My daughter and I just spent a week together in Paris. The trip was one of those momentous vacations celebrating her 16th birthday, even though delayed almost a year. Nonetheless, a great time together in mother-daughter bonding. I am grateful for the ability and privilege to take a trip like this and I am grateful as I reflect on our joyous times together along with the silly, spontaneous, unplanned, and imperfect moments. As it was those imperfect moments that have taught me the most.
We had lots of things planned in Paris, tours, visits to famous sites and churches and palaces. The one thing we fantasized about the most and had stuck in our heads the whole week was the romantic idea of taking a riverboat ride on the Saine. It seemed like the perfect thing to do and we had each built up our own vision of what it would be like. The first time we tried, I had lost the tickets, something I usually never do. The second time we tried it was too late at night. The third time was our last day. We decided we must try again. This time we built up the idea of a beautiful sunny day and a picnic lunch on the boat! What could be a better way to end the trip? Well, the sun became covered over by dark clouds, the wind picked up, and we couldn’t find the boat. We were hungry, tired, and frustrated. Our perfect moment lost again. Instead, we sat on an old wooden bench filled with pigeon droppings, shivered in the cold and ate our lunch (mine fell to the ground), barely looking at the Saine. We were disappointed and annoyed. The point is (as you may have guessed), things don’t always work out as planned nor should they as the messiest and most imperfect times are often the ones we learn from the most. They are also the ones that remind us of every emotion, along with teaching us what the moment is really about.
I am glad the riverboat ride did not work out as it gave me the opportunity to reflect and understand what about this ride was so important to me. Why was I trying so hard to make it happen? What was all the longing for it to be so perfect all about? In the end I realized it wasn’t about the boat ride. Rather, it was about my wish to hang on to another memory and moment with my girl, my youngest, who has one more year before heading off to college. I know these precious moments will shift and change. My mind wanted me to believe that somehow we could make this perfect and that making it perfect may somehow ease the changes to come. This compassionate understanding allowed me to release the expectation of the perfect moment and instead to just have a moment. It was only when I released the perfect that my heart was able to be felt. It is not perfection that helps us feel and grow, rather, it is the acknowledgement and acceptance of our imperfect selves, moments and lives that does.
To work with releasing the “perfect and feeling the heart” try this simple practice:
The next time you are caught up in the grasp of perfection close your eyes and place one hand on your heart. Repeat the following words:
1) It’s really okay that I wish to get it right and keep things as they are
2) It’s really okay if I don’t get it right and things change
3) It’s really okay to let this moment be exactly as it needs to be
4) It’s really okay to just be
5) It’s really okay to just feel
Read more at: Befriending Your Body: A Self-Compassionate Approach to Freeing Yourself From Disordered Eating, Shambhala Publications