Confessions of a Perfectionist

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The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

 

It came as a complete surprise when I realized that I was a perfectionist.  I had been told before, in jest, that I was a perfectionist.  But I always shook it off and said, “no way”.  I am far from perfect nor do I care to be perfect…or so I thought.  But perfectionism is not about being a perfect person, it is striving to be perfect.  That is the trap.

 

How can anyone live up to perfection? Oh you try, and try, and try.  But it is just like beating your head against a wall constantly.  One mistake and you go down a deep, dark hole….trying to claw your way back out exhausted and bruised.  And just when you do see the light of day, after working so hard at this perfection, you again make a mistake or someone points out your imperfection or you beat yourself up for not making it to perfection….and once again you slide back down depressed, broken and back to clawing your way up again.

 

IMG_9782And just when I think I have this trap beaten, and I have made it beyond the dark hole, I find I have only fooled myself into thinking I am OK with not being perfect….and down I go again.  Except this time procrastination shows up.

 

I have been a lifelong procrastinator…I just thought it was part of me…something I could not overcome.  Until recently I learned procrastination comes from fear.  OK so what have I been fearing for so long….yes you guessed it…..drum roll please….perfection was my fear.  So if I never try and only talk about the wish list, the hopes and dreams, then I can never fail.  Excuses and avoidance are then my mantra, instead of striving and thriving.

 

And what I realized was in this avoidance, I had put my life on hold.  So how to balance this striving with perfection…well that is what I am working on presently.  Just recognizing I have been in this dark hole has helped me to climb all the way out finally.  When I find myself slipping down again, I grab hold and plant my feet firmly on the ground like a root grabbing onto the firm earth.  Then I face the howling wind and hang on.

 

It is a choice to live or merely exist.  So these days, I am choosing to live.  A walk around the garden in my bare feet or sandals.  Watching the sunset.  Capturing in pictures every new bloom and critter that shows up in the garden.  Walking in the rain.  Listening to the birdsong in daytime and frogs at night.  Laying on the grass watching the clouds, and sitting outside in the quiet still darkness to gaze at the heaven’s and marvel at the stars.  Dancing and singing to music instead of whiling away the hours on mindless TV or the internet.  Making one new bold excursion to explore a space or place around my neighborhood.  Savoring the smells and flavors of new restaurant.  In all these things, I am thriving…. making time to play and revitalize, not so focused on the to do list anymore.

 

Note:   The Chrysanthemum pictured here represents perfection.  The Japanese see perfection in the orderly unfolding of the chrysanthemum’s petals.

 

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Update 6 months later:

This post was originally published on June 3, 2014 in Vision and Verb.  This revelation about myself was a curious observation, and serendipitous.  It has served me well to not be so focused on the To Do list anymore.  One that has been instrumental in my healing time since retiring.

 

This is the last of my Vision and Verb posts that I am sharing here as the year comes to a close.  I hoped you enjoyed these special posts.  And I will moving into a new mantra and word for the year soon which will help focus my writing again.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about perfection.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

perfect

 

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

 

Channeling Anger

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“I want to say somewhere: I’ve tried to be forgiving. And yet. There were times in my life, whole years, when anger got the better of me. Ugliness turned me inside out. There was a certain satisfaction in bitterness. I courted it. It was standing outside, and I invited it in.”

Nicole Krauss

 

 

Yes indeedy I invited anger, bitterness and resentment in for a long time.  It had resided somewhat quietly awaiting one of my famous private tantrums of release….these were never pretty nor very helpful.  They were instead deadly.

 

I have learned the hard way that holding on to anger has so many ugly side effects.  It reaches into every crack and crevice eating away at your body, mind and soul inevitably compromising your health.  My blood pressure was inching up, I was breaking teeth, the weight gain was out of hand, I had insomnia, a bleeding ulcer and migraines.  And while these all seemed like enough, I was also unhappy, depressed, stressed out and angry all the time…..oh so angry.

 

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ― Mark Twain

 

And why was I so accepting of anger… so happy to keep this close relationship with something that was literally killing me?  It seemed to boil down to this…I could not forgive.  Actually it was more like I would not forgive.  I was happy to savor the nasty, bitter taste.  I found power in it.

 

By doing this, I was able to project all my woes on those I perceived were doing me wrong….it is all their fault.  They were stressing me out causing my illnesses and migraines…their fault, Their Fault, THEIR FAULT!!!!!

