The Discipline of Not Being Fixed
This past week, I was driving, listening to a message from a friend. She was talking about her experiences in therapy, and about wanting to be fixed. Like me, she struggles with perfectionism and wanting to be what everyone needs.
She is going to therapy for herself, of course, but also because she wants to correct the things that are “wrong with her” so that she isn’t a burden to anyone else.
I’m in therapy, too. I don’t know all the ins and outs of my friend’s desire to please people, but I know that I want to make sure that I never give anyone a reason not to love me, or to leave me. Just a few weeks ago, I sat in that lovely, sunny room, on the green couch, looked my therapist in the eye and said: “I just want to be fixed. Now.”
But I don’t want to be fixed for me, per se. I want to be fixed so that I don’t worry that my relationships will fade away if I should happen to come across as inconsistent. I want to be fixed so that I don’t have to feel uncomfortable because I left my dishes in the sink, or didn’t reply to an email as quickly as I’d hoped, or said something awkward and left it hanging in the air.
I didn’t want therapy to help me come to terms with my perfectionism and help me deal with the fact that I wasn’t perfect. I wanted it to make me perfect.
Epiphanies are funny. They always seem to require something of me. I have the information, and can often decide how to proceed, but there is no question that I need to do something with the new knowledge, whether I want to or not.
I am one for discipline. I hold myself to high standards in all areas of life.
Lately, these standards have not relaxed, but my ability to execute them has. I feel like I am always letting myself down.
I know that it is no great horror that I don’t put my clothes away immediately after taking them off, my fruit sometimes goes bad before I eat it, and my blog doesn’t always go up on time. I know that in my brain, but my heart is still waiting for one little adjustment, just the thing to make things work like a clock again.
It is no great surprise, perhaps, that God often asks an unusual discipline of me. As I began to panic about how this new information would change my life, a sentence formed: the discipline of not being fixed.
I have begun to practice it.
Recently, I read an article which referenced an idea in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. He suggests that there are two kinds of womanizers: those who look for the perfect woman unsuccessfully, and those who think that the woman they are with is perfect.
I have been unable to stop thinking about this idea (nor do I think that it is just about womanizers). I am not a person who expects perfection from others, but I treat myself this way. I am like the first type of womanizer, approaching myself, seeking perfection, and turning away, disappointed.
But now, I am practicing not being fixed. Said another way, I am practicing being human. When I begin to feel anxious about the things I’m not doing (or not doing to my standards) I am beginning to speak my own humanity over myself. It is taking every ounce of grace within me to see this, not as a cop-out, but as a relaxation into the person I was created to be.
I was not created to be perfect.
This is a staggering thought, for me. It is easy to think that if I change a few things, tweak this or that, I can achieve perfection (though I’ve often said that this is impossible). How hard it is to realize that perfection isn’t actually the best case scenario.
It is humbling to stand before my life and think that the inconsistency and doubt and meandering and watching of an entire season of something or other in bed might not actually be a deviation from the essence of what it means to be human, but actually much closer to center than I was when I was checking more boxes and not falling through cracks as readily.
I’ve been praying to see over the past year and change. It is perhaps no coincidence that the phrase my therapist says most often during our sessions is “just notice.”
I look at each day, each moment, each feeling and thought. Sometimes I feel broken, or flawed, or gangly. I lean into the worn-in chair of my own humanity, and I just notice.