Perfectly Imperfect

The screams hit me when I entered the store. Perfectionism! It was everywhere. From the wrinkle-reducing serums and creams, to the perfectly-placed sweater on the perfectly-made model.

A society obsessed with perfectionism, a world searching for the unblemished, the unflawed, the unreal.

I can never live up to society’s standards, a world of plastic-molded women with perfectly placed body parts, measured by a machine, created by someone I don’t even know. Magazine covers, enhanced by photographers. Ads selling products to make us perfect, like the rest.

Remove blemishes! Ward away dimples! Soften your skin! Buy it all, and you will perfect.

As if you aren’t good enough the way you are.

Clothes formed to tuck-in tummies, hair products to keep every strand in place, lip colors to erase the blandness we think exists.

As if that wasn’t enough, our attitudes, the images of who we are, are to be perfect, too. No crying, no sobbing, no telling the world what we think. This is what I was taught, this is what I believed, to be stoic was to hold grace. It isn’t true.

Ads, society, tell us, we, our homes, our lives, should be in perfectly formed arrangement. But try as we might, it never will be.

We are flawed. Blemished. But good enough the way we are.

 

This has been my year of perfectionism, the year I am learning to let go.

Perfectionism has followed me my whole life, from the time I was a little girl with perfectly placed curls around my hair, decked out in a perfect little dress over my not-so-perfect body.

I turned into a teen and spent hours in the bathroom, trying to create perfect skin, perfectly shaved legs, and perfect hair. I grew so obsessed with perfectionism, I became anorexic, fooling everyone, even my parents.

As an adult, I maintained (or tried to) the perfect home, no dust, no dirt in sight. Nothing out of place. Everything cleaned, always put away.

But the world falls apart when you aim for perfection. Because perfectionism, it doesn’t exist. You, me, the world, we are flawed. No matter what the ads say. No matter what commercials tell you. No matter the promises creams and oils and lotions place on their bottles.

Perfectionism never has, and never will, exist.

One day, I knew I needed to change. Nothing around me felt right. I didn’t like how my home didn’t stay clean, how imperfect my relationships were, and how I could never finish a writing project that felt right.

I aimed for everything to be perfect, and when it didn’t turn out that way, I became tired, anxious, and a little depressed.

I stepped back and looked at life, saw what perfectionism had done to me, and decided I could never live up to what society, or I, expected of me.

I am letting go of perfectionism, no longer wanting to be a prisoner to a perfect world that never can be. To a world that held me captive.

A funny thing happens when you let go of perfectionism. You see beauty where you never saw it before. I saw it one day in a dying rose, and another, across an elderly woman’s wrinkly skin. Beauty is there, in the scars of the wounded, and the lines across faces of the weary.

Perfectionism isn’t beauty. Beauty is imperfect. Click To Tweet

Perfectionism is not beauty. Imperfectness is where the beauty lies. In cuts and gashes, in gray and receding hair.

Remember how beautiful you are. Show the world your flaws. You are wonderful. Amazing. Perfectly imperfect. Both you, and me.

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Simple Hygge

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), a Danish word meaning comfort and coziness, warmth and connection. (Though it is said there really is no good English translation.)

Hygge was one of the most popular words of 2016. But I’d like to think it wasn’t the word, but the interpretation, that people fell in love with.

Pictures across the internet portray hygge scenes: friends gathered by a fire; a woman quietly sipping tea; someone reading a book with nothing but nature to distract. Hygge is, in my words, tranquility. Peace. Serenity. I love hygge, and I’m trying to practice it daily.

My morning begins with a session of hygge-ness.(Is that even a word?) Sipping tea. Reading a book. Glancing out the window, seeing nothing but the trees in the distance, and the elderly man who walks his dog in the early morning hours.

Hygge is found in the middle of my day, though sometimes it slips between the pages of my calendar. But usually, I can pull it out, find time to just breathe and whisper a few words of prayer, or maybe jot notes in my journal. Hygge keeps my day relaxing, even in a sometimes hectic world.

My day ends with hygge, quiet reading in bed, sipping more tea as my husband and I cuddle on the sofa. I take a few breaths as I lull into slumber.

But my favorite hygge practice is on the weekend, when all cares are cast aside, all chores forgotten. The dark morning calls my name. As I slip out of the bedroom, careful not to wake my husband, the cool crisp air touches my skin. I hear nothing. It is silence. The world is still asleep.

