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Perfection Paralysis

Recently, I wrote my first query letter ever. Straight up: it took me an hour and a half. I wanted it to be perfect. My quest for perfection was so tight that my backspace and delete button started to pant halfway through the letter-writing process. Brain matter may or may not have started to squeeze out of my ears.

This is one measly query letter, folks. That I will likely not even receive a response to. But it was my first attempt at trying to get published, and I wanted it to ooze literary perfection.

It got me thinking more about perfectionism and how it winds its slithery, octopus tentacles around us. Elizabeth Gilbert says perfectionism “is just fear in really good shoes.” I want to take this quote and put it on a blinking marquis above my bathroom mirror. Or scream it at myself from a megaphone in certain weak moments. It’s that good.

In my case, this is how perfectionism generally chokes the life out of me. First, I have an idea. It’s a brilliant idea! But I have some deep-seated doubts that I can make it come to fruition. I’m not that smart really, and God knows, I don’t want anyone to find out about my limited brain power. I start to execute said idea and the details become overwhelming. I want to make all those details line up perfectly so that no one will find out the Ugly Truth: I’m a closet dum-dum.

Anxiety starts to build, clouding my thoughts and cluttering my resolve. I’m paralyzed by my own fear and insecurities. The panties are definitely in a wad at this point. From here, I generally have two possible end-games: 1) I do nothing rather than risk the unpleasant un-closeting of my true self; or 2) I exhaust myself to the point of drooling to make everything shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

Like “really good shoes,” perfectionism glitters and glistens on the outside but underneath the shine is a little girl huddled in the corner biting her nails. It masquerades as having everything together and mightily “doing it all,” but it’s a carefully-crafted mirage.

That desire for everything to be perfect is just fear steadily biting and nipping our heels. Fear that we’re not enough: not smart enough, not pretty enough, not successful enough.

Make it look perfect, and no one will notice that you’re actually cowering in the corner, chugging wine to take the edge off. Nothing to see here, folks. I’m perfect!

When I feel the tentacles of perfectionism start to slither around my neck, I remind myself that coming from a place of fear is a weak springboard. I identify those base fears of not-enough-ness and give myself a gentle talking-to (complete with wagging finger).

To all the paralyzed perfectionists: Keep moving. Take a risk. Jump and have faith that your wings will catch you. Imagine yourself above the clouds. Don’t worry about what the rest of the world is thinking. Follow your bliss. Keep writing or creating or cooking or base-jumping or knitting or whatever it is that you love with all of your soul. This love will carry you.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be. Take a deep breath, let go, and imagine all the divinely-flawed possibilities.

Having It All

The other night, I took a hot bath. Well-deserved, after a long day of slaving away at the office and then serving as butler, cook, maid, and chauffeur for my lovely family. As I let the hot water soothe my tired body, I felt the urge to cry. I’m not talking about small, dainty tears melting subtly into the bath. This was a hankering for a deep, soulful, tsunami cry.

But as much I wished for that cathartic eruption, nothing came. Nothing. I was exhausted to the point of complete numbness. We all know that tsunami cries take heart, and my heart was clearly shuttered up and closed for business.

Who has time for heart when you’re bustling and hustling from 6:30am to 8:30pm? My days whir by in a rush of astounding productivity. Like most moms, I can’t believe all that I accomplish in just…one…day. It’s either revolting or amazing, I’m not sure. Getting the kids off to school, exercising, work, homework, making lunches, making dinner, baseball, gymnastics, soccer. Not to mention the constant comforting, cajoling, prompting, refereeing and life lesson-imparting.

My mind is always getting ready for the next activity, transitioning from mom to wife to boss to mom to who am I again? I feel like I’m leaping from the top of one building to the top of the next, all day long.

Not to mention the nine trillion, mind-numbing, behind-the-scenes things that I do just to keep the house clean, the children clothed and fed, the cat alive, and the plants green. No one ever says “thank you” for these trifles, but it’s these details that smooth the surface and keep everyone shiny and happy.

Everyone, except for me, sitting in the bathtub, just trying to squeeze out some damn tears. I need a release. I need a break, but the mornings keep coming, and I have to do it again and again.

