Anyway: or Confessions of a recovering perfectionist

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If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

 
Sitting on a leather sofa, sipping water and wiping tears, I presented her with my angsty questions. I looked at her proper grown-up mantel piece and knew that I was supposed to be grown up by now, in my mid-twenties.

 
She pulled her fingers through her hair, thought a bit, and then said it: “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

 
I nodded, and then did a double-take – hang on…?

 

She smiled at me, recognising her former self in me.

 

“I did a medical placement in Africa,” she told me. “There are children dying of all kinds of preventable diseases. You’re used to Western facilities and protocols. You’ve got vaccinations, but they’re out of date, and the needles’ cleanliness is questionable. But there are children dying. What do you do?”

 

“You vaccinate them anyway,” I said.

 

She nodded.

 

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

 

*****

I hate New Year’s Resolutions. I used to love them. I would make them all the time as a child and into my twenties – but now? Now I am tired of them.

 

Alece Ronzino has a great alternative to New Year Resolutions. Instead of a list or a new regime, pick one word to shape not what you do but the way that you do things. Just one thing to focus on, a guiding principle. Could I do this instead?

 
I looked at the other words people had chosen: ask, unashamed, freedom, hope, light – such soaring, majestic words. How can you choose a word knowing you’re setting yourself up for failure? I chickened out.

 

And then it hit me again.

 

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

 

What if I could just for once integrate my knowledge of God’s grace into my practice? What if I could just do things, try things, knowing that whether they succeed or fail it is still worth doing them?

 

Here is a tumble of my resolutions along these lines:

  • Do an online creative writing course knowing that I can’t really commit to these kinds of things because my health is unreliable. And sign up anyway.
  • Stop doing an online writing course, knowing that doesn’t disqualify me from writing, or even writing well.
  • Write the longer projects. Or start to write the longer projects. Set deadlines, meet them, miss them. Try to write them well. Write them badly. Freak out that I’m the moaniest, clumsiest, most heretical writer in the world. Have a small meltdown. And then do it anyway because an actual real-life mediocre blog post or book is still better than a Nobel Prize-winning imaginary one.
  • Start reading the Bible daily properly again and be more disciplined. Wrestle with the word, fall in love with the word. Don’t spend enough time on it, struggle with it. Keep reading it anyway.
  • Feel frustrated by the cuts that fall disproportionately on the sick, the disabled, the poor. Feel frustrated that I can’t give more time to activism. Write one letter every so often to my MP, knowing that it will only get answered after about three months, and even then with a dismissively slick party line. Write it anyway, because it’s important to speak even if you are not sure you will be heard.
  • Feel tired at the very thought of having to be thankful for things or keep a thankfulness journal. But want to do it anyway. And maybe end up doing it for three months instead of a full year, end up with 300 gifts instead of 1000. That’s okay. There’s freedom in the failure.
  • Remember that God doesn’t guarantee healing, and that His goodness is not contingent on whether or not I get better. Know that hope is sometimes more painful to carry than acceptance. Ask for healing anyway.

 

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Do lots of things half-excellently instead of one thing brilliantly – because there are too many important things in life to indulge in excelling just at one thing. It is all a juggling act and we are people, not streamlined robots.

 
Life is an ever-changing sea and sometimes all you can do is keep afloat and that is achievement enough.

 

Do it anyway. Do it half-well, half-completed, limping and surrendered, leaning on others – because who can truly do any of these things on their own? We all fall, we all stumble, He is the only one who does not grow weary. He is the only one who will not slumber or sleep.

 

He is faithful and He will do it. His grace is sufficient. There are safety nets – no, not nets – there are everlasting arms to hold me when I trip, when I fall and fail. He knows the beginning and the end, He is the Alpha and the Omega, and He knows that I do not know the start and the finish, I am flailing in the middle. He is smiling as I cycle without stabilisers. He is good.

 
*****

 
So here’s my One Word for 2013 which I present to you with a crazy grin and a little twirl: “Anyway”. It must be the least majestic, vague word that anyone has chosen. And it’s February – more than a month late for the exercise.

 
It’s perfect. It’s ridiculous. I’m gonna use it anyway.

