Resisting Perfectionism: Finding Peace with the Chaos

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I grew up playing piano. Like, really playing piano. I was obsessed. In my teens, I even created my own arrangements for recitals. I used to be able to practice and perform under any circumstances—my baby sister would be running circles around me, shouting overhead at our mom, and I would keep playing, completely unfazed. TV blasting, phone ringing, vaccuum roaring, others in my house roaring at each other … I would keep playing. I loved it so much that I could block out everything else and focus on the piano only. When I played, I was only vaguely aware of the TV, of the appliances, of the screaming.

In adulthood, I’ve lost that precious, childlike ability to focus in compartmentalize and hyper focus on a single task without melting down about my surroundings. In fact, I am totally aware of everything swirling around me at all times. The closest I’ve ever come to that focus since childhood? Running, obviously.

Perhaps less obvious is that my inability to tolerate the swirling vortex of chaos without running is exactly why I had to step away from it. Or so I thought.

I have this perfect vision of how my days should go: Ideally, mornings and evenings should be full of zen. My days should start with a perfect morning run and serious deep inspiration with a self-help book about Danish hygge before heading out the door to CRUSH LIFE as a second year law student. When the major work of the day is done I should come home to a nourishing self-prepared meal of whole foods, a feeling of rest and satisfaction after a hard day’s work, snuggly blankets, reading only the finest literature and a grand finale of yoga, all the while bathing in essential oils. Okay, I’m laughing at myself now! That’s not 100% accurate, but you get the picture.

Let me paint a picture of what my days actually look like: I go to bed at 2:00a.m. after spending the evening reading Supreme Court opinions, and then scramble to wake up 5 hours later to make it to class by 9. I’m in class until 5:30p.m., and then I have homework. And by homework, I mean 65-100 pages of reading and an essay on the Federal Rules of Evidence. By the time I drive home, make dinner and clean up it’s 9:00p.m. and I still haven’t started the esay portion of that homework thing. Oh and then the following day I work a real job at a law firm. And so on, and so forth.

I can’t pinpoint exactly why and where I lost my focus, but I can’t help but suspect that a likely culprit is this pressure I feel to be perfect combined with all the aspirations I have, the high expectations above. Those high expectations can be a real day-ruiner! I’ve gotten so wrapped up in what my life should look like that I am incapable of being satisfied with anything else.

I can’t possibly go running if there are dishes in the sink that need to be washed! I can’t do yoga while there are assignments on my desk. I definitely can’t sit down with a book and candle and face mask if my room is disheveled and there are clothes on the floor. God forbid. Everything is a chore nowadays. Everything is a big event. I can’t just bake cookies for fun in a messy apartment on a Saturday morning. Who does that??

Disturbed by what feels like the tangled disarray and bedlam of my life, I am often overwhelmed and unable to function. This spirals into shame for being unable to juggle it all.

In reaction, I gave up running for a solid 3 months. Then, last semester I became so worn down that I had zero energy. None. I was so tired all the time. And when the semester ended, I fell ill for 8 weeks. Turns out that NOT running is NOT a fix for stress.

Not running meant one less thing for me to juggle; or so I thought. Running had turned into something I did for … what? My image, I guess? So I could post about it on Instagram? So I could identify as a runner? It felt like another thing I needed to do to maintain my lifestyle. (By the way, what lifestyle!?) Running just wasn’t something I wanted to do when I was a puddle of anxiety with an endless to-do list.

I thought giving up running would help me rest and restore. Really though, I had lost sight of why I did it in the first place. I used to run to ground myself. To give myself space to restore my mental energy and relieve some of the pressure.

I’m slowly getting back into running, desperately seeking the resilience of that little girl on the piano bench. Even when I have a million other things going on and the conditions are not good, I try to go out for run because I effing deserve it! I deserve the joy. I deserve the release. I deserve to feel good. I am working hard to accept that sometimes the conditions aren’t perfect. If I can find that acceptance, then I think I can finally find some peace.

I'm a student of law and life. A Jill of all trades, master of none. But I'm hoping to master something, sometime. ;) Preferably a sub-23 5k and a sub-4 marathon!

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