here to change direction in some small way to embrace your imperfection or that of another.
What part of your creative, juicy, imaginative, silly, playful, childlike self would you regret if you got to your last day and didn’t give it the time and space it needed in your life? Repent! Don’t break your heart.
Start with one small imperfection you refuse to allow to take up any more space in your heart and mind and can allow into that space something more fun, playful, creative, joyful or important. For me it’s always been not letting the 6-8 inches of my outer thighs make me think about all the things I can’t do or clothes I can’t wear and focusing instead on doing what I want to do—to dance, to get in my mermaid tail and swim, to move anyway, and to accept the change in aging bodies gracefully.
Maybe shooting for the moon means first taking one small step for yourself, then for human kind. Maybe it’s just a step outside, to go play or to go sit in the sunshine instead in front of a screen. So I must go play now, and later I will try packing again.
Even though changing direction can sound easy, it often isn’t and we all need help from time to time. And just to demonstrate some truly imperfect poetry:
Reach out to those of us who are here to help—a teacher, a preacher, a friend whose ear you can bend, a counselor like me or someone even more lively, someone who can help you play, even just for the day.
I return from swimming with the whales in the Silver Banks on Spring Equinox so feel free to get in touch always. Jteleia@gmail.com or www.YourLifeWellLived.net. Happy Spring!