Tag: Imperfection

Welcoming Imperfection

Welcoming Imperfection

I’m fond of saying that October is my favorite color. Usually it is. But this year? Not so much. This year, the colors have been muted for the most part. And not a lot of sunshine, either. Or visible sunrises. I’m glad I embarked on my yearlong sunrise photography project last year instead of this year!

This morning, looking out the window at the same overcast landscape, it occurred to me that this season’s foliage fits the general theme I’ve experienced this year: things not turning out as planned. Surely, there are plenty of exceptions and wonderful surprises – but the things I most looked forward to this year followed this theme.

Being really sick the only time I’ve visited Arizona

Summer vacation plans that fell through – all of them!

My grandson spending the first days of his life in NICU and not knowing yet how much of an impact it will have on his functioning

Not finishing the book I’m writing – over the winter…or the summer

You get the idea.

The reason I’m noticing this theme is because instead of driving around leaf-peeping, I’ve been going through my journal, daily planner, and photography libraries to review each month and harvest its gifts and lessons. This is something I normally do at the end of each month, but this year it didn’t happen because each month seemed to move at warp speed, and there was a lot going on. 

Playing catch-up like this, one thing I’ve noticed is that when I reflect back several months, I have tremendous compassion for the slightly younger version of myself and what she was going through. When events are still fresh or even in-process, reflecting on them can lack the distance that offers this wider perspective. 

Recently, I presented a Gratefulness Gathering on the topic of “Welcoming Imperfection”. I mentioned that sometimes I’ll fast-forward to the end of this life to get perspective on what really matters – and so much that doesn’t. What would future me want most from present-day me as she looks back on her life, knowing how it all turned out? How would she look at the challenges I currently face and where I put my energy? How do I look at Susan from years past, during the duller, more muted times?

When my husband and I were hiking back up from the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls a few weeks ago, we encountered two men we’d talked with earlier. One was struggling and going at a much slower pace than the other, who was up ahead and at one point called back to his companion, “Regretting your life choices?” We found that line pretty funny and agreed we needed to remember it.

Because it rang true. I certainly have regretted some of my life choices! But something that has become very clear to me this year is that getting down on ourselves for choices we made that we wouldn’t make if we had the chance to do it all over again with the benefit of hindsight – is counterproductive. It drains our energy in this present moment, which is where our true power lies.

Our self-punishment doesn’t serve anyone. What if this, too, is “God’s will” – or “part of the path” (however you want to phrase it)? What if our human journey is like a labyrinth rather than a maze, with no wrong turn, and every step we take brings us closer to the center?

Looking back through my planner and journals helps me to remember what was going on that got in the way – of not finishing the book, for example. Things I might forget – the same way you forget how intense childbirth was (at least the way I chose to do it!).

One of the most empowering ways to reflect on our lives is to acknowledge that the choices we made were affected by so many factors, both within and beyond ourselves. And to have compassion for our younger selves, who were doing their best, given what they knew and what was going on at the time. If we can’t remember what was going on, perhaps we can give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that there were reasons why we didn’t do what, in retrospect, we think we should have done – or we didn’t live up to our potential.

What if we needed all of our experiences to learn and grow and awaken in ways that will make our future self at the end of this life grateful for the journey? 

Can we accept and find something to appreciate or even love about the years when the fall foliage isn’t so vibrant and brilliant – when the colors are muted? And the seasons of our own life when we didn’t shine so brightly? When what we looked forward to just didn’t pan out, for whatever reason (including factors beyond our control)?

Can we find something beautiful or worthwhile in what is/was, exactly as it is/was? Instead of feeling we need to Photoshop reality, so to speak. 

If we can bring compassion to ourselves, we’re more able to give real compassion, kindness, and caring to others. And isn’t that what this world needs right now?


© 2023 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Perfectly Imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect

Yesterday was the first nice weather day all week, and I was given permission to pick apples at a small, private orchard where the apples aren’t sprayed. They just grow. They aren’t as pretty as apples you would buy in a store. They might be a little misshapen or have small holes in them, and their skin is splotchy. But the fruit inside is just fine.

These apples have character. They are not perfect.

One apple in particular caught my eye.

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It ended up being the image of the day – the one I was most intrigued by. It commanded my attention. And when that happens, I have to ask myself why. How does this image speak to me?

There were two directions I could go with this one – two captions I could give it. One is “The Apple of All Colors,” for it contains every color an apple can be. But the one I’m going with is “Perfectly Imperfect.” It’s the imperfection of this apple that I really connect with. Its exquisite imperfection.

It reminds me of Pema Chodron’s teachings on Getting Unstuck regarding not beating ourselves up when we fall short. When we are imperfect (like everyone else). Pema Chodron encourages us to cultivate a response of “sheer delight” upon noticing we are hooked or feeling we have failed in some way. We can rejoice that we have the wisdom to recognize we’re not living up to our potential. Yay for us because we want to do better and have the intention to do so! Intention is a first step toward liberation from our unhealthy habits and patterns.

After intention comes awareness. When we can recognize that we did it again, double yay! because then we can exercise choice to either continue doing the thing that diminishes us and ultimately causes us to suffer or we can take a deep, conscious breath and make a healthier choice.

With intention and awareness, we can cultivate discipline. But if, in our quest for discipline, we catch ourselves falling short of our intention to do better and then feel badly about ourselves, we end up making the whole job more complicated. It doesn’t help anything to add self-loathing to the mix. It just makes it harder and takes us further away from connecting with our wisdom and acting in accordance with it. Embracing our imperfection is a way of empowering us to deal with “failure” rather than become overwhelmed by it. Instead of focusing on our perceived failure and getting down on ourselves, we can delight in acknowledging we have both the intention to improve and the wisdom to notice.

Of course, the apple image and the advice above could also speak to the way we feel about our physical appearance and our efforts to care for our body by eating well, exercising, etc. And with regard to our body, we can celebrate that we have one to begin with, especially if we can move around without pain. How many people in this world would give anything this moment to have a body that is pain-free? Having a human body is a precious opportunity for experiencing and experimenting with the physical world. It’s our vehicle for doing the work we’re here for.

The image of the mottled, multi-colored apple reminded me that we’re not supposed to be perfect. We’re supposed to be authentic and work with our unique qualities and challenges. Smile at our delicious imperfection, and regard it as our teacher, our path to freedom, and our raw material for practicing  personal alchemy.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

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