ROOTFULNESS: The flipside of the TCK stereotype

Large and exposed tree roots visable above ground

ROOTLESSNESS.

It’s the plague of the “TCK” isn’t it.  Kids growing up cross-culturally have been branded with a scarlet letter R.

I get it.  It’s an understandable, tangible way to illustrate some of the challenges that come with this life and on one level it makes tremendous sense.  It goes hand in hand with all of the other bullet points in the “downsides” column.

  • I can’t answer the question “where are you from?”
  • I don’t know where “home” is.
  • I move a lot.
  • Even when I stay everyone else moves a lot.
  • I say goodbye way too much.
  • I see my grandparents like once every two years.

    I MUST BE ROOTLESS.

I get it . . . but I hate it and I actually couldn’t disagree more.  Maybe it’s a matter of semantics but if that is the case could we please reconsider the wording?

 

Let’s deconstruct it a bit.

 

ROOTLESS means “without roots.”  Agreed?

So the metaphor presumes that we are talking about something that NEEDS roots and DOES NOT have them.  We’re comparing TCK’s to a tree not a car . . . or a cow . . . or a crescent wrench.

That’s how metaphors work.

SO . . . if we are calling my kid rootless we are insinuating that they NEED some roots (I have no argument with that part of the point).  But IF we are metaphoring about a tree which is rootless we have to stay true to the metaphor all the way through.

Fallen log, Olympic National ParkA tree without roots . . . dies.  Period.

It shrivels up.

Dries out.

Withers away.

Falls down when the wind blows.

 

That, my friends, is where the metaphor breaks down.  Why you ask?  Take a look around.  There are TCK’s all over the globe who are the polar opposite of shriveled.  Not all of them thrive but MANY do.  There are also LOADS of monocultural kids whose homebase has never once changed and are about as dried out and shriveled up as you can get.

 

There is so much more to having roots than staying in one place.

 

To be rootless means you have been cut off from what gives you nourishment, connection and strength.  That’s the function of a root (you can look it up).

I would agree that my kids have been cut off from SOME of the things that CAN bring them nourishment, connection and strength . . . but not ALL.  Not by a long shot.  Not even close.

In fact I think they are tapped into sources that I never dreamed about in my monocultural childhood.  Beyond that they are FAR MORE transplantable than I ever was.  You could pick them up and drop them anywhere and they will thrive.

THAT IS NOT ROOTLESS.

My kids (and TCK’s everywhere) are ROOTFUL.  Filled with roots.  Lot’s of them.  Fast growing, healthy roots.  So much so that they will never dry out moving from one spot to another.  There will be challenges to be sure, but that’s the thing about roots . . . challenges make them stronger.

They still need to be tapped into the things that feed them . . . AND THEY ARE.

  • A family that looks and acts the same in any living space, airport, hotel or hemisphere.
  • Routines and traditions that don’t change and can travel anywhere.
  • Solid friends that they have met along the way and stay connected to.
  • Core values that drive every decision.
  • A deeper grasp of fluid community than they ever would have picked up elsewhere.

I love geographical stability (being planted in one spot and never moving).  It can and does produce some really solid lives.  In fact some of my greatest nourishment, connection and strength has come as a direct result of being tapped into people who have barely moved in their lifetime.

It’s a good way to do things well . . . BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY WAY.

Living cross-culturally CAN be every bit as rootful.

 

On Rootfulness: 500 Words | Day 17

Welcome to Day 17 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

ROOTLESS.

It’s the plague of the “TCK” isn’t it.  We’re pretty quick to brand kids growing up cross-culturally with a scarlet letter R.

I get it.  It’s an understandable, tangible, metaphorical way to illustrate some of the challenges that come with this life and on one level it makes tremendous sense.  It goes hand in hand with all of the other bullet points in the “downsides” column.