I pull out my mug, listen to the teapot whistle my name, and crack open a book. Nothing but me, darkness, and hygge.

It is then I know, I have hit upon something great.

The concept of hygge is changing my life. It is changing me.

Hygge may not have a perfect English definition, but the concept is about as perfect as it can get.

What can you do to have a little hygge in your day?

Need a little inspiration? Check out these pictures of hygge.

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12 Simple Steps to Get Rid of a Holiday Hangover

I have chicken-chunk, beef-bloat, pork-belly, holiday-hangover, sugar slump. It seems no matter how determined I am, each year I manage to eat a little too much, and even a few things I shouldn’t be eating (like gummy bears and store-bought eggnog). In the last two weeks, I have seen more sugar in this house than I have in the whole previous year combined. And now, I am suffering dearly. But my guess is, I am not the only one.

It’s easy to eat too much this time of year, with all those gravies and succulent meats sitting on tables, all that sugary goodness hanging out at every party, filling the shelves of nearly every store. It’s too much for even the most dedicated health-nut. What is a person to do?

I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to cure my holiday hangover as quickly as possible. But how does one do that? I’m so glad you asked.

I have a plan. A very simple plan. (You knew it had to be simple, right? I hate long and complicated).

All that’s required is commitment, the desire to feel better, and a tad bit of time. It will all be worth it. Are you with me?

Here it is. A Simple Cure for a Holiday Hangover:
1. Start your day off running. Just one minute while the shower warms up. The blood is pumping, and your brain has received its first charge of the day.

2. Hydrate. As soon as you get out of the shower. I keep a water bottle next to the bed, and refill it each day so it’s ready for the next morning. Lifeworks makes a nifty glass bottle with a cool rubber grip on the outside.

3. Eat breakfast. I am a big proponent of the first meal of the day. I’m a slug without it. My daily breakfast usually consists of the same thing: One egg, a green smoothie (hemp, flax, bananas, another fruit, and spinach – the ingredients vary depending on what’s in our house). I top it off with tea (filled with antioxidants, and not as big of a crash for me as coffee), and a piece of chocolate. Whoa! Stop. Chocolate? Yup, that’s what I said. If people can have chocolate drinks, donuts, and chocolate cereal, I figure I can have a piece of chocolate. I make homemade, with three ingredients: honey, raw cocoa, and coconut oil, toss in some cinnamon, maca, sea salt, nuts, and coconut. One piece, and my brain has the extra fuel (read: healthy fats) it so desperately needs in the morning.

As much as I love my simple breakfast (mostly I love not having to think about what I will eat each day), my husband gets a little bored with the routine. Occasionally, we mix it up and have bacon, pumpkin pancakes, homemade granola, or stir-fried veggies. Do whatever works for you – just make it clean, simple, whole foods.

4. Snack. They aren’t just for children. I need snacks, mostly because my meals are small. My body feels energized when I eat smaller amounts with healthy snacks in between. If you do snack, choose something light and healthy: nuts and a piece of fruit, hummus and veggies, banana and nut butter, half an avocado with a tablespoon of tuna.

5. Stay hydrated! Drink, drink, drink. I can’t say this enough. This is one habit I stuck with over the holidays, and I’m really, really glad I did. Water is necessary to fuel our bodies and brains, and keeps our organs running smoothly. It keeps our muscles lubricated (that’s probably not the right terminology, but it does help our muscles). I’ve had muscles lock up and every time it’s happened, it’s been when I haven’t been drinking enough water.

If you get bored with plain water, or find yourself overdoing it, add a lemon, cucumber, or mint. Or if you just need something completely different, try some herbal tea or a real juice drink (as in juice bar, or a make-your-own at home juice drink).

6. Stay active. I know, it’s not always easy. We can be so busy, yet somehow still manage to spend most of our days sitting. And sitting can be really bad, giving us neck pain, back aches, stiff muscles, and headaches. It can also cause weight gain, which leads to a host of other issues.

If you have your own office space, you are in luck. It’s easy to get a little exercise time behind a closed door. Stand up every hour and run in place for one minute, or do a few push-ups or sit ups.

If you don’t have your own office (which most of us don’t), you can still get some exercise. Walk around the building on your lunch break, up and down the stairs, or even back and forth down the hallway. Park farther away from the office, get up and do small errands throughout the day (like bringing papers to someone’s desk, or walking over to talk to someone instead of sending them a message).