 

But what was this thinking getting me?  Not health or happiness.  What did I want?  I no IMG_5647longer knew.  I was beaten down.  Just dragging myself along.  I read books, worked with an acupuncturist and tried to work through all the stress triggers and issues that came up.  But what I still couldn’t get my head around was the idea of forgiving.

 

Forgive, but don’t forget.  Forgive, but don’t condone.  Excuse, exonerate, release.  But I couldn’t.  I felt I would give my power away if I did….so I hung on for dear life.  Until I was so sick, so worn down that you could have scraped me off the floor with a spatula.

 

Finally unable to bear the pain, it was time….time to release this anger.  It was time for a change.  But how?  How to turn this negative around?  And then one day during my fairly new meditation practice that seemed to be going nowhere, it happened…quite unexpectedly actually.  I finally connected with that place behind the thoughts….it was a place that felt like home…where love resided…where healing tears could flow freely…where I could look within without fear, confront the feeling, stop blaming everyone else for my feelings, my illnesses, my woes.  To feel it all, let it go, and then to give myself some compassion and time to heal.

 

No it was not easy, but it was time to take care of me, and this was the only way to let go of the hurt, the anger and resentment.  By doing so, suddenly I had more room in my heart and my life for other things.  I was transformed and reborn through my anger……now in its place there was peace, joy, abundance.  I had channeled my anger and felt free again.

 

But to maintain these wonderful joyful feelings, I must show up every day, and go to this very special place to continue the work.  Do I still get angry….yes.  Do I hold onto it….hell no.  I feel it, express it, change it into something more constructive and then I smile!  A heart stretching smile that carries me through each moment of each day as I learn again to move forward and put one foot in front of the other, some days content to stand still and rest.   So very happy for each new breath I draw every day I am alive…really alive!!

 

Note:  In the Language of Flowers the petunia pictured here stands for Resentment and  Anger.  And they also mean your presence soothes me.  I adore these flowers and grow them every year in my garden.  Now I know why.

 

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Update 7 months later:

This post was originally published April 30, 2014 in Vision and Verb.  When I finally really learned to forgive, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my soul.  I was able to really heal.  I saw each day differently as a newborn.  I was really happy, and knew I owned my happiness.

 

Now I still live in this light of forgiveness.  Still not an easy path, many times rocky.  But I know it is the essential missing piece, that has made my life whole again.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about letting go of anger.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

letting go

 

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

Tearing Down The Walls

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Be the kind of person you would like to be with. Some people come into our lives, make footprints on our hearts and we are never the same. People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.  ~Joseph F. Newton 

 

 

With retirement comes major changes in one’s life.  I anticipated many.  The extra time on my hands with no schedule.  Less money to pay for expenses.  And dealing with finding and paying for my own health insurance.  What I did not foresee was the isolation.  I should have figured this would be the case, but I am an introvert and we crave isolation over crowds and hours of human contact engaged in small talk.

 

For over 30 years, I lived in the realm of the extrovert during work hours, and sought refuge from it all when home.  After all being “on”, at work for 8-10 hours a day, five days a week was exhausting.  My family lives out-of-town virtually unreachable without a costly plane ride or a long drive.  Friends outside of work are few, the hallmark of an introvert.

 

Neighbors were neglected as work wore on me, and left very little time or want for being with “more” people.  So I had built a slick little world with a few friends, co-workers and family all kept at arms length making my world insulated and safe with enough human contact to last a lifetime…or so I thought.

 

As winter has hung on, my retirement has been spent in the cocoon of my home.  I long for my wildlife garden as it brings me hours of pleasure, a refuge for the critters and me.  But with the no garden, few critters and “cabin fever” hitting me suddenly, I found myself craving time with people.  Wow, what was this!

 

So when I had an invitation to a party from a neighbor, I decided to accept.  It was a party where a product was reviewed in hopes those attending would buy something.  In years past, I would have politely declined preferring instead to have respite at home on a Friday after a long week of work.

 

DSCN1215But I was not working, and I thought this would be a great test for me.  The day of the party, I almost didn’t go.  But I made the short walk, anyway, forcing myself forward with each step knowing there would be few people I knew at this party.  And lots of chit chat, a nightmare for any introvert.

