Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Into Action

We're currently obsessed with the Aston/Long books. They are informative and beautiful and Keats loves learning all the different names.

We are, as of now, calmly ignoring the fact that we have been ill. I declare us healthy and ready to face the world like the incalculable blooms and leaves popping forth everywhere I look. The animals on the farm are giving birth, the sky has turned a purplish shade of grey, and the green on the pussy willow bushes pops like never before.

It is so refreshing to see the farm start again. It brings a gravity to the seasons that I don't feel when I'm away. The lambs coming just on time, the kids nearby coming after, the leaves on the willow trees pushing out past their buds, and the wild mint showing itself at last. The fields of the surrounding farms are freshly tilled and ready for seeding. Keats points out all of the different machines with impressive accuracy and knows what they're each doing and why. 

I've put in the fresh spring plantings in my parents' front garden and sowed seeds for summer. Next up is the back vegetable garden. We've got to put something new in the usual tomato planter and put the tomatoes in a different one to refresh the soil. Seeing as the tomatoes have always been in the same planter for as long as I can remember, this couldn't happen sooner. My parents have been good sports in letting me head up their garden this last year. It's good experience for me and with the flooding issues we've had at home, it's been the perfect gardening outlet while we get our own yard sorted. I spent most of my childhood weekends with my dad digging in the dirt so this continuation years later is fitting.

Birch has planted some radishes and other random seeds in random spots around the house "just to get something in the ground." Can you tell we have different project styles? I have to give it to him, he gets it done. I really am grateful for that. I overthink just about everything and Birch reminds me, gently, that sometimes it's just better to have completed a project than to have done it to our ideal standard. That is a hard lesson for me.

I've admitted to myself that I am a perfectionist. I have a pretty heavy fear of failure and so I obsess over a project so much that sometimes I never finish it purely because it's not coming together exactly as I envisioned. I never once submitted a philosophy paper in college for this very reason. Looking back I can see how ridiculous that is. I was terrified by the critique, but come on! It was a PHILOSOPHY paper. That critique was the point! In fact, even earlier in school I had this issue. I think my parents assume I just never did my homework. I never told them I just refused to submit it. The work that was genuinely difficult for me, I was too scared to ask for help. It didn't even occur to me that I might have a learning disability until college. Then, when I explained how I felt and thought about learning math and learning languages, my special education teacher of a husband just nodded and said, "Yeah, that's a learning disability." Oh, great. The point is: I could have had help when I was younger, but I was too afraid of failure. I was too afraid of not being smart! The truth is, struggling doesn't mean you are not smart. It doesn't mean you're worthless. It shouldn't be embarrassing. I could have asked for help, I could have been placed in a special education math class, I could have asked for intensive tutoring. There were things all of the adults in my life could have done differently, sure, but when it comes down to it, it was my failure to accept failure that led to my academic downfall. I just let myself get horrific grades and accepted the storm at home when that report card dropped in the mailbox. That attitude has permeated other parts of my life as well.

I didn't understand it then, but I do now. It's okay to not understand things, to have to work hard, to not be inherently gifted at what you're doing. The success you accomplish on completion is far more powerful than the success of a natural talent. I hope I can work through this enough to teach my children that trying is better than succeeding, enjoyment is better than easy, and most of what we really pine for in life takes hard work, focus, practice, and passion.

So while I plan out flood-proof planters for our vegetables and veggie/herb planters for the chickens and ducks to munch, Birch is busy checking his seedlings in the yard and pulling weeds when he finds them. Together we make a fairly effective team. We'll figure it out. We have time.   

For now, I want to enjoy spring and practice my new life as a non-perfectionist. I'm not even going to look up the appropriate word for that.


  1. I did not know you were a perfectionist! But looking back at childhood it kind of makes sense, infect it is a trait that runs through the Hunter family genes. It tends to be tough with the cousins because they all are so talented and highly intelligent. I always hated getting together because I felt very inferior. I have tried to work on that feeling and used to visit everyone on a personal level. It helped.

    I have a student in my quilting class that has perfectionism. It is tricky to balance. Quilting is overwhelming and she is trying to acquire a new skill. There will be mistakes, but I try very hard to help make sure they will have a beautiful product at the end of the class. She kept ripping out a seam over and over because she didn’t like the way it looked. I finally told her to stop. It was only making her frustrated. I asked her to sew the seam again without thinking about it and then walk away. The seam was perfect. She came back a week later and started again and did much better. The point is, you can walk away before you become so frustrated it makes you mad and you don’t want to do it anymore. Also, I tell the ladies if they don’t like their project they can give it away. I hated my first quilt and did not want it hanging around reminding me of how bad I did. But I kept my next quilt on my bed for 15 years until it fell apart.

    I hope you enjoy your non-perfectionist self. It is very freeing attitude to have.

  2. Try looking up wabi-sabi when you've got a minute, sometime. You'll like it. :)

    I can completely see how that would happen, that part in the middle, and I think it would have been especially hard in our family, where I think we all assumed we should be naturally good at lots of things, and if we weren't, well, that someone else would take care of that department. :) It's a good asset to have, though, your experience and understanding of it, and I'll bet the kids will benefit from it. Love you.

  3. Rachel, Birch and I are both wabi-sabi... fans? B has tried his hand at bonsai but the move to Pescadero killed them. I need to encourage him to try again. He loved it.

    Becky, it's lovely to hear from you! Being a perfectionist is tricky because it can be hard to distinguish the line between trying your hardest/perseverance and unhealthy nit-picking. So far, the major clue has been once I stop ENJOYING what I usually love. That's when I've made it a chore instead of something I want to do. Even with learning new skills like math and language. I do WANT to learn, but the hurdle from ignorance to amateur can be rough.

    Coming from such a talented, intellectually-gifted family has been such a blessing in my life, but the more I look at other people and their families I see that ALL people are gifted in so many different ways. What we choose to nourish is what makes us different from one another.

    Becky, it's funny you envied OUR gifts. I'm positive we ALL envied your gift for art and design. Whenever I see my mama's quilt you made her I am filled with envy. It's so beautiful and it took HARD WORK. You have an amazing gift but that's not all. You put in the dedication and time and effort to make it a skill and I really admire that. I've let so many of my gifts go unnourished and I'm afraid they may be lost. That's why I'm putting such an emphasis on my own growth this year. I want to change for the better and regain some of the skills I've let go and acquire some new ones as well. I want to conquer my fear of failure and teach myself the value of perseverance and hard work!

    The problem is perfectionism isn't genetic. It's TAUGHT. If I continue down this path, I'll inadvertently teach my kids this mindset and I do NOT want that. I don't want that for myself, my kids, or my family. If this is prevalent in our family (and I definitely think it is) than we should all try to work on valuing the work we've put into our lives, not just the talents we were born with.

  4. I envy Birch's laid back approach to things. I am more of a perfectionist like you. My mother always talks about how I didn't start walking until "late" because I wouldn't try to walk until I was sure I could do it perfectly. So I crawled while my cousin continued to get up, fall over, and get up again. I feel self conscious about my front yard hopefully veggie patch because I want to look amazing, even though I've never gardened in the ground or from seed (and I didn't grow up in a gardening family) and I feel those are the "right" ways to do it. Which is just insane. I'm working on letting go, though it's hard... My heart aches for little school aged K. I really admire your parenting and wanting to not pass this on to your children. I especially like the "value your work, not your innate talents" message. One popular Nike shirt I see at school a lot is "Talented but Lazy" which irritates me to no end, perhaps because I have always struggled with the idea that I should be instantly, easily good at something and if not shouldn't do it.