There is an African proverb that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This is something that I have had to learn, sometimes the hard way, in my own life. I was raised to be very self-sufficient. I was given responsibilities early on, some of which would, by today’s standards, be considered to be completely unreasonable for a child of that age. Although those responsibilities were present, I can’t remember ever feeling put out or even that it was unreasonable to be given them. I was raised by parents who viewed life as hard, and within that hardness of life there came the need for “teamwork.” So if I expected to live there and eat and have clothes on my back, I was also expected to chop wood, haul water, take care of livestock, garden, help with harvest and so on. I was driving a grain truck by the time I was 10 years old, because we had to wait till I grew enough to reach the pedals, otherwise it would have been earlier still. What this gave me was a strong work ethic wherein I became a very hard worker and prided myself in this. But it also gave me the attitude, for a time, of, “If I want it done right, I will have to do it myself.” That was not great. It turned me into an over achiever and a hyper critical co-worker. Some of that hyper-criticism I still am working on today. I would like to rid myself of that completely. It really does not matter how the dishwasher was loaded, as long as the dishes got in there.
This over-achiever within is one of the aspects of my personality that I call the “dark passenger.” It is the perfectionist within. Now and then he rears his ugly head and then I have to ask him what he needs. Sometimes I have to talk him off the ceiling about something that was done incorrectly. I am slowly and assuredly assimilating him into my heart centre where minor stuff no longer matters and what is important is family, friends, community and so on. This is a long and often grueling process. It is a matter of rewiring the part of my brain that goes there by default. When I was given responsibilities early on, I did not want to disappoint. So I tried my best to do it right the first time. Thus the perfectionist was born! But, although this made me stand out a bit in the crowd way down the road, it also meant that I never gave myself permission to fail in any way, shape or form. I was my own worst critic. This set me up for competing against myself when no competition needed to happen…ever!
That competition meant that I was always going for the fast route…the solitary route. And it did, indeed, create a situation in my life where I was lonely. After all, who would want to be around a perfectionist and control freak for very long? I am sure anybody would find that exhausting at best. It would be equally painful for them if I were to criticize myself as it would if I were criticizing them. I was just plain hurting, and thus hurting others around me. So I decided, quite consciously, to spend some time alone. I needed to rework this part of me, and I did not trust myself to not have it rear its ugly little head at people who were around me. I isolated (way before Covid 19 ever was a thing) and the only person I saw was the one who was helping me to address this. After numerous weeks, it was suggested that I come out of isolation and try some interaction. I was afraid to, but made myself do it anyway. I hated that I had been so hard on others around me. But I also found that, when I took the time to explain myself and my actions to them, they became my best team of supporters as I was moving through healing myself of this. And when my criticism would turn on myself, they were the ones who would kick me in the behind and let me know that I am human and that I am allowed to be imperfect.
And then I realized…I was going far. And they were the ones who were with me through that. And we did, indeed, get through it all. You know who you are. And each of you knows how deeply grateful I am that you were there with me, encouraging me, kicking me, pushing me, holding me while we all made this transformative journey. Thank you.