 

At first I was quiet.  I listened.  Then I joined in a bit…even with the chit chat.  I found I was calm and let the evening unfold staying in the moment working through any fears.  And I had a nice time for an hour and a half.  I even bought a gift for a friend.  I was pleased with myself.  I had made it through without wanting to run screaming from my neighbor’s house seeking the refuge of my home.  And with this test passed, I even suggested dinner with friends the next evening.

 

Two social gatherings in two days would be unheard of for me usually.   But now I was experiencing more bouts of loneliness.  The well-built walls I had been dwelling behind were feeling far too confining.

 

So I am learning to reconnect.  To join in once again with the human tribe as I tear out the bricks of my isolation.  To seek opportunities in small chunks.  To build new bridges seeking out the company of people I have missed.

 

And as this amazing new discovery has certainly opened the eyes of this introvert, I will not forget its importance…..that continually establishing and maintaining human connections is essential along my life’s path.  

 

Note:  The bluebird pictured here is a symbol of happiness and good cheer.

 

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Update 8 months later:

This post was originally published March 27, 2014 as I was beginning my retirement.  Just getting used to the new-found freedom, the pros and cons of this new life.  I have kept the connections going although they were not as frequent as I thought due to health issues.

But I hope to keep human connections front and center, as we enter the holiday party season and the isolation of winter.  Here where there is a lot of snow, we tend to remain indoors and not see each other often in winter.

I am also planning a couple of trips to see family over the upcoming holidays.  Sometimes family can also be overwhelming, but I look forward to reconnecting and rekindling the light of my family so far away.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about relationships.  Please feel free to download the photo and share it.

 

bluebird

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

A Saboteur Heals

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“Sometimes you hit a point where you either change or self destruct.” 
― Sam Stevens

 

Life sometimes brings you messages, signals that if you pay attention will serve you well.  I missed many signals for a long time.  And while life brings on its own stresses some jobs add to it.  But we can manage stress in our lives, if we can see it happening.  I did not see it happening for a long time.

 

Stress builds up in your body and disrupts all your systems.  You don’t eat regular meals, you gain weight, you work long, long hours and bring work home.  You are on call with little time to play or have hobbies or exercise.  Years of bad eating habits don’t help….I have been a sugar addict from a very young age.  And more and more illnesses escalate and can bring you close to death.  I had several wake up calls, all unanswered.

 

But life kept intervening, thankfully, and I started to pay attention.  Change my diet…harder to do but not impossible.  Exercise….start slow and have fun with it.  Take time to do the things you love….absolutely.  So why could I not sustain it, keep it going?

 

I have tried to change some habits.  I knew my health depended on it.  I added meditation which helped with some stress. I would give up sugar only to run right back bingeing on it until I was almost sick.  I would start an exercise regime knowing I couldn’t sustain the time needed.  So why were these bad habits that got me into trouble not changing?  They crept back in, and even a little was enough to start the unhealthy cycle.  And when I finally stared hard in the mirror, I realized I was sabotaging myself and not really wanting to heal.

 

rose paint

“My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself by such negligence of my own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong. Had I died, it would have been self-destruction.” 

 Jane Austen

 

I am still wrestling with this and trying to figure out why it is hard to make these changes…and maybe I am afraid that all the effort will not work yet again mostly because my heart was not in it.  But regardless I know I need to do something.  And I am determined to go down this path of healing now that I have decided to retire.  The retirement itself was for my own health.  But it is not enough.

 

What is important for me is that I heal the whole me….mind, body, spirit.  I have worked first on my mind and spirit.  And I have made great progress in these areas.  So now it is time for me to heal the rest of me.  And this is the hardest work.  And I will make false steps.  I will fail.  And I will make small steps forward and big steps back.  But the important thing is that I not give up.  That I not engage in that incessant negative self-talk that always sabotages my efforts.  That instead I keep the picture of perfect health front and center.  Yes I do believe that this idea of already having perfect health will finally diminish the saboteur until she is finally silenced.

 

Note:  It is said that if you cannot find an herb to treat your disorder then try the rose.  The rose is said to be a panacea and can treat stomach disorders, kidney and bladder disease, gallbladder, exhaustion, skin problems and more.

 

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Update 3 months later:

This post was originally published July 7, 2014 as my last post for Vision and Verb.  It was a bittersweet time as I did not want to say goodbye to writing for Vision and Verb.   I had just begun 7 months earlier and had so much I wanted to share with this incredible group of women.

But things will end as they must and we must find our next path.  And this blog was born from that change.  So I thank Marcie the founder of Vision and Verb for pushing me out of the nest a little sooner than I had anticipated.