  • I can’t answer the question “where are you from?”
  • I don’t know where “home” is.
  • I move a lot.
  • Even when I stay everyone else moves a lot.
  • I say goodbye way too much.
  • I see my grandparents like once every two years.

    I MUST BE ROOTLESS.

I get it . . . but I hate it and I actually couldn’t disagree more.  Maybe it’s a matter of semantics but if that is the case could we please reconsider the wording?

Let’s deconstruct it a bit.

ROOTLESS means “without roots.”  Agreed?

So it would seem that the metaphor, presumes that we are talking about something that NEEDS to have roots and DOES NOT.  We’re talking about a tree not a car . . . or a cow . . . or a crescent wrench.

If we are calling my kid rootless we are insinuating that they NEED some roots (no argument with that part of the point).  But IF we are metaphoring about a tree which is rootless we have to stay true to the metaphor all the way through.

A tree without roots . . . dies.  Period.

It shrivels up.

Dries out.

Withers away.

Falls down when the wind blows.

That, my friends, is where the metaphor breaks down.  Why you ask?  Take a look around.  There are TCK’s all over the globe who are the polar opposite of shriveled.  There are also LOADS of monocultural kids whose homebase has never once changed and are about as dried out as you can get.

To be rootless means you have been cut off from what gives you nourishment, connection and strength.  That’s what a root does (you can look it up).

I would agree that my kids have been cut off from SOME of the things that CAN bring them nourishment, connection and strength . . . but not ALL.  Not by a long shot.  Not even close.

In fact I think they are tapped into sources that I never dreamed about in my monocultural childhood.  Beyond that they are FAR MORE transplantable that I ever was.  You could pick them up and drop them anywhere and they could thrive.

THAT IS NOT ROOTLESS.

My kids (and TCK’s everywhere) are ROOTFUL.  Filled with roots.  Lot’s of them.  Fast growing roots.  So much so that they will never dry out moving from one spot to another.  There will be challenges to be sure, but that’s the thing about roots . . . challenges make them stronger.

They still need to be tapped into the things that feed them . . . AND THEY ARE.

  • A family that looks and acts the same in any living space, airport, hotel or hemisphere.
  • Routines and traditions that don’t change and can travel anywhere.
  • Solid friends that they have met along the way and stay connected to.
  • Core values that drive every decision.
  • A deeper grasp of fluid community than they ever would have picked up elsewhere.

I love geographical stability (being planted in one spot and never moving).  It can and does produce some really solid lives.  In fact some of my greatest nourishment, connection and strength has come as a direct result of being tapped into people who have barely moved in their lifetime.

It’s a good way to do things well . . . BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY WAY.

Living cross-culturally CAN be every bit as rootful.

And those are my 500 words (PS — I think I’ll post this one separately)

 

On Destination Limbo: 500 Words | Day 16

Welcome to Day 16 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

There are multiple realities for the expat that fall under the “takes some getting used to” category.  The lifestyle of living abroad requires much more adjustment than just cross-cultural transition.  There are dozens of aspects that have nothing to do with the differences between “my” culture and “their” culture but actually take up significant space  For example:

  • Life in community.
  • Constant goodbyes.
  • Navigating time zones for communication.
  • Frequent travel.
  • Raising third culture children.
  • Homeland visits.
    • Dealing with frustrating comments from friends and family (bet you’re glad to be back)
    • Learning to tell our stories.
    • Learning that not everyone wants to hear our stories.
  • Packing bags to EXACTLY the maximum weight limit.

This list goes on for miles . . . or kilometers . . . either way.

Here’s one though, that there seems to be very little information on . . . Life in Limbo.

Limbo is very much a reality for people who do transition a lot.  By nature, transition is moving and changing from one place to another, one existence to another and one reality to another.  As we make preparations for those shifts we tend to focus our attention on one or the other.  We round out our current reality and start preparing for the next.

Meanwhile we feel stuck . . . In between . . .  unable to fully connect anywhere.