7. Take breaks. How is taking a break healthy? When we take a break from work, we are able to release stress from the day. It makes me crazy when I think of all the people who eat lunch at their desk instead of taking a break. I was once one of those people. Believe me, no job is worth your skipping every break. Get away. Close your eyes for five minutes and just breathe. Listen to tunes, read a book, sit outside. And as much as you love your co-workers, sometimes it’s best to take a break away from them. It makes you forget about work, if only for a brief time.

8. Eat lunch. Stop the fast food madness! Eat a simple, whole food lunch. A salad, meat wrapped around carrots, deviled eggs. Simple to prepare, easy to eat.

9. Don’t work late. I think I just heard yelling. How is that even possible, you ask? I don’t know. I did it too many times myself. But I do know this, all those extra hours, all those missed breaks and Saturday mornings spent in an office were not worth one single moment of my life. For work, I missed family time, moments together that can never be replaced. I was stressed, and often tired. I gained a few pounds, got out of shape, all for a job I didn’t really like.

I realize sometimes we are forced to work extra hours. An occasional week, or even month, won’t matter. But what happens when we do that every week of every month of every year? What do our bodies do? They live in a constant state of stress. They overeat to compensate, not just for the stress, but for emotions we can’t control. Stress taxes our brains and our bodies. Stress taxes our whole lives.

10. Go home. Kick off your shoes. Throw on something that makes you happy, your favorite jammies, your soft sweat pants. Listen to music, or a funny show. Unwind with a glass of wine.

11. Eat dinner. Light. Healthy. Not too close to bedtime.

12. Sleep. They don’t call her Sleeping Beauty for nothing. Everyone looks better when they have had enough zzz’s. I don’t believe we are all wired the same way and each require the exact same amount of sleep. One person may get by fine with six and a half hours, another person may need eight every night. But no matter what your needs, make sure you get it. Leave the dishes, leave the laundry, and go to bed. Your body, and your brain, will thank you.

There you go. Your twelve-step program to getting rid of a holiday hangover. It’s simple, really: eat well, sleep well, exercise. Take care of you.

Happy new year!

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The Story of a Worrier

It was two in the morning. Hints of moonlight streamed across the darkened walls. An air purifier hummed in the corner of the room. The night was silent, and if it hadn’t been for the thunderous roar in the pit of my stomach, I would have been asleep.

I can usually sleep through anything, sirens, fireworks, or the clap of thunder. But a hungry stomach, apparently that wakes me up.

I lay in bed that early morning and argued with myself. On one hand, I was starving, and figured I should eat something to settle my angry stomach. On the other hand, if I got up, I knew I’d be tempted to stay up, to wash dirty dishes, sort through mail, and clean the bathroom I hadn’t gotten to the day before.

I took a deep breath and tried to relax. And as I did, I thought back to the days when my children were little, and waking at 2:00 a.m. was normal for me.

***** *****
Story time:
The young mom stared at the ceiling, cast in a light glow from the street lamp just outside her bedroom window. She placed her hands in the air, imitating the shadow puppets she’d created earlier in the evening for her two boys.

She looked at her husband lying next to her. She envied him, how quickly he fell asleep, how quietly he lay in one position for hours. She glanced at the clock. 2:15 – the same time it was last night, and every night before that.

Her mind began to wander. Even though she had stayed up late, she still had many tasks to do: plates teetered in a pile in the sink; marks from soccer shoes were smudged across her kitchen floor; her son’s pants sat in a basket, waiting to be hemmed, and if she didn’t do it soon, he’d outgrow them before he had a chance to wear them, just like the pair before, and the ones before that.

Special outfits were needed for school this week, red for Monday, green for Tuesday, and a hat for Wednesday. She wondered where the cowboy hat was, the one he had wanted while on vacation a long time ago.

She remembered the cookies needed for a party later in the week, and how she’d have to make one more trip to the grocery store.

Her mind was reeling now, hundreds of thoughts all melded into one. She jumped out of bed, shivering as her feet hit the cool slabs of the wooden floor. As she snuck out of the bedroom, she wrapped her thick robe around her shoulders, closing the door softly behind her.

In the kitchen, she flipped on the light, squinting as her eyes adjusted. It was eerie being up this late, or rather, this early. No pitter-patter of little feet, no cries, no shouts, no laughter. Not even a bird. She hit the button on the coffee maker, inhaling deeply as the first drips of black water hit the pot.