And to the tribe I found at Vision and Verb, thank you for continuing to show up here and support me.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about healing.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

healing wound

 

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

 

Saying Goodbye

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 “Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”  ~Ann Landers

 

I have been toying with the idea of retirement for a few years now.  As I neared the 30 year mark and 55 years of age (the markers for qualifying for retirement from public education in my state), I was sure I would retire the first year I was eligible.  But a funny thing happened as it approached, I became unsure.  Always saying yes I am retiring…no hesitation…. while inside feeling sad and unable to understand why I was feeling suddenly so confused.

 

Why was it so hard to let go of a job after 30 years especially when the last few have been very difficult.  It wasn’t until I read this passage that a bit of light started to niggle at the corners of my consciousness.

 

 In life, goodbyes are a gift.  When certain people walk away from you, and certain opportunities close their doors on you, there is no need to hold onto them or pray to keep them present in your life.  If they close you out, take it as a direct indication that these people, circumstances and opportunities are not part of the plan for the next step of your life.  It’s a hint that your personal growth requires someone different and something more, and life is simply making room.  So embrace your goodbyes, because every “goodbye” you receive sets you up for an even better “hello.” Mark and Angel Chernoff

 

DSCN1843There it was.  Simple really to understand but equally difficult to put into practice.  Letting go of my past life to embrace this new journey into the unknown is scary.  It feels like I am going into a haunted house in the dark of night not sure what pits and falls might be around the corner.  Can you feel the fear mount…the butterflies in my stomach…the hair on the back of my neck standing up…chills running down my spine.  So how do I deal with all this fear and simply let go?

 

It is hard to say goodbye to a big part of our lives, but it is necessary to move into the next best phase.  To transition, a part of me has to die.  So that grief I have been experiencing is only natural.  In fact it is necessary.  And as I have slowly removed this veil of grief, I am looking now toward the light shining bright for me as I retire at the end of this month.

 

And as I move on there will still be tears, there will still be confusion.  I will be learning to walk all over again on this new path in these brand new shoes.  I am not sure if retirement is a death, a rebirth or a reconstitution of one’s self.  But above all it is a celebration.  Time to celebrate all I have become and all I have learned as I finally let go.  I am most grateful for it all-good and bad.  And I welcome this next phase and its precious gift as I say goodbye, and get ready to say hello world it’s me and I am so happy to be here!

 

Note:  Butterflyweed means “Let me go” in the Language of Flowers.

 

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Update 7 months later:

This post was  originally published February 21, 2014 as I was getting ready to retire on March 3, 2014.  And retire I did.  It felt strange for about a month.  Almost like an extended vacation.

But with many health problems cropping up, it was the best decision I could have made as I found I needed surgery in mid-May to repair a hernia.  The surgery and recovery were more extensive so the gift of retirement so far is for me to heal.  Physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

And I am grateful for every moment I have to slow down, watch the critters in my garden, pick flowers, take photographs, create new meals, harvest the veg garden and just be.  I plan to do a follow up post about my retirement soon.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about letting go.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

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All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

 

Creating My Fear

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Fear has always been my greatest enemy.  It has controlled me.  And consumed me.  So much so that I prefered to remain invisible for many, many years.  I chalked it up to being an introvert.  I was just not wired to be out there taking risks.  Nice excuse and it served me well.  And I had folks protect that hard shell I created for myself.

 

But as my job changed and I had to put myself out into the public eye more, I was forced out of that cushy, but dangerous, comfort zone.  And what do you know I was successful and happy in the change that had come over me.  My courage increased as I continued to move out of that zone growing along the way.

 

I forgot that with growth comes pain and with pain that fear was back.  Big and ugly, looming, sucking my reservoirs dry.  And it wasn’t until I hit a high, hard wall that I decided to go back to my roots.  Back to the mighty word.  My words. The words that speak from the soul.  From deep down inside my belly forcing those emotions back out exposing my raw self.  Funny thing was there was no fear once those words were laid bare.  At least not for a while.

 

But I did not understand, that fear would return over and over to beat me up and knock me down.  And I let that fear suffocate me, cutting me off from my words.  It wasn’t until I read an interview with a wonderful purveyor of words.  One who understood that in order to create with words you had to embrace fear.  Know that you would and must create it along with your soulful work.  It was not to be squashed, but accepted.  Embraced and even cultivated.  Because without that fear you would cease to create; really create from your roots.