It happens when we are preparing to move abroad.  It happens again when we move from that location to another, whether it be back “home” or on to something else.  On a smaller scale it happens during high transition points during the year, like the Expat Exodus.

Here’s the thing — Typical expats transition a lot.  Limbo times may suck up six months each time (3 months before leaving and 3 month after).  So let’s do the math.  If you transition 6 times in 20 years (not a ridiculous thought) you will spend 3 threes in limbo (expat purgatory?).

Here are some of my initial thoughts on how to deal with life in Limbo.

  •  Make Limbo a Destination:  Don’t just let the in between times be the residue between two times that matter.
    • Name this time (something besides “Limbo”)
    • “That time we . . . “
  • Ask the right questions:
    • What can I accomplish during this time?
    • What can I do now that I never have the time for apart from limbo?
    • What relationships can I focus on?
    • What are my goals?
  • Zoom out
    • Look at the timeline
    • What is significant about this time?
  • Do what you can
    • Send out your CV (resume)
    • Learn about where your going etc.
  • Don’t do what you can’t
    • Don’t waste time worrying about what you can’t control.
    • Don’t focus on scenarios that aren’t going to happen.
  • Hang pictures on the wall
    • Settle in — even if you’re only there for three months
    • Have some things that travel with you are remind you that you are solid.
  • Maintain your routines
    • Hold on to family night
    • Date night
    • Morning and bedtime routines
    • Don’t let your disciplines get washed out in the chaos.
  • Keep Learning 
    • Don’t let your brain settle
    • Learn something local
  • Live the memory.
    • Don’t let limbo get washed out.
    • Live so you will be saying, “Remember that time . . . ”  for years to come.
    • Do a project
    • Take a trip

And those are my 500 words.

On Expat Rhythms: 500 Words | Day 15

Welcome to Day 15 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

 

Cross cultural life is easily and often described with negative words.  Fair enough.

Frustrating.  Challenging.  Overwhelming.  Stressful.  Confusing.

Chaotic.

 

That’s the one I love the most.  It feels so accurate doesn’t it?  The picture in my head looks something like this: standing out in the barnyard while a tornado goes by.  The house is being blown away.  Boards and chickens are flying by and I am clinging for dear life to the old oak tree trying not to get sucked into the vortex.

Nothing is in my control.  Everything is chaos.

Here’s the thing though.  Life here is not chaotic.  People have been living and doing quite well here for thousands of years.  I see them out there, every day, living their lives without a cloud in the sky or a chicken in the air.  The chaos is not actually an external reality, it is an internal condition.

I FEEL chaotic but life is NOT chaotic.  My chaos is directly connected to the gap between what I expected to happen and what actually ends up happening — the gap between my desire to accomplish something and the time and effort it takes me to accomplish it — the gap between how I want things to be and how they really are.

Much of the chaos of expat life, though could be resolved by understanding the rhythms.

They rhythms are the things that you can see coming.  They are the events that are bound to happen over and over again and even though we may not like them we could have braced for them, prepared for them.

When I look at my life through chaotic lenses I say things like this:

  • We have moved 8 times in the last 9 years.
  • We travel all the time.
  • My kids feel rootless.
  • People in our community constantly leave.
  • New people keep showing up.
  • I don’t know who my friends are going to be from year to year.
  • Everyone stares at me when I go out.
  • I don’t speak this language well and it’s frustrating.

 

My theory is that there could be a significant shift in perspective if we could find the rhythms in what feels like chaos.  Asking some simple questions could be a good place to begin.  Questions like:

  • What happens (or is likely to happen) every January regardless of what else changes?
  • What is Tuesday likely to look like no matter what?
  • When do people leave?
  • When do new people show up?

Then asking, “how would knowing the answers to these questions help me bring some order to the chaos?”  Being familiar with the cycles and the repetition affords me the luxury of adjusting my expectations . . . and when I know what it coming it’s hard to label it as chaotic.

