Dr. Kelly Flanagan finally gave up on the quest for perfection. What was it that pushed him over the edge?
The carpet guys had found asbestos tile under the decade-old carpet in our bedroom. The hazardous waste guys wanted a lot of money to remove it. A window sash had rotted through. The window people couldn’t find a replacement and wanted to replace the whole window. More money.
I took my son to the wrong gym for his first basketball game and I dropped the ball on something at work and the future of my book manuscript seemed uncertain and I got angry at my family—more than once—because when things start falling apart it’s awfully tempting to alienate the very people who hold you together.
And, finally, I had awoken at 4am on this particular Wednesday morning to discover the technical solution I had implemented for a problem with blog emails had broken the email service altogether. My weekly email wouldn’t send to anyone. So, I spent ninety minutes with customer service—to no avail—before racing out the door to drive two hours to an appointment for which I was already running late.
My travels needed to go perfectly for me to arrive on time.
Remember that train I mentioned?
As I approached the railroad crossing only a few blocks from home, the arms descended, blocking my way. I was becoming a little unhinged, wondering what could go wrong next when, as the end of the train approached, another light began to flash and a robotic voice declared repeatedly, “Another train coming.”
Which is when I finally I gave up.
What if we all just gave up?
What If We All Gave Up?
What if we gave up on all the agendas of the false self?
What if we gave up on the false comfort of financial padding?
What if we gave up on perfect public personas?
What if we gave up on worrying about what everyone will think of us?
What if we gave up on avoiding rejection and disappointment?
What if we gave up on never making a mistake?
What if we gave up on all the things we think we need to achieve?
What if we gave up on creating storybook relationships?
What if we gave up on blaming everyone else for our problems?
What if we gave up on trying to win—in our minds and relationships and lives?
What if we gave up on thinking any one thing is going to fix all things?
What if we gave up on regretting the past and worrying about the future?
What if we gave up on trying to live cautiously and love safely?
What if we gave up on trying to have it all together?
Giddy Madness and Crazy Joy
I sat at the red-flashing train crossing, and I gave up.
And though the roaring outside doubled with a second train passing, the roaring inside of me began to subside. I gave up on finding a cheaper solution to our household woes and gave up on my hope for our savings account and I gave up on being the perfect husband and father (again) and I gave up on being a blogger who can do it all and I gave up on punctuality and I gave up on keeping it all working smoothly.
But the giving up didn’t feel like despair.
The giving up felt like a giddy madness.
Because I wasn’t giving up on life; I was giving up on the life my false self tells me I must live. I felt laughter begin to swell up from somewhere inside of me. I’m guessing it was rising up from my soul, because that’s where all laughter comes from, and because our soul is what’s left when we give up on our false self. The laughter sounded a little maniacal at first, probably because returning to your sanity always happens at the edge of it. The giving up felt like a crazy joy.
The giving up felt like giving in to something beautiful.
What if we all just gave in?
What If We All Gave In?
What if we gave in to the freedom of our true self, the freedom of our soul?
What if we gave in to this one wild and messy life?
What if we gave in to being broken and limited creatures?
What if we gave in to apology and forgiveness?
What if we gave in to authenticity and vulnerability?
What if we gave in to mutuality and surrender?
What if we gave in to the lessons we learn from our failures?
What if we gave in to being a little unpopular?
What if we gave in to more authentic belonging with fewer and fewer people?
What if we gave in to our common humanity?
What if we gave in to our fragility?
What if we gave in to uncertainty and mystery?
What if we gave in to the peaceful present?
What if we gave in to the unpredictability of love and loss?
What if we gave in to the risk and uncertainty of being alive?
What if we gave in to our quirks and idiosyncracies and embraced who we are?
What if we gave in to our inalterable worthiness?
True selves and giggling souls.
Giddy madness and crazy joy.
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Disclaimer: My writings represent a combination of my own personal opinions and my professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with me via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. I do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.
This article originally appeared on Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s Website.