On Perfectionism (Ever Felt Like You're, "Too Much?")
Hello from the exact moment the maintenance man knocked on our door to fix our washer/dryer that had locked wet clothes inside for a full day (if you follow me on Instagram, you may remember this series of stories I put up, trying to crowdsource solutions), when Leonidas WAS NOT HAVING IT.
Leonidas gets really excited to see other living beings (dogs, people, squirrels, anyone really). His excitement, however, first manifests as loud, exuberant barking often mistaken for aggression.
We're always switching sides of the street on walks, trying (and failing) to distract. I am forever being pulled along by a too-excited juggernaut on the end of a Thunderleash (which gives his little barrel chest extra leverage, more than anything). He's gotten better, but his love of interaction can really outrun any home training.
Come into his home? All of this energy is concentrated, and his first reaction is to turn up the volume ("if it's too loud, you're too old," would certainly be how Leonidas played his music, if he had thumbs).
When someone enters his domain, first comes a freakout (via barking and this hilarious run/jump in circles. Hilarious because he is a beagle/dachshund mix, so v long and low to the ground and gets caught up on himself). Then, a bit of a challenge, during which he playfully pounces at you, and sometimes brings a toy to nod in your direction. After about 10m, he's vociferously demanding your time and attention, or otherwise intensely curious about whatever it is you're doing that's preventing you from snugs.
I learn lessons from this dude all the time:
How often is our passion mistaken for belligerence?
How regularly are our clumsy attempts at connection called needy and rejected?
How many times have we needed attention, received a little, then flooded the giver with our backlog of unattended needs?
In short, we spend a lot of time, as people, trying to be, "perfect."
After a solid 30 years of testing, I've come to believe, "perfect," is a construct — a carrot being dangled on a string, keeping us chasing (and spending, and giving, and exhausting ourselves in an effort to reach) an unreachable ideal. It's one that is first a body, then a series of behaviors, then an entire life that never works as projected on paper, and may not even be really what we want, but it keeps us squishing, squeezing, and shrinking into things that don't fit in order to earn someone else's approval.
When we inevitably don't hit this constantly-moving target, we feel terrible about ourselves, and, conveniently enough for the billion-dollar diet industry, ready to jump in to the quick fix promising this time we'll get it right, and it will be different.
What will really make it different, though?
(If you're here, I'm certain you know where to begin.)
You're the expert on you, and you, more than anyone, deserve your own approval.
You can lean into the fitness, food, seemingly-frivolous activities that bring you joy, and figure it out. I'm here in your corner, cheering you on, creating space for you to dive in, swim around, and see where the current takes you.
I've done all of the aforementioned bulleted things, believed I should conform to the standards underlying the judgments, and shut down as a result, believing I'm wrong or unworthy or, "too much." It's often been work to let myself be human.
I learn a lot about how to do it from my (bubbly, excited, unapologetically himself, slowly figuring out how to act right after 7 years) dog.
Consider this your Thursday permission slip that you, too, can person as clumsily as you'd like. It will go swimmingly, and we'll all be here, rooting for you.