I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult, and obsessive. I think it takdes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good. ~Barbara Streisand
I turned SIXTY this past September. That’s a big 6 and an 0. Six DECADES of life. And I still feel like I’m 17 with the whole world at my feet and eternity to explore it in. As my birthday approached I became increasingly reflective, contemplating the past and what I have accomplished and musing about how much time I had left to accomplish anything,; whether I could accomplish anything that mattered, and what I wanted that to be. What kind of legacy did I want to leave behind? How could I be the best me I could be?
These musings were very private and personal so they didn’t get written about. At least not for public consumption. They consumed a great deal of time and energy and as a consequence this Blog and many other things were neglected. It was a downright obsessive compulsive period that lasted much longer than I would have thought but in many ways I am glad I took those long months off and engaged in more than a little self indulgent navel gazing. It was good for me because I realized that I had been shambling through life like a tumbleweed blown hither, thither, and yon at the whim of whatever breeze blew the hardest. I need to focus. I need to narrow down what I will give my precious little available head space and physical energy to and set some goals.
I don’t usually make formal New Years Resolutions because when I do I usually set such lofty goals for myself that I can’t possibly live up to them. But then that leads to vague, unfocused rambling semi-goals that are seldom really productive. Every year I do choose a few new to me things to learn. Usually something difficult and something not so difficult and something easy. I really enjoy learning to do new things and I have learned a lot of things over my lifetime. I’m proud of this ability and I’m proud of the many varied interests I have. I think it keeps me young and my mind alert. (I may be kidding myself about that part.) Most of all it means that I am very rarely bored.
However, where I get into trouble is my expectations for myself. For instance last year I vowed to learn to play bridge and I did learn the basics but bridge is a complicated game and there was so MUCH to learn that I became overwhelmed so I quit. I wanted to be able to jump into a game with people who had been playing Bridge for years and be competitive. I was not content to BE a beginner. And that is my hubris. I expect too much of myself. I’m too competitive.
The same thing happened when I decided to learn to crochet before my daughter was born. I didn’t just want to learn to crochet, I wanted to crochet her coming home from the hospital outfit and when I was a couple of months along I chose a lovely and not too complicated pattern. I managed to accomplish learning how to crochet and I did manage to make my daughter’s coming home outfit before she was born but I didn’t learn some things that were essential for crocheting a truly lovely garment. And my disappointment in my effort led me to quit putting in any more effort to learn. I couldn’t do it perfectly so I didn’t want to do it at all. I realize now that it really was too hard to learn more than the basics all by myself. What’s more, I wasn’t willing to do the dull practice of crocheting simple scarves and hats that didn’t require complicated turns and counting stitches to get to the point that I could point with pride at what I had made. If I cannot produce a garment that looks as if it had been made by someone with 20 years of experience crocheting then I lose interest. I want to be an expert in 3 easy lessons.
Of course that doesn’t happen. My expectations for myself were and always have been too high. If I can’t be an instant expert, leftover tapes from my childhood begin to play in my head and I abandon whatever didn’t come easy immediately. So this year, late in life, I have decided to learn how to lower my expectations and learn something difficult one baby step at a time and not let my failure to be perfect at doing it right away get in my way. After all, over the years whenever I wanted a new scarf or a hat, I have picked up the yarn and needles and crocheted one and now people see my work and offer to pay me to crochet for them. I have finally become an expert in scarves and hats. I’ve decided after all this time to learn to be a beginner. Not so difficult things usually comes pretty easy for me so I felt that the key to correcting this flaw in my character was to break something down into its simplest components, to begin at the beginning and become an expert in one small piece at a time before I allowed myself to move on the the next small piece.
So these are my New Year’s resolutions.
1. Find a teacher to teach me how to do something difficult the right way and quit expecting myself to be able to learn new things without help.
2. Accept that I cannot become an expert in something until I have finished the business of being a beginner.
3. Put my ability to be obsessive to good use and learn to deal with the boredom of the repetitive details of being a beginner until I have ceased to be a beginner at step one before I move on to step two.
4. Do allow my compulsive nature to jump ahead to what I consider the “fun stuff” ruin the process of learning. Learn to accept “failure” and frustration as part of the process of learning.
5. Relax and enjoy being the best me I can be.
These are the new things I want to learn this year:
Making good light fluffy cream Scones
The Korean alphabet
Understanding and using Linux terminal command lines
Oh, and one more resolution: BLOG about my experiences