 

 

“I believe that Creativity and Fear are basically conjoined twins; they share all the same major organs, and cannot be separated, one from the other, without killing them both. And you don’t want to murder Creativity just to destroy Fear!  You must accept that Creativity cannot walk even one step forward except by marching side-by-side with its attached sibling of Fear.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

 

 

Simple words really.  Create and Fear.  Inexplicably intertwined.  And to cut off my DSCN9826fear was to cut off the flow of my words rendering me mute.  Safe yes, but mute.  Soul speak quieted.  My heart smothered.  So the choice was simple. It was time to stop despairing.  It was time to whisper those fears.  To take fear by the hand and walk with it.  Get to know it intimately.  Give it voice.  And as that fearful voice rose, I discovered my words.

 

Those deep down feeling words are flowing again.  And as long as I keep fear beside me, I will compose, generate, form and otherwise forge my words here every month.

 

Special Note:  Water lilies symbolize Eloquence and Purity of heart.

 

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Update 6 months later:

This post was  originally published January 22, 2014 when I became a regular part of the team writing at Vision and Verb.  And it was the inspiration for starting this new blog….to continue to challenge my fears and to not lose my words and creativity.

It has been six weeks since starting this blog, and I am having so much fun stretching my creativity wings with photography and what I call my weekly ‘heart-felt’ posts on Thursdays.

I will be expanding my creative Sunday posts in September by adding some poetry.  I hope to join in a few poetry sites for their challenges as I continue my love for reading and writing poetry.  There is something so very personal and soulful in poetry, and I hope to continue to tap into my soul giving you little glimpses.

 

 

 

I leave you with another thought about fear.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

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All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

 

 

Walking A True Path

This post was originally published 9/24/13 on Vision and Verb.  I am updating it a bit at the end.

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“Only by its own roots does a tree stand tall and only by its own light does the sun shine brightly and bring life to our world. So it is with you – only when you’re trusting, loving and rooted in your true Self will the life that is your highest potential begin to manifest. Only when you are walking on the path of your highest potential will you ever be able to shine brightly and bring light to the darkness in others.”

-Anonymous

 

Recently I set out on a new path to find what might be around the next bend.   I was in the process of retiring in late July, but turned back from that path 2 weeks before it was to happen.  I was not ready.  On that path I raced through the year trying hard to just hang in there long enough to jump off at some point.

 

Too many times I find myself running or walking so fast I miss all that is around me.  I am so afraid that I might fall over rock or root that my gaze is hard fixed on the path never looking up.  On those paths I find myself running smack into dark clouds and storms for which I am ill prepared.  They make the journey so much harder, and leave me with no joy at all.

 

But it is on those journeys when my gaze is not fixed, but expansive, that I find my true path and next journey. When I stop look, smell, explore even off the path a bit stretching my limits, I am most at peace.   Even if there is fog ahead, and I cannot see what is around the bend.  Even when the clouds may appear gun-metal gray and hard, I am resolved to forge on.

 

It is in these times that my soul is leading me on.  It knows the true way.  It feels the IMG_9823light-headedness, and giddy excitement for what might come.  And when I am not transfixed on the path, I stumble a lot.  But I pick myself up, brush off the soil, tend my wounds and look up again.  It is in these times that the next part of the path is revealed and I move on again assured in my conviction that I am on my true path.  Then and only then can I enjoy the journey.

 

I am walking the true path again, and maybe this time in late June I might find I am ready for what is around that bend.  But for right now I am exploring my surrounds.  I must be off now as there are some lovely flowers over there I must go and see…..oh and look a butterfly….my that is a large tree.

 

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Update almost a year later:

I wrote this post just after the first time I tried to retire in July of 2013.  I was then hoping to retire instead in June of 2014, but again my path was changed and I retired instead March of 2014.   I have been retired now for 6 months and it seems as if time has flown by and stood still at the same time.

 

I promise to explain more about that at a later time.  Suffice it to say, I am still following this new path of retirement.  I have been noticing my surrounds more now as I live in the moment.  It has been a wonderful experience although I keep thinking the dream will end soon….but thankfully it continues on.

 

But even if it were to end, another curve in the path will show itself as it did when I started this blog.  So on I go following the path around the next bend as it is just appearing on the horizon…I am beginning to get a sense now when the next curve will show itself.  And I look forward to that shift as it approaches.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about walking a true path.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

path

 

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.