So many rabbits to chase on this topic.  Here are a few that have come up just from writing this one post:

  • Pessimism’s impact on life abroad
  • Expat Gaps
  • The uber significance of intentionality

And those are my 500 words

 

On My Three Brains : 500 Words | Day 14

Welcome to Day 14 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

 

I’m finding that my brain usually falls into one of three states concerning what to write about:

 

  1.  Barebrain:  I sit down to write and I’ve got nada.  Zilch.  My observation about this is that something will come IF I am motivated to force it.  However the likelihood that I skip that day increases when I don’t have a direction.
  2. Scatterbrain:  Lots of potential ideas but nothing that I am drawn to or excited about.  My observation is similar to Barebrain . . . “meh”.
  3. Compulsivebrain:  I have an idea (hallelujah).  I’m excited about it.  I’m fleshing it out.  I start writing and maybe finish a post but lose interest quickly.

 

I think that (for me) the idea of WHAT to write about is too connected to the actual event of writing about it.  Somewhere in my head I have convinced myself that creating a piece is all one action.  I’m hopelessly impatient.  I have an idea . . . quick, write it . . . put the pictures in . . . hit publish . . . track the stats.

Slow down there junior.  I pride myself on being “big picture” and yet in this, somehow I am zoomed way in.

So here’s a starting place . . .

 

MY LIST OF THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT

 

ONE:  Expat Rhythms

Exploring the idea that expat life moves in cycles.  Transition happens over and over.  People come in and go out.  There are rhythms of hello’s and goodbyes.  Rhythms of travel.  Rhythms of of relationship.  However when we don’t recognize the rhythms we only feel the chaos.

 

TWO:  Destination Limbo

For cross cultural people there are always “in between times.”  Time spent waiting on a visa, packing things up and getting ready for what’s next. We spend significant amounts of time disconnected from the last thing and not yet connected to the next.  Those add up.  So how can we see those times as valuable? Important, not simply because of what they mean later but what they mean right now.

 

THREE:  Rootfulness

I actually bought the domain name for this in a Compulsive brain moment.  I want to shatter the idea that growing up cross culturally dooms children to a life with no roots.  The roots are different to be sure . . . not as deep but far more numerous.  I love the idea that TCK’s can replant anywhere.  That takes roots.

 

FOUR:  Bright Green Kids

Built on the framework of the Whitni Thomas poem.  “I’m blue.  I live in Yellow.  Why can’t I just be green?”  Similar (or connected to rootfulness) I have big plans for this one but it overwhelms me because I can’t quite seem to zero in and get started.  The bigness of it paralyzes me because I want to do it justice but “starting somewhere” feels like it won’t.  I need a plan.

 

FIVE:  Imperfection

This one is the most vulnerable for me.  I’m only now realizing my own, confusing struggle with perfectionism (sloppy as it may be).  Part of my issue is that I want to write with authority on any topic I write about but the layers of irony here are deep.  My perfection cancer keeps telling me I should write something really good about imperfection.  See my dilemma.  I think this is the one that I write about so I can learn about myself.  Embrace the therapy Jerry.  Embrace the therapy.

My next five “500 Words” Posts will be expanding on each of these five topics.  Boom.  See that? I have a plan.  This is working already.

And those are my 500 words.

 

On What I’m Learning by Writing Every Day: 500 Words | Day 13

Welcome to Day 13 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

I’m discovering a lot about myself as I take on this 31 day challenge.  Here’s what I’ve picked up so far:

ONE:  The more I write the less concerned I am about perfection.  Yesterday I just sat down, wrote and then hit publish.  Boom!  That quick.  No formatting.  Full of typos.  Not pretty but I didn’t care.

Refreshing.

TWO:  Fresh eyes make all the difference.  Today I went back to look at yesterday’s post and noticed that just a quick glance through made it better.  I changed a word or two here and there.  Fixed some typos and moved on but it was better than the original.

