When I started, it was the first bit of energy I had felt in weeks, if not months. My anxiety had been high, and really, I had very little hope left for the project. The catalogues I had ordered sat collecting dust on my shelf, and I was wondering if the 30 year seeds my son got me for my birthday last fall would actually still grow if I left them that long.
It wasn’t the plan, but sometimes life… or in my case, a lack of energy, and an overabundance of anxiety, just gets in the way.
The rain was coming down. Not a lot, but enough that the day was dark. Typically, especially on dark days, my mood reflects the weather. It is hard to get motivated when there is no sun. Of course I know the sun is always shining, even if I can’t see it – I am more aware of this on sunny days when my mood is low, and my mind blocks the light streaming in on me, than I am on the darker days when I almost expect to struggle.
On this day, however, I had a drive that wasn’t dimmed by the weather, and I gave myself up to it.
For hours on this dark, rainy day, I happily sat on the floor in my living room surrounded by tape, and scissors, and catalogues, seeds and a coiled notebook (the type I buy in bulk every fall, and use often for my journals.)
For hours I cut and taped directions and pictures to match the 33 seed varieties that had come in the small silver package.
The lines I cut weren’t exactly straight, and the tape kept twisting and wrinkling, and as I carried out this activity I realized something that I had never quite understood about myself: my perfectionism and anxiety around making mistakes is there for the sake of other people, not myself.
These things that so frequently overwhelm me to the point where I won’t even start an activity for fear of failure are all about how I see others judging me, rather than about how I see myself. How frequently do I look at myself through my perception of how I think others see me, rather than through standards I set for myself?
I completed this scrapbook that I had made, and looked over the pages – which were kind of in alphabetical order, but not quite, as I missed some seeds, and had to put them in as I remembered them. The cuttings were somewhat crooked, the tape wrinkly, and all over the page. It looked not much better than a grade school project that a child did alone.
Yet as I looked over this gardening scrapbook I had made, I was entirely satisfied with the result.
The difference in my opinion of how this turned out, and so much of the things I do, was that this didn’t have to be shown to other people. I was proud of it because I did it, and it reflected me perfectly. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ‘me,’ and though my back was really sore from sitting so long on the floor; and though I was surrounded in leftover scraps of paper, and a catalogue that was in pieces, I felt pretty much perfectly happy.
This project enlightened me to the fact that my perception of myself is not based on looking in a mirror, and seeing a failure – but rather looking into the mirror at a group of people standing behind me, and seeing ‘failure’ written in their eyes.
If I could let go of this fear of how other people are seeing me, I think perhaps I would be perfectly happy with most of my imperfections… and maybe it is there I would find the courage to try all of these activities I fear I could never do well enough to satisfy.