Sunday, October 19, 2014

Some History & Finding Our Home

I met Graham five years ago.
A few months after we met. Just friends.
It was love at first sight (for one of us). He was insistent:
"Someday, we will end up together." 
I was relentless in asserting the opposite.

I was only 19 years old. I was suffering. I was scared. And I was lost. I could barely look at myself in the mirror. I was a closed book of chapters that I truly believed would never be written.

I had never been in love. And at that point in my life, I didn't feel capable of it. I wished to be perfect before entering a relationship.

We became friends. He admitted his feelings. I denied mine endlessly. For a year, I would not go out on a date with him. He was advised by all of his friends to give up on me. But he didn't.

He thought I was perfect just as I was. I thought that was laughable. He offered to help me. I lied: I told him I did not need his help. He made me laugh each and every day. I made him sad at the same pace. 

After a year of being chased, I knew I was close to losing him. This frightened me more than the alternative.

I dove in. I gave him a chance. I held his hand. I never looked back. 

Without going into detail, I will say that Graham has since saved my life. I was completely shattered. But he loved me. And in doing so, he provided the support I needed to heal.
Three and a half years later, in August 2014, we bought our first home.

When I met it, I knew it was the one. But was I ready? My perfectionism reared its ugly head:
Should we look around? Are there greater opportunities for investment? Should I wait for a promotion at work? We are content. Should we be more patient? Do I really deserve such a beautiful home?
Graham and I have lived together for quite some time (renting, etc.). He knows me, and appropriately, has little patience reserved for my apprehension (compared to five years ago). He understands my perfectionism,  and he battles it when I can't find the strength to. 

He asked me to stop searching for flaws. He told me he felt we had found our home. I told him I believed him.

And so, we dove in. We bought our home. We held hands. And we never looked back. 
First night in our first home. No furniture? No problem. Picnic on the floor with my love.
We have never been happier before. 

I no longer recognize the girl Graham met five years ago. But I am so very thankful that God helped him love her when she gave him a chance. And I am beholden that now I love her too.

Instead of waiting for perfection, recognize that what you have is beautiful and will give you greater joy.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

The St(art) of Not Starting Over

In many ways, I am a perfectionist. I find crumbs where most eyes do not bother to travel. I feel unprepared each time I click "publish" on a blog post or "send" on an e-mail. I write to do lists for items on my broader (agenda worthy) to do lists. Labels are my (closest of) friends. Every so often, I find it difficult to feel beautiful.

Still, sometimes, I feel beautiful (see: this post).

In some ways, I am a perfectionist. But in many ways, I am not.

Some time ago, I abandoned my most troublesome tendency.

For as long as I can remember, I have been an advocate of starting over. In University, if I received a grade I deemed subpar (generally, less than A+ would qualify), I would contemplate dropping the course. If a close friend betrayed my trust, I would sooner apologize for being hurt than attend to the maltreatment. If Graham and I found ourselves amidst an argument, I would beg:
"Let's start over! Let's forget this disagreement and promise to never argue again!"
(Evidently, I was behaving in a sensible and realistic manner...)

When I felt out of control or disorganized in the slightest (an expired license plate sticker, an inconsistent gym routine, a stack of books untouched, a missed Sunday mass), I would deem myself imperfect.

And thus commence the process of starting over.
Wait for a new day to arrive. Buy an(other) agenda or notebook. Start a new blog. Document your progress. Count each moment. Remind them. This is day 1, 2, 3, 4... Be perfect. Of course, you will never be perfect. But there is no harm in trying (of course there is harm in trying, Kristina!). Disconnect from the past. Let slip away all mistakes you have made. Forget all moments prior to this fresh start... they are insignificant
My mind did formerly operate this way. I consistently detected no falsity in disassociating my current self from my former (more "flawed") self. It was comforting to forget. The casual yet purposeful dismissal of my past heralded the onset of a new beginning. Forgetting was important, because starting over was everything. 

Naturally, it was an uneasy peace. Desperation oozed from my very pores. I questioned my (fuzzy) logic and understood wholeheartedly that I would never be as perfect as I wished I could be. But what choice did I have? To forget was to be free, and freedom from myself (my mistakes and imperfections) was all I had ever wanted.

Or was it?

This unhealthy exercise would ultimately deny my future self a past. And in doing so, I would revoke, from the Kristina of the future, the fulfillment that stems from growth. For with each fresh start, I would lose the memory of a triumph during which I battled my perfectionism and won. And with each fresh start, I would lose a mistake that I needed not to forget but to learn from. We cannot grow and change from nonexistence.

Not long ago, I went searching for an old photograph on my laptop.

Minute by minute passed. First, I felt concerned. Then, panic set in. The dark, incurable realization came upon me. A palpable sense of loss. A blow to the heart:
I deleted it. During one of my (many) fresh starts, I deleted the picture. I erased a memory.
I had fallen victim to my own harsh, impetuous deletion in the past. I knew this feeling all too well - Regret. My eyes welled up with tears.

Of course, it was not about the photograph, but the memory.

But then (suddenly!), there it was. Placed later in the stream of photos, outside of its event. Allegedly invulnerable to iPhoto and its classification by date. It was almost as though it had been moved. Almost as though, just this once, God had intervened.

Tech savvy individuals (Apple gurus, especially) would cringe - I'm sure - at the absurdity! Perhaps there exists an entirely logical explanation for why this photo was not where it belonged. But I do not need to hear it. Sometimes, we all need a sign. 

And so it occurred to me that I could no longer live this way. Erasing, deleting, forgetting... all in pursuance of flawlessness.

Unexpectedly, I found myself longingly remembering 24 years of imperfect memories. I wanted - needed - them all. As a wave of nostalgia overtook me, I found myself protective of each moment that had passed me by (and each moment I had tried to forget).

The truth is, my former blogs (The Imperfect Optimist, The Self Searchers) were figments of my fresh startism, but they are important parts of my journey.

I am no longer confined by a label (optimist) or a verb (to search), but I will not erase the words I wrote while I was. I accept my past, I am writing my present and I believe in my future.

I stopped starting over because starting over is a lie. My internal dialogue, once marked by discussion with my inner-perfectionist (a personal oppressor) - You ought to start over! - has shifted.

My inner-voice, now calm and gentle - but firm - as it guides me: You ought to find gratitude for the start you were given. You ought to remember it all. 
Our first apartment together. A hard year for my family. But we found love here.
And so I do. And so I will.

To never starting over again,