Makes sense.

THREE:  I still get frustrated because I don’t have a topic.  I sit down and either try to think of something or just start typing.  It’s nice to be able to just sit down and type for the sake of the discipline but I already sense the frustration of what that will feel like outside of this exercise.

FOUR:  When I write, I generally want to write more.  Getting started is the primary roadblock.  Once I sit down and actually get moving I rarely want to stop at 500 words.  I have more ideas and I want to keep going.

FIVE:  Stopping is as much a discipline as starting is.  My problem is not that I never write, it is that I write impulsively and inconsistently.  I get the bug and I hit it hard but it comes in waves.  I’m sure an audit of my blog date stamps would tell the tale.  I will put a post, feel good about it and put out another in the same week.  Then wait a month or more before writing again.  Toning that down into consistent content requires discipline.  The discipline of starting when I want to stay stopped and stopping when I want to stay started.

SIX:  I am a shotgun writer.  I point in a general direction and pull the trigger hoping to hit something.  Even my thoughts are scattered and random.  I’m hoping that developing a discipline of daily writing will add a bit of calculation to the bigger picture.  My immediate goal is to know what I’m going to write about before I sit down to write.

SEVEN:  I am an impatient writer.  I write with a sense of urgency towards hitting publish — which is the natural final step of a piece.  It gives me stress to consider waiting for a more optimal publishing time and I will stay up until 3am to avoid breaking it into two days.

EIGHT:  Everything works better with a plan.  I actually didn’t learn that from this exercise, I learned it from a wise, wise friend — but it fits here.  Scattered and inconsistent works hold some value, but it would all work better with a plan . . . and planning, just like writing . . . is a discipline.

Tomorrow I will write a list of things to write about.  This is working already.

And those are my 500 words.

 

On Why You Should Never Clean Your Room Again: 500 Words | Day 12

Welcome to Day 12 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

My seven year old son is stumbling across his own gift of deductive reasoning.  It is likely that he will either one day rule the world or destroy it.

His mother stepped into his room this morning and experienced the, visceral and physiological reactions that are built into the biological, maternal framework.  Widening of the eyes.  Quickening of the heart rate.  Immediate gasp for air.  Emphatic and involuntary statement of the child’s name (often paired with the middle name as well).

“Judah Mathias.”

Instantly his finely tuned and freakishly advanced survival skills kicked in.

“Mom.”  He said in a calming tone, trying to deescalate the obviously volatile situation.

“Listen.  If we clean our rooms it just makes us meaner.”  He had clearly given this some thought.

His reasoning sounded ridiculous of course, but the shock bought him a few extra seconds to explain.

“If we clean our rooms, then when we invite our friends over and they just mess it up.  Then we get mad and we’re not nice to our friends.  Do you want me to be mean to my friends mom?”

Brilliant.

He’ll still be cleaning his room but you have to respect the complexity of that kind of manipulation.

Here’s the lesson I want him to learn.  People over things.

His reasoning is skewed but solid.  Yes — it is frustrating when people mess up your stuff but he loves people — maybe more than anyone I have ever met — and he gets incredible joy from having people over.  It would be an absolute tragedy if you took people out of the equation but like all things in life there is a paradox attached.  People are great but there is a line.  If I just spent time cleaning up my stuff then don’t you dare mess it up.  I don’t care who you are.

So in order to love people more effectively it is worth the investment of keeping his room absolutely wrecked to protect them.

He’s a giver.

What I hope he can learn when he steps back and deconstructs his logic is that people are worth the sacrifice.  Like building a house of cards — the joy is knocking it down.  I truly believe that he finds joy in other people’s pleasure.  He may not know it yet and it is certainly not a fully matured characteristic but it is in there.  How cool would it be to become the type of person who builds a house of cards and offers someone else the satisfaction of knocking it down.  To clean a room, KNOWING that someone else is going to mess it up and looking forward to it.

