“You are not behind! I don’t want you to try to catch up;
I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K. ?”
“Perfectionism is shelved in 2018!”
These tag lines accompany every entry in the FlyLady Digest that comes to my daily email. Most of the actual entries are testimonials from women all over the world who have purchased FlyLady (http://www.flylady.net/) products or have adopted one of the many household management techniques with (often surprising) success.
My beautiful friend Jessica introduced me to FlyLady in 2006. As working mothers with young children, we had similar challenges facing us. We both struggled to keep our sanity while professional demands and ambitions competed with responsibilities at home. We had other things in common: an intense love of art, music, languages, food—and a great curiosity about other cultures. During our many “expose and exhaust” outings with our children, we shared discoveries that could make life simpler and more fun. The FlyLady website, with its myriad suggestions for keeping house and home-life organization, brought two important lessons into my life just at the time I most needed help.
First, perfectionism can rear a multitude of ugly heads in our personal and professional lives. As artists, we are blessed to be able to see the minute details that make up our creations. We learn to organize our time and efforts to attend to them. With experience, we recognize when everything is in place. But, so often during the early years of our professional lives, especially when we reach the “I-now-know-what-I-don’t-know” terrain, we struggle with the dark side of perfectionism that makes our heads swim when we try to balance all that needs to be done with living in the real world (or the ivory tower).
This is where the admonition—“jump in where we are”—can save us from ourselves! The group’s creators practically shout this as their mantra: you don’t have to clean up your house to begin using their routines; they are designed to move you forward, one step at a time. In fact, the newest members of the “club” are called FlyBabies because they practice the first routines first, not taking on the entire to-do list at once. Wherever we are on the artistic journey, we can relieve much of our stress by remembering this advice and affirming, WE ARE NOT BEHIND, WE MUST ONLY JUMP IN WHERE WE ARE.
The second important lesson I’ve learned from FlyLady is that fifteen minutes of concentrated effort can produce great results and can make any task bearable and sustainable. It creates an attitude of enjoyment that comes from knowing that each day we are giving due attention to the things that matter most and breaking up momentous responsibilities (or goals or dreams) into manageable tasks. If we see our training and creative work as a rotating set of smaller routines, we don’t fear that we are neglecting an important detail. It will come around again, very soon. Of course, we can dive into creative projects 24/7 when life allows, but if we adopt a “15-minute [or other manageable increment] at a time” attitude and commit to daily routines, we needn’t feel guilty or anxious or resentful when that is all we can do. We are keeping chaos at bay! We are making progress!
The summer months give me so much joy: long days of sunshine, recreation outdoors, and more TIME to reflect.
Perhaps you have more time now to reflect: are there “artistic routines” you can put in place that will keep you sane when the fall term begins? Are there “house cleaning” routines you can put in place that will allow you more time for your art?
As I think about my own journey toward artistic “perfection” and the coming fall, I renew my commitment to “just jumping in” and to my routines. In doing that I keep myself from going the way of Anakin Skywalker [and wasn’t that a scary mess?]—to the dark side.