This morning I read an email from a friend, responding to the Love Dares we started yesterday. She wrote: "I just checked Day 2. I think I will be stuck there for a while, it is a lot to process." That got me thinking.
It's valid and also important to go at your own pace with this challenge, and with any other. Change is like yoga; you only want to reach as far in the moment as a healthy stretch will take you, and never into a place of pain. It's not about competing or keeping up. It's about breath and form and learning to move in ways that free and strengthen you and ultimately extend your range and discipline. It's personal, individual.
That said, it's still so easy to get hung up in ideals and perfectionism. I'm not saying that's where my friend is, but calling herself "stuck" is telling. Is she actually having trouble understanding today's concept, or is it more that she's not approving of her own efforts? Did she make a difficult start this morning, or get tripped up somewhere, and now feels that she has to keep starting over till she gets it right? Maybe I'm projecting possibilities here, but these are some of the ways that I often get stuck.
I have another friend, someone I've known and dearly loved for most of my adult life. She's an incredible person, though like the rest of us, she's a maddening mix of humanity and transcendence. She's someone I know for a fact is always working to become a better person, and she does a great job, but has a hard time accepting herself as good enough while she's in process. Ask her how she is on just about any day and she'll sidestep you with a cheerful bluff: "Peachy!" I know that kind of sweetness is what she's aiming for, but I suspect she feels rather like the rough, inedible pit.
Where I live there are peach orchards. Every year at the height of peach season, I make worshipful remarks about the perfection of ripe, juicy, just-picked peaches. They command all of my senses. There's nothing more flavorful, more fragrant, more gorgeous, or more delightful in the world! I admit it; I am a devotee.
Over time "peach" has come to mean something very fine, attractive, desirable, and perfect. Ask your grandmother—a pretty girl was once commonly referred to as a peach. And really, who wouldn't consider that a compliment?
The thing about sweet peaches and perfection is that they bruise so easily. Have you noticed? Do you ever grip the concept of perfection too tightly? Idealism doesn't hold up well to much handling, and the bruises turn quickly to rotten spots.
The challenges shared on this blog, like most challenges, require a light touch, and also a tough skin. The majority of us would probably agree with football coach Vince Lombardi that: "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." But don't let's confuse ourselves by thinking that a perfect practice session always looks like the desired end result. Think back to yoga. Before you learn even the most basic position, yoga asks you to breathe in a new way. The first time you manage to take a deep, slow, controlled breath you are doing yoga. And you are doing it perfectly. One breath, then two, then three. Then maybe you get distracted and go back to your old way of sucking the air. But you did it! You did yoga for a whole two minutes! Your practice was perfect even though it hasn't yet begun to resemble the incredible postures you've seen the experts do. You're building a foundation.
This morning did you get up and read the 2nd Love Dare? And then did you forget and grump at your spouse? Yesterday I was really sick all day and at a couple low points gave my husband the incomparable pleasure of hearing me whine about how much I hurt. That didn't fit the program, but I did have some moments of perfect practice when I put away negativity—in fact, I sent it packing. To live a perfect day, or even a perfect morning, is way beyond my reach, and it will be until it isn't. I'm still just trying to learn to control my breathing.
A few years ago I was at girls' camp with the young women from our ward. We camped with several other groups, including one made up of mostly ASL speakers. They taught us to sing and sign a song around the campfire one evening, an old favorite of the women of Scripps College. It's a great one to have in the ol' repertoire:
Girls can never change their natures, that is far beyond their reach
Once a girl is born a lemon, she can never be a peach.
But the law of compensation is the one we always preach:
You can always squeeze a lemon, but try and squeeze a peach.
Here's to being the kind of fruit that can withstand a good squeezing. And—how's this for irony?—not only can a little lemon juice enliven endless kinds of dishes, but it can also help keep a whole lot of sliced peaches (or any other kind of fruit) fresh. Sounds like a satisfyingly divine nature to me.
I hope you let yourselves enjoy and move freely through these Love Devotionals, as well as any other challenges you decide to try. If you "mess up" a day and don't feel so sweet and peachy, you certainly can choose to stop and repeat the assignment till you begin to feel better about your performance, and that will probably produce good results, but you might be surprised to learn that you can also make wonderful gains by letting go of your own picture-perfect ideal, and simply moving on to try the next suggestion. Be forgiving of yourself and keep squeezing.