Grabbing a pen, she began a list for the new day. By the time her family slid out of bed, the young mom was showered, dressed, with breakfast waiting on the table. Fresh chocolate chip cookies sat on a plate, and the fixings for dinner were in a bowl in the fridge.

The young mom was happy she had accomplished so much, and though she smiled at her family, she was tired. She wished she could sleep a whole night, could wake up refreshed and renewed, but the truth was, she didn’t know how.

Worrying had become an addiction, a nightly habit she didn’t know how to let go of. Worrying stuck with her through each stage of her children’s lives, as pre-teens and teens, as young adult men who were gone and married. She didn’t know life without worry.

It wasn’t until her accident that worrying took a new face. It seemed her body only wanted sleep, and the only worrying and thinking she could do would be for herself. She needed to heal, and in order to do that, she had to let go of the one thing she’d relied on most of her life – worry.

***** *****

The Bible tells us not to worry, and all those times I read it, I didn’t understand. I thought worrying meant I cared, but the truth is, it meant I wanted control.

I think worrying has many aspects, and there are many reasons God tells us not to worry. He wants us to trust in Him. He knows what worry can do to our bodies, and how it infests our minds.

Worrying harms our health, giving us high blood pressure, making us gain weight. Worrying makes us tired, unhappy, dissatisfied with life. Worrying takes time and energy. And if we are giving our time and energy to worry, how can we give it to anything else?

I’m not much of a worrier anymore, and rarely wake up in the middle of the night. For both of those things, I am thankful. But maybe I wouldn’t be if I had never been a worrier. Maybe I needed to learn a few lessons. Like: Worrying isn’t worth my time. And: Worrying steals life.

I have learned to let go of worry, and hang on to life.

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Slow Down, You’re Moving Too Fast

Life speeds by, one minute after the next, one day forever gone, one month, one year. Children grow, new lives are born, others taken away. Time mixes together, mingling our years into one, until what we are left with are significant moments that mark our days.

It’s a cliché to say time passes quickly. But it does. We blink, we breathe, and time is gone. How well I’ve learned that time can be taken away, as well as people, as well as life.

I know we can’t stop the passing of time. But perhaps we can slow it down and learn to enjoy each day a little more. Perhaps we can learn to stop watching minutes tick by, and stop crossing days off the calendar.

It’s a journey I’ve been on, learning to enjoy life, and not see it as one quick passing of time. I don’t believe we were placed on this earth to work and eat and sleep and work again, and watch time sift through our fingers. I think life is more than that.

Sure, we have obligations, children to attend to, as well as spouses. We have jobs, some of us two. We have dinners to prepare, and breakfast to serve to our families. We have school commitments and sporting events. And, unfortunately, that’s not all. Life is busy, hectic, and sometimes confusing. And when it gets that way, time speeds by, until our days and lives have passed.

I want you to take time this weekend, to enjoy life, family, or being alone. Here are a few things I found helpful.

1. Get up before everyone else. Enjoy your tea, coffee, or freshly squeezed juice. Breathe.
2. Involve the family for breakfast. Make pancakes and eat together. Talk, or just be silly.
3. Laugh at life. Laugh at mistakes. Enjoy the mishaps. At the sheer insanity of it. It may not slow down time, but it will make the moments that go by seem like a breeze instead of a whirlwind.
4. In between errands, or running to sports, or in the middle of a Saturday-long clean-a-thon, stop and breathe. Literally. Wherever you are, close your eyes (preferably not while driving), and take a few deep breaths, and slowly release. Listen to the world around you, and for just those few minutes, enjoy each sound.
5. Take time to hug your family, your spouse, your children, your parents, or whoever is with you. (Or a stranger? – That might be taking it too far.) Take time to tell them you love them, not in a fleeting way, but with heartfelt sincerity.
6. Do one thing with your family, something that is fun. Stop at the park for lunch in between errands. Go down a slide with your child. Kick the ball in a field. Take twenty minutes to let them know that life is more than work, that they are more important than anything.
7. Do one thing with your spouse. Watch a movie, sip wine, sit on the patio, take time to be a couple. No children, no phones, nothing but the two of you.
8. Do one thing for yourself. You are special, unique, and busy beyond belief. Take a bath or a long hot shower. Paint your nails. Read a book. Go for a walk. Do it. For you.

Nothing can stop time. It speeds by, as if its very mission is to make our lives into a harried frenzy. But only we can do that. Even with all the commitments and activities we need to attend to, our lives can have quiet moments that silence time, if only for a moment.

Slow Down. Don’t Move So Fast.

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