Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Out of the pressure cooker, and into the crockpot...?

If you're like me, then your life contains quite a bit of pressure--to get everything done, to not make a mistake, to not fall off the bandwagon (of diets, workout routines, self-care regimens, changes to old habits). Self-imposed pressure cooker living is how I've conducted much of my life, and what that approach has done is 1) guarantee failure, and 2) simultaneously let me off the hook.

If every slip up is a catastrophe, the end of whatever grand plan I've established for myself, then no plan will ever come to fruition. If any step backward ends the journey, there will never be enough steps forward to reach my goal. But here's the crafty part: once I've failed, once the pressure seal has been broken, I am no longer accountable to my goals. I don't have to worry about going somewhere I've never gone before. I can instead return to the well-traveled landscape of self-recrimination and guilt at have failed--an uncomfortable place, but somehow comfortingly familiar.

What I've come to realize is that the pressure cooker setup is a lie, a perception I create to explain and justify my behavior. But the truth is it doesn't matter if I make this choice or that choice right now. What's important is the sum total of choices I make now and now and now and now and now and now and now and now and now... It's ok to eat that piece of candy, or not fold the laundry today. The real question is how do I nourish my body most of the time, how do I handle my chores most of the time, what do I put my attention on most of the time. Like a crockpot, how life really works is being consistent and persistent over time. It doesn't matter what you do for the moment. What's important is what you do most of the time. You can say no to your habitual ways of being; you just have to do it again and again.

I've been told this is my breaking free from perfectionism, from the story that it's either 100% or it's 0%. By waking up to the fact that 80% (heck, 51%) of the time is quite a lot of the time, I am jumping out of the pressure cooker way of living. And perhaps that's true. But my experience of this shift is that of coming home to compassion within myself, of finding a way to be just me, a human being, flawed and magnificent, most of the time.

1 comment:

cindabin said...

Hey, that's some great insight. I know I've certainly been guilty of the bandwagon mentality at times in my life. I've realized, as you have, that the big harm in that paradigm arrives when the mental label of having fallen off the bandwagon affects your decision on whether or not to do something good for you at this moment. If you feel the need to do something nourishing at the moment, why does the past matter?

And if you are worried that without a bandwagon, doing this good thing now will have no lasting effects--well, perhaps what you need is to give yourself more of your faith and trust.