Perfection is Unattainable

Welcome back to Blog Wednesdays.

What, you’ve never heard of Blog Wednesdays? Oh, of course, uhm, I didn’t really tell you about them. Well… without telling you (so I wouldn’t put too much pressure on myself), I made a goal for myself that I was going to write at least one blog post per week, and they were going to be on Wednesdays. That went great for a while… until I fell off track. Again.

If there’s anything to learn on our journey of lifestyle change, it’s this. I can make a change, but I am not going to do it perfectly. I’m going to fall off track, and I might even succumb to some old bad habits. When that happens, the very best thing to do is pick yourself up, wipe your tears, dust yourself off, and get back on track. Perfection is unattainable. When you fall down, get back up again. This is really the best we can do.

So… what have I been up to while I’ve been gone?

I have been suffering from a broken heart. And, to be perfectly honest, I have been crying a lot. (Yes, my therapist has already been informed, thanks for asking.) I’ve put on a brave face, but really… This is what the process looks like. When you have a broken heart, crying happens. I don’t guess there’s any point to pretending that it doesn’t look like this.

After exhausting myself with the work required to extract myself from the shattered remains of my marriage- and the manual labor required to get myself set up on my own- I thought it was a good time for a little vacation. I had a flight credit from a previous trip that had been canceled, and I got an invitation to go to California. The plan was to spend some time visiting with old friends, and there were plenty of California vacation-y things planned. We were planning to go to Disneyland. We were planning a day trip to hike Joshua Tree National Park. We were going to the beach. I love the beach, it’s one of my favorite places on the planet. I had plenty of time to plan it out in my mind. I knew what the blog post about the beach was going to say, and I even knew how the Lisa Looking Restored On The Beach photo was going to be shot. This trip was going to put a little fuel in my empty tank, stock up my emotional reserves, and put me on the path to healing my shattered sense of self.

I went to California. And that’s about all of the plan that was fulfilled. Shit happens. At 5am on the very morning we were supposed to leave for the beach, I woke to the phone ringing. Phone calls at 5am are usually not good news. This was no exception. My friend dashed off to meet his family at the hospital, where someone close to him had taken an ambulance ride that morning. This was much more important than a little excursion to the beach. Instead of going to the beach, I found myself alone at my friend’s place, wondering whether these were the final moments for his loved one. I spent the morning worrying about what was happening at the hospital, and after being unattended for hours I found myself running scenarios through my mind about how I might get myself to the airport and book a flight home if this was as serious as it seemed. I was ball of nervous energy with nothing to do… So I cleaned the bathrooms. When you’re in the right frame of mind, cleaning can be therapeutic- it has a clear beginning and end, it keeps your hands busy, and it can focus your attention to help keep your mind off other things. Instead of a photo of me on the beach, I have photos of two very clean bathrooms. I am pretty sure you don’t want to see those. They are just bathrooms.

Everything eventually turned out okay at the hospital, but the after-care needs canceled all of our other plans for day trips. We stayed at my friend’s place, watched movies, revived a brutal mini-golf rivalry that began when we were kids, and made the best of the situation. I was supposed to meet another friend for my last weekend in town. Since the bulk of my plans had been greatly modified, I was really looking forward to this last day trip. But more shit happened. This friend has been enduring a simply incredible stream of events with her daughters- events that would test any parent’s mettle. My little weekend trip just didn’t fit with where she was at the moment. While we got to visit for a couple of hours, our trip ended up a no-go. It was awkward, and draining, and disappointing. There’s not even a replacement photo for this one.

The crying didn’t start until I made it home from California. On top of everything there is still to do, I have been so disappointed. There was no escape. Everything that happened has a logical explanation, and there’s one sense where I really do want my friends to feel like they can leave me and attend to important things that are happening in their lives. But I needed something too, and I didn’t get it. So much for the idea that I’d be restored or have my tank filled. I’m still running on a quarter of a tank.

So California was a wash… maybe I could use all the money I didn’t spend on that trip to take another one? A friend and I made plans to throw at the Highland Games in San Antonio last weekend. I knew this trip was sketchy from the start. My friend has not been well. It’s really quite scary. At one point I made a suggestion that maybe this was not the right time, maybe we should consider not going on this trip. She wasn’t having any of it, she was going anyway. I figured that if I was with her, at least I wouldn’t worry about her. The scenario I ran through my mind this time was… what if we are on the road in the middle of West Nowhere, Texas, and suddenly she needs to go to the hospital? I am CPR certified, but am I really willing to break my friend’s ribs while waiting for an ambulance? So when the phone rang at 4:45am on the morning we were to leave, I already knew what that phone call was about. We didn’t go. And she is finally getting the medical attention that she needs.

John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” So this is it, this is life. You can dream up an amazing vacation and visualize the sand between your toes, but life has different plans. You might even end up wearing rubber gloves and spending your day leaning over the tub with a bottle of scouring powder. When you find yourself here, it’s important to realize you’ve been given the opportunity to make a choice. You choose to feel victimized by circumstances and throw a fit and complain about how unfair it all is. Or you can choose something different. You can choose to be the friend that you would want someone to be for you, if the situation were reversed. For me, the real trick is to find the balance between their needs and my needs. I still don’t have that one figured out yet.

Here’s what I’ve got for now. Between reviving that mini-golf rivalry and spending some time analyzing my friend’s tee shot on the golf course, I’ve discovered (or re-discovered?) that I am interested in golf. Yeah, I know, I don’t play enough Scottish sports yet. I wonder what the heck is wrong with the Scottish people… all their sports are flipping insane. Here’s a really heavy rock. I want you throw it as high as you can over that wall over there. Careful not to bonk yourself in the head. Then take this tree trunk, pick it up and flip it over there… but it doesn’t count unless it spins one rotation. See this tiny ball? You’re gonna use this stick and whack this ball into a teeny hole waaaaay over there. Try to miss the trees, and the lake, and the sand. I know you can’t see the hole yet, but trust me, it’s there. What kind of people think up this stuff?

Maybe golf is like cleaning the bathrooms. It has a clear beginning and end, it keeps your hands busy, and it can focus your attention to help keep your mind off other things. You can visualize where you want the ball to go, but when the ball lands, you gotta play it where it lies. Or if it’s gone all wrong, you get out a new ball and take a drop. Perfection is unattainable. You just keep playing.

One of movies we watched on my trip was “Tin Cup.” Kevin Costner plays Roy McAvoy, a washed up golf prodigy whose biggest barrier to success is himself. When clinical psychologist Dr. Molly Griswold shows up for a golf lesson, she gets an explanation of The Golf Swing by Roy McAvoy. Here’s what he says:

Make a nod to the Gods, that He is fallible. Perfection is unattainable. …The tuning fork goes off in your heart, in your balls. Such a pure feeling is the well struck golf shot… That’s what the golf swing is about. It’s about gaining control of your life and letting go at the same time.

I still have money left over from two radically altered trips. I already bought a used driver and a putter. I think I will spend the rest of it on golf lessons.

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