Through her roles as a French immersion teacher, public affairs and media relations specialist, commercial real estate agent and retail sales associate, Bonnie Tonita White has acquired the skill set she needs to tackle the dreams she would not or could not dream when she was younger. A stay-at-home mother whose nest is now nearly empty, she is eager to walk many more miles before her day is done.
One day while reading to my toddler Josh, I encouraged him to illustrate the story so as to make the story more meaningful. As this appealed to his creative nature, he settled in beside me with crayons and paper to draw his interpretation of the story. However, as Josh began to draw, he became frustrated, so frustrated, it was distracting. When I asked what was the matter, he became even more agitated and soon began pounding the crayon onto the paper with forceful intense strokes.
When again I asked “What is the matter?”, he looked up at me with his big sad eyes and tear-streaked cheeks and said, “It's no good. I can't make it like I see it!” His imagination and past experience with professionally illustrated books exceeded his physical coordination and ability. He had the ability of a three year-old, with all of the expected, glorious, crudeness of design, but wanted that of an adult, a gifted and well-paid illustrator.
I have recalled this experience many times when disappointed by work that falls short of what I had imagined or envisioned. In organizing a birthday party or decorating a home, for example, we have the opportunity to express ourselves, and yet, after seeing decorating spreads in magazines, I can quickly become discouraged, criticizing my own best efforts.
When my daughters were young, there was a recently widowed Jewish woman who greeted each new child to our neighborhood with a request to find a rock and bring it to her. She would then paint the rock with flowers and birds and trees and inscribe the child's name. Her drawings were unschooled and simple, yet my daughters, the recipients of these lovely gifts, kept them for years. As an illustrator she was an amateur, but as a giver of gifts, she was world-class — her imagination and desire falling anything but short in the eyes of my children.
As my children leave the nest
, I'm ready to tackle some new dreams. Because I'll be doing new things, by definition, I won't necessarily be good at everything I try. I wonder if I can accept and be proud of my baby step accomplishments? Can I accept the space that lies between imagination and my best efforts?
I also wonder if there are some ‘magic words' that I can say to myself when I'm trying something new, that will make it easier (e.g. what would I say to a 1 or 2 year-old learning to walk?)
In short, can I take delight in what I'm doing?
I don't know.
But, I'll give it the 2 year-old try.
This is tough, isn't it?
When I enrolled in voice lessons, because I am a rather accomplished pianist, but vocally I don't have much to work with, it was often discouraging. When I started working on Wall Street… not good at that either. And the parenting thing… About 12 years into it, I think I may be getting my bearings.
Is it possible to send perfectionism packing? Meaning, if we could have the mindset of two year-old for whom nearly everything is new, what would we try?