I’m so tired, my bones literally ache. I always have a headache. By the end of the day, my feet scream obscenities at me. My husband and I are like two ships passing in the night, playing man-to-man with our two kids. I want to slow down, but the train is moving so fast.

Something has to give, but what? Clearly, I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that “having it all” is back-breaking work.

I know I need to give myself some grace and some space. Go lightly. Sleep. Meditate. Steal some me time. Reset my downtrodden attitude. Get a pedicure.

But maybe, in addition, I just need to let myself have a moment. Squeeze out those tears, thrash around for a few days like an angst-y teen, shut myself in the closet and hurl out some F-bombs. This shit is hard. I’m tired, and I’m doing the best that I can.

God-willing, this feeling will pass, and I’ll get in my supersonic working mom groove again. Until then, if you need me, I’ll be in the closet.

~Emily

The Magic of Words

What’s the big deal about a bunch of words all strung together? Why do you need someone to help you with creating content for your website or project?

BECAUSE WORDS ARE POWERFUL. A string of words can be like a string of magical, twinkling Christmas lights. The soft rhythm of a perfect sentence can stir emotions, making us feel sad, happy, squirmy, mad, or nostalgic. Emotions inspire us and spur us to act.

Words can carry us away on magic carpets to wherever we want to go. Words can create new worlds and fresh ideas. They can build bridges between people and connect people from opposite, far-flung corners of the earth. Words can build trust, warmth, and relationships.

Let’s face it. Some people can’t string together a coherent, lovely sentence. They’d rather do math, invent something, bake a pie, or go bird-watching. But some people are wordsmiths. (These people are also called nerds, but labels are so unimportant, don’t you think?) The point is, some people love to write, obsessing over each word as tenderly as if picking a firstborn’s name.

Your website or project is important to you. It represents you. You want the content to be engaging, fresh, and inspirational. You want to increase traffic, bring in more viewers, and get more hits. Attention spans are short, my friends. If you don’t engage people quickly with quality content, your viewers will evaporate into the internet ethers with a simple, dreaded click.

Pencil to Paper is a professional writing service that takes the stress out of all of your content dilemmas. It allows me to do what I love–writing–and allows you do get back to bird-watching or pie-baking, or whatever it is that you love to do.

You can contact me at emilyguerrero828@gmail.com for all your magic carpet and nerdy wordsmithing needs.

~Emily

Birthday Shake Up

Another birthday is looming in front of me, the glare of 42 candles searing my eyes. Yep, 42 big ones, and I’m thinking it’s high time for a mid-life crisis. A mix-it-up, throw-it-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t care, shake-up-the-snow-globe-and-see-where-the-flakes-land mid-life event. It could be an extravaganza.

Maybe we all need a mid-life shake-up every few decades. I’m not talking about getting a sports car or trading in the hubs for a younger model. I’m talking about checking in and asking ourselves some tough questions.

Like, Self, who the heck are you called to be? What makes you truly, deep-in-your belly happy? What is holding you back from taking a leap? And for God’s sake, why oh why are you holding so tightly to the things that are squelching and smushing your obvious greatness?

Back to the looming birthday. There are many downsides to getting older, like finding out what “crepey” skin is and the cruel effects of gravity on all things beginning with T and A. But the upsides are very, very uppity.

You become more comfortable in your crepey, droopy skin. You start to accept and maybe even embrace yourself for who you are. All the background noise starts to fade, and you realize what’s really important: relationships, family, love.

All this clarity is certainly a blessing, but it also comes with responsibility. DARN IT! Sometimes, clarity calls you to act. It may call you to be bold and shake up the snow globe winter village that you have spent your life creating. It may call you to quit your job, end a relationship, move, or stop a bad habit that is wreaking havoc upon your life.

Truthfully, clarity can be a real pain in the ass. Once you join the 40’s club, you can’t hide behind the curtain of youthful ignorance anymore. Frankly, you’ve known yourself long enough now to call yourself on your own hogwash hooey. Generally, you know what you need to do; it’s just a matter of finding your kahunas and being brave enough to do it.

So as my own furnace of 42 candles burns brightly this year, I’m feeling the urge to dip my toe in some new waters. Truthfully, it scares me to death. I’m hoping I find some smidgen of courage to dive in and see where the current takes me. At the very least, I’ll go for a refreshing mid-life swim.

~Emily