Grace Elaine Sommers Whitehead

This past week my mom turned 79. It’s kind of jolting, because I don’t think of her as being someone who is close to entering her octogenarian years. She’s just my mom. However, she’s MY MOM. And being that I’m a mom, this has caused me to reflect on what it must be like to be my mom.

Sometimes I look at old pictures of myself from when I was a kid, and try to remember what my personality was like. I’m guessing my mom would say I was a happy and talkative child, and I was, for the most part. I liked to play outdoors in the dirt, ride my tricycle, talk to the neighbors, and play in the sandbox. I also liked to pretend I had imaginary friends and even children. One day I told my mom that I had two daughters–one named Ruthie (after my grandma who I was obsessed with) and Crouton (after my favorite salad bar topping-BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T LOVE SEASONED BREAD?!). I was creative and liked to color and draw and watch the birds at the bird feeder.

My mom would sit at the foot of my bed every night until I fell asleep. We said bedtime prayers, and she helped me to learn how to pray. She cooked healthy food for us, and we always ate at the table.

(God, I should stop reminiscing because this is actually making me think about all the ways I’ve failed as a parent.)

But before I stop, I must mention one more thing.

I remember lying in bed in my childhood bedroom. Only I wasn’t a child anymore. I was 30 years old. My mom had pulled the curtains up, in hopes that I would feel the sunshine. It was springtime and it was beautiful weather. And yet, I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t get out of bed. I knew my parents were concerned, but every time they tried to speak to me, I either cried or shut down. And all I remember thinking was, why can’t I just enjoy the sunshine? There are actual people who are getting up with the sun and going outside and living their lives and going to the grocery store and shit. And getting up to go pee was overwhelming to me. Eating was overwhelming to me. Showering was overwhelming to me.

I felt like I was getting evicted from my own life. This was during my second separation from my husband. Things were crumbling and I did not want to surrender. What I didn’t yet understand was that, as Glennon always says, nobody gets evicted from his or her life unless she is being called to a truer, deeper life. Rock bottom is always an invitation to something else- something even more authentic and beautiful.

My mother came into my bedroom. She sat down on my bed. She told me she had baked some homemade bread and had fresh strawberry jam, made with strawberries from our garden. While my mother is an incredible cook, it was very out of character for her to make homemade bread. I looked at her, perplexed. But then I knew: she’s trying to get me to eat AND baking may be her way of coping with the fact that her child is feeling hopeless and not eating or sleeping.

She convinced me to eat a piece of bread. She brought it upstairs to me and sat on my bed. I put the bread in my mouth and could tell it was nearly a perfect tasting piece of bread, so I began to chew it, even though I wasn’t enjoying the process of eating. Every time I swallowed food, it went into the pit of my stomach and I thought would vomit. But I didn’t vomit. So I continued to slowly and thoroughly chew the bread in my mouth so that I could nourish my body at least.

“I’ve been thinking,” my mother suddenly said, “about you.”

I sat up in bed. She had my attention.

“I have this vision of you in my mind. You are an exquisite, beautiful flower. And yet, you’ve been buried for so long under the dirt. The ground above you is hard and cracked, and the soil is not good. However, you continue to grow and you will soon sprout above this ground that is holding you back–this ground that has held you down for so many years, and you will begin to bloom. And you’re just the most beautiful flower. You’re becoming yourself and you’re stunning. You are going to bloom and break free.”

I looked at her in awe, because she was envisioning things for me that I simply couldn’t see. But what she said–her words–were so intricate and fascinating, that it drew me in.

Everyone has always loved my mother. At times I resented this, because I didn’t like sharing her. I would get jealous and hide for attention or act out (when I was a child, to clarify-not last week 😜). But now I know why people are so drawn to her-it’s because she showed up for them, and never fell apart. It’s because she’s a vault when it comes to trust. My mother has exhibited grace under pressure, time and time again. When others are stressed, she remains serious. When people are crying and crushed, she responds with compassion. That’s why people love her.

So that is my mother. She is a believer in things that dwell in truth and possibility. Happy birthday, Mom.

Good Enough

Do you know what it’s like to be a perfectionist? 

Sometimes perfectionists are not who you think they are. They may look like they have their sh** together OR they may look like very unproductive people; when in fact, they are just stuck.  This is one of the truest things I’ve ever written about that: 

https://ohcrapitstomorrow.com/2015/02/10/it-sucks-to-be-a-perfectionist/

You know why it sucks so bad? Because you just get this debilitating feeling like you can’t freaking do something right, so you just don’t do it.

For example, tonight I wanted to sit down and write this on my blog:

I suck. I suck. I suck. I suck. I suck. I stink. I suck at everything. I stink. I suck. I suck. I suck. I have so much to say, but can’t figure it out, so I suck. I suck. 

Because OMG that’s TOTALLY HOW I FEEL RIGHT NOW. 

I am working so hard at eating clean but I ate two servings today of junk food and now I suck. 

I am working so hard to be better at Crossfit and yoga, but I haven’t made it to the gym in a few days, so I suck. 

I am working so hard at being firmer and more consistent in my discipline with Aliana, but I let her stay up 30 minutes past her bedtime last night, so I suck.

I suck I suck I suck I suck.

