Purveyor of Pleasure

Delving into my humanity and the joys and pitfalls of an overanalytical nature.

Tag: perfectionism

Never Finished, Only Abandoned

I just can’t seem to get anything fully out of me.

Or I just can’t finish anything.

I try to write and leave drafts abandoned. I have started reading so many books that I have never finished. I have wanted to finish so many things. But, since Grad School, I’m not sure I can complete anything anymore.

It feels like Grad School PTSD.

And probably it is.

I had to work so hard to finish that thesis. That Thesis Baby I gestated for far too long and that nearly broke me as it came out. I strained myself beyond my limits and cracked myself wide open, with thousands of micro-tears running across every inch of me by the time I was through. No part of me untouched by the intensity of such a labor.

I used to love to read, to write.

But the words don’t want to come out anymore.

I have all these ideas and stories in me that need to get out, but I’ve been trapped, afraid. Now I disassociate when trying to write or read for almost any period of time. I can do it in short bursts sometimes, but can’t seem to successfully get through an entire poem or blog or chapter, starting to get locked up and anxious, uncomfortable, unable to focus, unable to breathe. I numb myself, yet again, because that is what I know to do. Freeze, but smile on the outside. Act like everything is fine while I’m actually dying inside.

That’s hyperbole.

Somewhat.

So, I sit. I stare at the page or the blinking cursor. Or I re-read the same paragraph or sentence over a few times, reading the words but not comprehending the meaning. I grow uncomfortable, then I distract myself with something else. More distraction. More uncomfortable feelings. I’m trying to sit with my feelings these days, really let myself feel whatever it is that is coming up rather than pushing it down, ignoring it, pretending it does not exist. Sometimes that looks like not doing the things I want to do. Sometimes it means I end up wanting to do things I didn’t think I would. I am becoming more real, I think, the more I feel. The more I feel the more I am willing to feel. The more I am willing to feel the more I’m willing to be vulnerable. That’s what it’s all really about, anyway.

Vulnerability as the antidote to numbness.

Beauty and connection as the draw toward vulnerability.

Those cracks and micro-tears across all of me are healing into tiger stripes across my flesh. Which is not to say that I am a tiger1, just that they are decorating me, have become part of me, permanently changed me, and remain visible to others. More of my insides are on the outside now. That cracking open was a changing, a growing, I’m more open and willing to be vulnerable, not just via the written word, but with actual humans in the room with me. I’m not as locked tight up with perfectionism, self-doubt, and fear of others as I used to be even six months ago. I’m still afraid, certainly, and I still doubt, and I still hate myself at times for saying or doing the wrong thing, but the time without those feelings is getting longer, greater.

What does it mean to finish anything, anyway?

Is it even possible?

There’s that Da Vinci quote “art is never finished, only abandoned.” Maybe I just don’t know when to abandon something and move on. I was told, repeatedly, that my thesis would never contain everything I wanted it to, would never be what I wanted it to be. I had changed so much through the course of writing it that I would not be satisfied with the finished result. I kept putting off the delivery date: first December, then March, then June. I could have revised it more, could probably have revised it for years. By the time I set it down I was so tired, so worn out from the months of labor pains and the massive internal bleeding that I was just done. It came out of me and I couldn’t bear to look at it for a while. I didn’t know what to do with myself for a while.

Postpartum depression, I suppose.

Postpartum abandonment, really.

This is the first thing I’ve gotten so close to finishing in what feels like a very long time. Even now, though, there’s always more to say.

  1. tai-ger? []

Struggle

I’m feeling small and sore from beating myself up today. I’m thinking a lot about what it is like to practice gratitude and self-compassion, and trying to practice it. I’m wondering what I will be like on the day I find myself much closer to the non-perfectionist end of the perfectionism spectrum and am able to marvel at the change that has occurred.

I’ve been trapped in life-paralysis for so long, waiting (not consciously) for some external force to knock me back into reality, but I’m realizing the messages I’ve been getting: the only way through it is through it; do the fucking work.

All of my life my self-worth has been connected to my accomplishments. I was told “what matters is that you do your best,” but then what was considered “my best” was also dictated to me. I was praised for excelling and giving disapproving and disappointed looks when I didn’t meet the acceptable standards. This wasn’t so bad, as I often excelled, but I also became terrified of not producing perfect work.

I have been struggling. The last year and a half has brought many things to light as I’ve worked to excavate my own self, my own darkness. I haven’t known how to ask for help. I still don’t know, as I don’t know what will help, but admitting it is a step. I have been struggling with so many things that I haven’t known what to do or where to start.

As I’ve been struggling, though I’ve also been working and I’ve been healing. I’ve been doing and changing and growing. I feel stronger and closer to that person that I want to be than I ever have felt before. I’m simultaneously nearing the end of one path and beginning another.

But, still, most days I’m struggling. I can find the strength in it and I can give it a positive spin, but I’m still hurting. I’m still feeling small and sore and there is still a part of me that is whispering “you’re wrong to feel this way” and “you’re not good enough” and “you don’t belong here.” There’s still part of me that is paralyzed and living in a state of constant fear of being found out. That part that thinks that some day everyone will realize I’m not really as interesting, intelligent, awesome, skilled, attractive, insert-positive-opinion-here, etc. as they think I am, that I’m really just unworthy of their time, energy, and love.

I know the things I would tell a client or friend who admitted this to me: everyone experiences this to some extent, some less than others, but you are not alone. I would tell them that part of themselves as their best interest at heart, it thinks that it is helping, that it is somehow keeping them safe against the threat of shame and judgment, that it really just wants them to be happy (even though its tactics are not useful). I would encourage them to feel love and compassion toward that part, to thank it, to engage with it, to work to integrate it. I would encourage them to hold themselves accountable, but also cultivate self-compassion and imperfection. I would encourage them to sit with their feelings and find where they’re rooted in the body. And so on.

These are all things I’ve told myself and am working on, but there are some days when that paralyzing part is the loudest voice inside of me. There are many days when I just break down and witness myself being paralyzed. Today was one of those days. I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to be imperfect. Telling myself to lean into the discomfort and embrace vulnerability. To fake it until I become it. To do the fucking work. To Breathe.

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