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F*ck Perfectionism!

· Recovery-UNcovery,Tell Me More

In case you missed the memo, Kundalini Yoga is my chosen vehicle for total transformation: body, mind, emotions and soul. The yogis call it the Yoga of Awareness. My daughter Katie calls it the Yoga of Self-Torture, based on my description of whatever I attempted to do that particular day. The energetic results feel like a nuclear explosion, at least for me, but make no mistake: This discipline can be a real bitch.

So with all that being said, guess who inspires me at our studio? This super old dude with a patch over one eye, a guy who struggles with ordinary walking. About a week ago, he showed up beside me in the back of the room—the place I hide so no one can see how easily I fold up like a cheap lawn chair in the middle of a grueling set. Suddenly there was a call to pair off, and he ended up as my completely clueless partner. This fellow had never even heard of the Warrior Pose much less how to get his body into that position. But still, he gave it his best shot and frankly, his bumbling efforts made me look so much better. (I appreciate that quality in pretty much anyone.)

I couldn't help but wonder how this man even ended up in that room. He couldn't possibly have known what he was getting into, could he? Did someone tell him that Restorative Yoga or a Sound Healing might help his condition and he wandered into the wrong class? What on earth would motivate him to even attempt this up-and-down, on the back, on the belly parade of difficult positions, heavy chanting, and ocean-deep breathing. Did I mention that he has trouble walking?

A week later I still had no answers to the above, but I can tell you that he has been at every class I have attended since that day. Every single one. His presence is intentional. Yesterday we did an 11-minute chant that included sweeping 60-degree extended arm movements. (If that sounds easy, try it.) In the front row sat Andrew, a 30-something drop-dead gorgeous yoga teacher who executed every move with the grace and precision and effortless ease of a computerized model. He was a thing of beauty to watch but he is not the one who inspired me. It was that stiff old dude sandwiched in between us, struggling to keep up. He was the one whispering courage to my soul, doing his best to follow along and showing up for himself in every way possible.

The most telling example of why F*ck Perfectionism! is one of my battle cries harks back to the one and only time I've ever had my handwriting analyzed. In grade school, my penmanship resembled delicate lace, but life and keyboards have turned it into an irregular mess dotted with cross-outs and fixes. I can't seem to do five consecutive words without making some small error. (I tend to blame a couple of years of heavy weed smoking in my 20's for punching tiny holes in my brain but who really knows.)

Not wanting my writing sample to be the usual mishmash of sloppiness and corrections, I went through most of a large yellow tablet trying to get a few perfect paragraphs. Carpel tunnel pain was developing, accuracy was getting worse not better, crumpled paper was spilling off the table onto the floor, and I was beginning to feel like I was back in parochial school with a nun looking over my shoulder. Clearly, this effort might need more than one yellow pad. So I shook my hands out for relief, went into some deep-breathing, and started fresh the way I really write. Sent in both versions with an explanation, which he never bothered to read. He just dove right in to the job at hand. It was only when he reached the second sheet that he wondered what was up and doubled back to read my intro.

Now here's the interesting part: He had already analyzed the "perfect" version before he hit the "real me," so he sent both interpretations. Number One read like a laundry list of all my psychological and emotional weaknesses and stumbling blocks—issues that I readily recognized but thought I had worked through and overcome. As in: "That shit is still hanging over me? Really?" Number Two was just as acutely accurate in describing where I am today. In the explanation he gave for sending two readings, he said they were like night and day, like two different people.

I was such a perfectionist as a kid, had to be perfect at everything and also perfectly good. Such a heavy anvil for a little person to carry around. Such a heavy anvil for any of us to carry around. That inner pressure to be on top of things no matter what, the need to appear okay at all times, the drive to do everything right—whatever you might want to call that thing—is not our friend.

Wild Geese, my very favorite Mary Oliver poem, begins like this...

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you about mine."

One of the gifts of any recovery community is the chance to unmask ourselves in a warm, loving, accepting, encouraging space. We get to laugh and cry with each other, celebrate victories and apply a band-aid to a skinned knee after a fall. We get to enter a Judgment-Free Zone and take healing baths in the essential oils of Unvarnished Honesty, True Courage, Tender Intimacy, and Refreshing Humility. We are given a chance to forgive and love ourselves, to love and be loved, to know that we are indeed deserving of our good. A chance to be continually cheered along the path toward the healthiest, most fully expressed, radically alive version of ourselves. How many places in our culture or in the world for that matter can you find those things?

My favorite t-shirt from the now-defunct (but you can still listen to the archives) recovery HOME podcast has a large rainbow over the words: We Are the Luckiest. I love it the best because it says so much, and I also love the fact that everyone thinks I'm a lesbian showing my gay pride whenever I wear it in public. We truly are the luckiest.

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