Sunday, September 9, 2012

About NOT Being Perfect

Perfect, perfection, perfectionist ... to some these are just words, but to others, like myself, they're much more than that ... they describe how we see ourselves and how we approach life.  What does it mean to be perfect?  The dictionary defines perfect as "having no faults; without defect; exact; impeccable."  Can anyone be perfect?  Of course not - there is no person (other than God) or thing that is perfect.  So why do some of us continue to strive for perfection, something that in reality is an impossible illusion like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?  We know it's not really there, but we like to think about it and maybe even pretend that it actually exists.

For some people, myself included, perfection is a form of protection.  If I work hard enough I won't fail at anything.  If I constantly strive to make things better life won't be so difficult.  If I always aim for perfection I won't have to admit that I'm vulnerable to life's problems and disappointments. But the truth is life is full of difficulty and disappointment, failure is a part of life, and we all have flaws and weaknesses.  "When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure" (Peter Marshall).  It takes courage to accept these things though, and we have to be honest with ourselves in admitting that realistically there's only so much we can do.

My family and friends have always laughed at me and teased me about wanting everything to be perfect.  They've even accused me of having some obsessive compulsive disorder tendencies.  It's never bothered me because I know it's all been said in fun.  The truth is though most of the things they have said are true.  I'm never satisfied with anything because I always believe it could/should be better.  I can't relax until I feel everything has been done perfectly.  I don't cope well with change and sometimes come across as being rigid and inflexible.  I often anticipate problems and try to solve them before they even occur.  No matter what I do I never feel it's good enough.  I am a perfectionist - a person who is not content with anything that is not perfect.

Striving to be better is not a bad thing.  "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" (Vince Lombardi).  The problem comes when the quest for perfection becomes an obsession.  Trying to achieve perfection is exhausting - it's a waste of time and energy.  Constantly reaching for an unattainable goal can leave us feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, and dissatisfied.   Putting too much pressure on ourselves can cause stress and anxiety and actually limit our successes in life.  We may even miss out on other things in life while trying to be perfect. 

Instead of trying to be perfect, we should all just try to do our best.  We need to recognize when something is good enough and stop pressuring ourselves to always do more.  We have to realize we can actually gain freedom when we give up our desire to be perfect.  "The thing that is really hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself" (Anna Quindlen).  Perfectionists need to know that it's okay NOT to be perfect.

"I looked in the mirror and realized I'm me ... every little crack, every chip, every dent, every little mistake.  I tried so hard to be perfect, but I'm me - and that's good enough." -Unknown

Sunday, September 2, 2012

About College Football In the South

The first Saturday of September is for many (myself and my family included) one of the most anticipated days of the year.  This Saturday marks the official beginning of a new college football season.  There are teams and fans all across the United States, but nowhere is college football more revered, more special than in the south.  This area is home to more competitive teams than any other area in the country - Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, South Carolina, Clemson.  If you aren't a fan of at least one of these something is seriously wrong with you.  Chances are you were born missing a gene, because a true love for the game isn't learned, it's something you are born with.

Thankfully between cable, satellite dishes, and pay-per-view you can find almost any game you'd like to watch somewhere on television.  Watching a game on TV, especially with a group of family and friends, is fun and exciting.  But there's nothing like actually being at a game.  The atmosphere is electric - you can feel it long before you ever even enter the stadium.  Hours before game time fans equipped with their campers, tents, grills, chairs, and coolers line the streets and fill the parking lots.  There's music, talking, decorating, and socializing going on everywhere.  The smell of the various foods being cooked on the grills is enough to make your mouth water even if you've just finished a full meal of your own.  Tailgating is as much a part of the experience as watching the game itself, and nobody knows how to tailgate better than southern fans!

If it's possible the intensity and excitement increases once you enter the stadium.  There are people everywhere, walking in all directions, yelling at each other, cheering, chanting, and waving pom-poms.  It takes a while to work your way through the crowd and find your seats.  Once you find them though, it really doesn't matter where your seats are, because when the game begins you only sit down during timeouts and halftime.  So if you don't enjoy standing then you probably shouldn't bother to go to a game! 

I've been going to college football games off and on for many years.  I've watched a lot of different teams, but the feeling is the same no matter who's playing.  I enjoy the experience now just as much as I did when I was younger.  My love of football was passed down to me through my grandfather and my father - my mother may have even contributed a little too.  Now I've passed the love of the game on to my son, and I'm sure he will in turn pass it on to his children.  It's a family tradition - one I'm happy and proud to have as a part of my life.  Yes, there's definitely something to be said about college football in the south! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

About Life In A Small Town

A drive-in movie theater, a skating rink, the Dairy Queen and the Tasty Freeze, the high school football field, a pizza parlor ... these were just a few of the places that made up the small Georgia town where I grew up.  Hazlehurst isn't just a small town, it's a small southern town, and that makes a big difference.  In the south fall Friday nights always centered around the high school football game.  Everybody was there whether they cared about football or not (though most people did) - it was just the place to be.  If it was warm enough on Saturday we drove to one of the beaches, Jekyll or St. Simons, for the day.  Saturday nights were spent at the skating rink, riding around town, or going to a party at someone's house (somebody was always having a party for some reason).  Most of the boys drove pickup trucks, some of them so high off the ground the girls had trouble getting inside!  Sunday morning was spent in church, and the afternoon was often reserved for going to the river.  It didn't matter if your family didn't have a boat - everyone went there just to hang out and socialize.  We didn't have shopping malls, fancy restaurants and hotels, a convention center, or clubs of any kind.  Homecoming dances were held in the high school gym, and my senior prom was actually held in a tobacco warehouse!  During the summer many of us went to camps - cheerleading, football, 4-H at Rock Eagle, Christian Life Conference at Epworth by the Sea - while others spent their time working, often in tobacco fields.        

I enjoyed growing up in Hazlehurst, but I didn't know enough back then to truly appreciate my life in a small town.  I left in 1982 to attend college in Columbus, and I never lived in Hazlehurst again.  I continued to visit regularly until my mother left a few years later.  After that my visits gradually decreased and eventually stopped altogether.  In time I lost touch with most of my friends there - my family, my job, my house, and my new friends were all in Columbus.  I never forgot my years in Hazlehurst, though.  The people I knew, the places I went, and the things I did have all remained a part of my life.  Now 30 years later I've realized something very important ... Hazlehurst will always be my home.  Like the Zac Brown song Chicken Fried says, "I was raised up beneath the shade of a Georgia Pine and that's home you know."

A little over a year ago I returned to Hazlehurst for a weekend and have been back for several visits since then.  Not much has changed except there's a Wal Mart, a McDonald's, and a Burger King now and people grow cotton instead of tobacco.  During these visits I've reconnected with some old friends and have found going "home" to be very therapeutic for me.  I realized on one of these trips that I could actually feel myself relaxing and my stress level decreasing the further away from Columbus I drove.  It was if I was physically leaving the difficult times and bad memories behind me, if only for a short time.  While in Hazlehurst I've found that I truly appreciate life in a small town now.  I'm content to spend Friday or Saturday nights riding the dirt roads just listening to music and talking (if you don't know about dirt roads listen to Jason Aldean's Dirt Road Anthem) then going to the river to watch the moon on the water and experience the quiet.  I enjoy attending a small church on Sunday morning, going to the Dairy Queen for lunch or an ice cream, and spending the afternoon sitting in a swing on the front porch ... "Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most" (Chicken Fried).  It's taken me a long time to realize it but there's definitely something to be said about life in a small town!