 
Over to you:

  • What is your one word for 2013?
  • In which areas of your life do you need to speak the phrase, ‘if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly?’
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    60 Responses to Anyway: or Confessions of a recovering perfectionist

    1. Sarah 9th February, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      “Hope is more painful to carry than acceptance” – that really spoke into where I am. Hope is agonising. I would rather, mostly, cut off my own hope and completely deaden it so I can get into the more predictable and constant place that is acceptance. Steady pain, emotional mainly but spiritual too, seems more bearable than the repeated dashing of something that is nearly joy, nearly even happiness. Lord, make it go away… then, if he doesn’t, I do something that will.

      I am inspired by you, who I’ve never met, thank you for the truths that I find in your writing. My anyways have been saying yes to things that I often don’t manage. Others forgive me far more than I forgive myself when I don’t. Thank you for sharing things that I need to know I am not alone in.

      • Tanya 11th February, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

        I am so grateful you took the time to write this. I’ve come over all kindred-spirity – you articulate that process so well. It gives me boldness to own what I feel and experience. So – I am also feeling encouraged! Thank you.

    2. Celia 8th February, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Tanya – I found your blog through Alice at Play on the Word, and you write so beautifully. Thank you. This post made me well up, because I have been thinking alot about God’s grace recently, and how he only asks us to persevere… ‘just do it, anyway’.
      I met a very inspiring lady this month who set herself a weight loss goal on the 5th Feb last year, and celebrated a year later… whatever month we start, it doesn’t matter. Then we talked about resolutions and she helped me see it in a different light. ‘Why say 30 minutes on a treadmill when you can just do 5 minutes here and there? 5 minutes x 52 weeks is 260 minutes more than none. Anything you DO is better than doing NONE.’
      Some is better than none, right?

      • Tanya 8th February, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

        Lovely to meet you here – I love Alice! Thank you for your kind words.

        And yes! The celebration is so important – celebrating whatever. Some is definitely better than none. 🙂

    3. Shell 7th February, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      “Know that hope is sometimes more painful to carry than acceptance. Ask for healing anyway”

      Love this whole post but am especially touched by the helpful wording of this truth. I can’t really add more

      • Tanya 8th February, 2013 at 10:08 am #

        Thank you, Shell – that line was a complete revelation to me – I’m glad it touched you too. Sending you much love.

    4. Emma 7th February, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Amen sister! Great post – thanks

      • Tanya 8th February, 2013 at 10:07 am #

        Thanks, girl! I know you know and live this stuff!

    5. Wendy van Eyck 7th February, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      I love this. It gives such freedom. Thanks for sharing!

      • Tanya 8th February, 2013 at 10:06 am #

        Freedom is it, exactly – that is what I am feeling! thank you, Wendy.

    6. Karen 7th February, 2013 at 7:43 am #

      I laughed when I read your post – it is so true. It takes a lot of pain to get us to that place – the ‘letting go’. It seems to be a lifelong lesson! One that needs repeating now and again. There is such freedom in the release of our perfectionism, though. One can almost see how relaxed and joyful you are about things that are not perfect.

      • Tanya 8th February, 2013 at 10:06 am #

        Thanks Karen – and I’m so glad you caught my joy in it! (Lovely photo, by the way) xx

    7. Jenna 6th February, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

      Oh Tanya. I needed every. single. word. of this post.

      The incomplete “1000” gifts. The not choosing “one word” knowing it won’t work (and it’s already a month late!). Not hoping, writing, or even making an attempt to read the Word, knowing that I will fall away and forget and not be consistent at any of it. All of these things have been weighing on me these past two weeks, reminding me that I am not good enough, that I shouldn’t even try because I know I will fail. Then I read this, listing all of them out loud. Goodness. Thank you.

      • Tanya 8th February, 2013 at 10:05 am #

        Oh Jenna – thank you so much for writing this! It made my heart glad to know there are others thinking the same things. (Why is that so comforting?? I don’t know- but it is!)

    8. Addie Zierman 6th February, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      Love your word. Beautiful post.

      • Tanya 8th February, 2013 at 10:03 am #

        Thanks, lady – that means a lot! 🙂

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