That has been my mantra. Wow. Would you want to live inside my head now? Probably not. 

But here’s the thing. I’ve been struggling with this crap for years. And if there’s one thing I noticed, it’s this: the only constant is change. 

Right now I feel crappy and unproductive, but next week will be better. There will be good weeks and bad weeks. There will be times when I need to meditate, pray, and rest, and times that I need to hit the pavement like a badass and just churn out tasks like nobody’s business. There will be times I am so productive that nobody can match how efficient I am, and there will be other times that I will simply stumble around like a bumblebee with a low IQ. 

And that’s just how I’m wired. It’s the very nature of WHO I am. I am a dichotomy-productive, yet sputtering; hardworking, yet idle; classy, yet disheveled. 

And I know, as a wise friend once told me, “Emily… What if doing something ‘good enough,’ ACTUALLY REALLY IS GOOD ENOUGH?”

That’s ⬆️⬆️ the lesson right there. Sometimes doing something half assed–with the intent to love yourself or others–is actually okay. If I’m really not wanting to go for a run, but I go for a run and end up running kind of half assed, IT’S STILL GOOD THAT I WENT FOR A RUN. 

So tonight, I’m going to replace the “I suck” with “Good enough is good enough.” And please don’t mistake my message for saying that I’m against self discipline. Self discipline is very important to me and it’s the reason why I’m frequently re-evaluating my goals. What I’m against is self loathing–all because we had a bad day or week and didn’t do things as we wanted to. 

And I’m also going to keep watching this ten second video footage from the field trip I went on today with a bunch of second graders. Because I LOVE this one kid’s reaction to learning that he may see wild animals. We need to be like this kid–alive with curiosity and joy. ❤️

It Sucks to be a Perfectionist

My name is Emily, and I’m a perfectionist.

Perfectionism is an awful disease that afflicts millions of people. In my case, it all started in my childhood.

My 5th grade teacher allowed us to choose our own spelling words. I wanted to compete with the other kids in my classroom who were super smart by picking unreasonably long spelling words for my list.

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And now, at the age of 38, it manifests itself in ways like this:

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And when someone does something really nice for me, it is sometimes debilitating:

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I sometimes don’t do things that I need or want to do because I have this core belief that certain things need to be perfect.

I want my home to be perfect.

I want to say the perfect thing to others.

And I want to write perfectly. Here’s me, after I hit publish on a blog post:

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After my divorce, I had a bunch of paperwork related tasks to do. One of them involved going to the BMV and asking them to change my address on my registration and then getting a form to get my ex-husband’s name off of my vehicle’s title. I had been in a scary car accident at the time, and my car had been totaled completely. I needed to remove my ex-husband’s name from the title in order for the insurance company to reimburse me.

The process was fairly simple, and my brother loaned me a car while I was waiting to complete the process started by the insurance company.

The process could have been completed in a week.

Five months later, though, I was still driving my brother’s car. He had his own vehicle–this was just an old car he was thinking of selling, but had loaned it to me.

However, I still needed to get the car back to him and get my own vehicle. And for some reason, the task seemed OVERWHELMING. Like in my mind, the idea of driving to the BMV to do this task felt comparable to climbing Mount Everest or something.

And the more I beat myself up for not doing it, the harder it was to just FREAKING do it.

And the cycle of procrastination began:

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That cycle is just so disturbingly true for me.

The only thing I have found that has helped me to stop the cycle of procrastination is to JUST FREAKING DO the overwhelming task.

My friend, Lora, gave me the wise advice to just “take the emotion out of the task and check it off your list.”

I don’t why this way of thinking about it helped me so much, but it did. So, back to the car story–I started telling myself that this BMV thing was no big whup. I was just going to wake up, put my clothes on, and drive there. No biggie. And whatever happened at the BMV would be okay, because I somehow convinced myself that I had no emotion AT ALL attached to the outcome.

And it was just SO simple once I did that. And after it was done, I wanted to go outside and jump for joy and drink a bottle of wine and yell, “I DID IT!” because it was such a relief to not have it hanging over my head.

For me the lesson is that I give things more importance in my mind than what they sometimes deserve. In the case of the car situation, I felt so sad about the car accident which had precipitated the task at hand, that I just didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of the paperwork. I chose avoidance instead of completion.

In the case that I mentioned earlier, where someone writes me a nice email and I want to find the RIGHT words to respond, I just feel stuck and decide to come back to it. And then suddenly, I’m writing an apology email that’s full of reasons I haven’t responded, instead of just a simple, “Thank you for your note. Your words meant so much to me.” I do this, I suppose, not only because I want to do things perfectly, but because I’ve attached so much emotion to the task of responding. I just want to make this other person happy, in the way he or she made me happy. I feel so deeply grateful, that I almost have to put aside the gratitude for a moment–that deep and happy emotion–and respond immediately with the most truest sentences that come to my mind–instead of over-analyzing a response that will “make him or her” feel good.

It sucks to be a perfectionist. But I’m working on defeating it. I want to model healthier thought patterns for my daughter. I want her to not feel afraid to make mistakes. I want her to know that doing her best is more important than doing it perfectly.

And I want her to know, as I’m starting to realize, that doing something “good enough” really sometimes is enough.

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