Like all parenting there is a fine line.  I have no interest in him becoming the person who always gets walked on, always gets taken advantage of and always feels knocked down.  It takes a complex mind to stay in front of that — to give willingly instead of giving with regret . . . and anger.

He proved it this morning though — He can handle that level of thinking.  Or at least he will someday.

And those are my 500 words.

On The Birthday of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World : 500 Words | Day 11

Welcome to Day 11 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

 

Here’s a riddle . . . There once was a woman who was born in Mexico and left the United States for the first time when she was 19.  How can that happen? 

Today is my wife’s birthday.  She has one every year about this time.

For six months out of every 12 she is officially older than me.  Every September I catch up.  I take full advantage of that.  It’s a joke that will never get old to me (no matter how old we get) and a joke that has never not been old to her (even though we were much younger when I started telling it).

We’ve arrived at a weird age.  That age where you start realizing you can remember vividly when your parents were the same . . . and it doesn’t seem like that long ago . . . and you can’t imagine them being that young.

Because we ARE still young.

We passed our 20th anniversary this year.

20 years.

It makes me feel older just saying it.

Twenty years.

Twenty trips around the sun together.

Twenty Christmases.

Twenty Valentine’s Days

Forty birthdays (not including the kids).

20 years of marriage is a surreal thing.  It’s like some time space mash up of forever and barely getting started.  I remember a life before her but it honestly seems like it happened in a different world.  And I like to think that we’ve got another good 20 to 40 ahead of us.

Mark Twain (who is nearly as misquoted as Albert Einstein) is quoted as saying:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

My first reaction to that quote is “yeah, that’s right” — but then I think about it for a bit and it’s actually NOT true for me.  I am far more disappointed in the things I have done than I am in the things I haven’t done over the past twenty years.  I’m disappointed in time wasted by every petty little fight and every selfish pursuit.  I’m pretty proud of the opportunities that we have stepped up to the plate on and not backed down from.  The ones that have led us around the world, to wild and wonderful places.  The ones that have brought us two beautiful children and an amazing story.

If there is anything that I have learned over the past 20 years it is that I love doing life with this woman.  Not just life in the same space.  Not simply connected because we are legally bound to stay that way.  Not chained together and trying to make the best of it.  I want to DO LIFE with her.  Every bit of it.  This is OUR thing . . . together.

It’s hard sometimes because we are dramatically different people . . . but we are figuring it out — and we want to figure it out more now than ever.

She is the love of my life and no one has encouraged me more or made me angrier and she can absolutely say the same about me.

Here we come next 20 years — bound and determined to not be disappointed and not to miss a thing.

Happy Birthday to a far smarter, more creative, more wonderful, more beautiful traveling partner than I ever could have begged God for . . .

MY WIFE  . . . Who was born in MEXICO . . .

MISSOURI.

And those are my 500 words.

 

On Getting Distracted (and Beating Dead Horses): 500 Words | Day 10

Welcome to Day 10 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

 

What is it about distractions that are so . . .

I just found a cool site with blog themes.  notablethemes.com.  I get lost in places like that.  I’m like a kid at Toys R Us wandering the aisles dreaming of taking every single toy home with me . . . and forgetting that his parents said “STAY RIGHT HERE — DO NOT LEAVE THE BICYCLE SECTION.”

How did I even get to the Star Wars Aisle?

It feels like be beating a dead horse to talk about distractions.  There is more talk about it than ever before, if only because there is more talk about EVERYTHING than ever before.  In fairness though, the fact that there is more talk about everything increases the fodder for distraction.  It’s a vicious, ironic spiral.

Full disclosure . . . I am freakishly tempted right now to Google “distraction”.  Better yet, youtube it.  I bet there’s some good stuff out there about being distracted.  I could probably spend the better part of the morning learning all about it.

Know what else? I think I may be even more tempted to Google “beating a dead horse.”  I know better than to try youtubing that one because I am confident that somewhere out there some twisted soul has actually thought it a worthwhile use of their time to record themselves beating an actual dead horse.  I don’t want that in my brain.

I kind of get the saying.  The horse is dead, you’re not going to get it to move and it is wasted energy to keep trying but still . . . that is a horrible visual image.  I’m sure that it made more sense to people who counted on horses to get them from place to place but the fact that we still use those particular words among cultures who rarely even see a horse baffles me.  It baffles me even more that the saying would have such staying power among a culture which has grown so sensitive to animal rights.

Does PETA know about this?

Worse yet . . . do they know about the different ways to skin a cat?  That one is just sick.  I don’t get it AT ALL.  When was it ever ok to skin a cat?

You know what a weird word is?  “Baffle.”  I wonder where that comes from.  Just saying it out loud sounds funny . . . especially if you say it like ten times in a row.

Baffle. Baffle. Baffle. Baffle. Baffle.Baffle. Baffle. Baffle. Baffle. Baffle.

Note — I’m not counting those ten “Baffles” towards my 500 words today.

Something that is really boggling is to consider how much of a different person I would be if I lived in a different time.  Like back when they used to beat dead horses.  Would I be so likely to get distracted if I didn’t have access to all of the answers to all of my questions sitting right in front of me — literally in the exact same 13 inch rectangle that is the space where I am trying to get work done?

I’m sure (if I was living in a horse beating era) I would still be curious to know if other people get distracted, or what the most common forms of distraction are or ten ways I could stop myself from being distracted but knowing that I can actually walk down the path to discovering all of those things (and so much more) without even standing up . . . or turning my head . . . makes it all really hard to resist.

Yep . . . PETA knows.  Dangit.


And those are my 500 words.

 

On Being a Sloppy Perfectionist: 500 Words | Day 9

Welcome to Day 9 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com

I just started writing.

I had to because I’ve been sitting here staring at my computer screen wondering what to write about which is defeating the purpose of this whole exercise.

The point is write . . . just write . . . don’t overthink it.

I had to sit and think about that for a while.  I’m better now.

I am evidently an overthinker.  I also think I might be a sloppy perfectionist which completely breaks my stereotype of what a good perfectionist should be.  In my brain a perfectionist is Type A.  Neat and tidy.  Everything lined up and in order.  Everything well planned out.  Everything executed with timely precision.  Everything . . . well . . . perfect.

That’s not me so clearly I can’t be a perfectionist.

I recently heard a quote though that blew the whole thing open for me.

“Perfectionism leads to procrastination which leads to paralysis.”

That . . . is me.

That is me staring at a computer screen, afraid to just start typing.  Worried that it won’t be perfect.  Paralyzed.  That is me searching for hours for the right picture to perfectly illustrate a blog post and never surrendering to the truth that it just doesn’t matter that much.  That is me waiting weeks between posts.  That is me having a great idea, getting excited about it, making notes, doing research, writing three paragraphs and saying, “meh, this is stupid.”  That is me saying for years, “I’ve started writing a book” and never finishing one.

I’ve got multiple unfinished books.

My favorite is “It Helps if They Think You’re Stupid.”

I love it.  I love the concept.  I love what it breaks open about living cross culturally.

And the first chapter is fabulous.  I have read it to multiple audiences and it always gets a great reaction . . . except once and I actually changed it because someone was offended.

But it is a chapter doomed to stay single and paralyzed because I can’t quite get the next 12 chapters perfect.

I think I need to get better at doing things poorly.  I need to be alright with putting something out there that might not be life changing or influential or even thought provoking.

I need to sit down and just start writing.

I can feel the tension in my chest just thinking about it though.  What if people don’t like it? What if people stop reading everything because not everything is helpful?

I overthink.

I overplay the consequences in my head.  Here’s a test.

What if I stopped writing my 500 words today at 436 words?

Done.