I had another guitar lesson last night.  Long after Jeff went home, and late into the evening tonight, I have been reflecting on what I learned…and it wasn’t just the groovy little shuffle rhythm that is on my homework for the week.

Don’t get me wrong–I am thinking about the shuffle rhythm alot–It is quite cool–but there is something more, something deeper.  This little guitar of mine, she is helping me struggle with something so so much bigger.  But (in the immortal words of Captain Underpants) before I tell you that story, I need to tell you this one.

Once upon a time (not really all that long ago), I was one of those relentless high achievers.  You know the type…the person who had a whole series of things she does well and is always striving to do them better.  In many ways it isn’t a bad way to be.  A drive for perfection can result in some outstanding successes, beautiful art, high quality work product.  I was open minded, humble and self-critical–always seeking to do it better next time.  No sooner had I hit a one out of the park, I would draw a new boundary, a bigger playing field, and set new goals, stepping right back up to the plate.  That drive and that humility served me well–In many arenas I grew quickly and achieved much over a very short period of time. 

But a  drive for perfection can, if unchecked, also distort reality.  A few years ago, the mirror in which I viewed myself and my accomplishments, was as wavy as the ones found in a funhouse.  No matter what I achieved at work or at home I really couldn’t rest and enjoy my accomplishments.  No sooner had I leapt tall buildings with a single bound, my inner gremlin would come and raise the bar–set the standard for success just a little bit higher. 

Of course, this gremlin also had a whole script she would repeat to try and motivate me.  “That was good but not quite good enough/smart enough/together enough/disciplined enough/kind enough/pretty enough/thin enough/funny enough…” Come on now…we can get there…Lets just take it from the top”

It took a lot of work to silence that gremlin–and to recognize how she was robbing me of the joys of my success.  It took years of practice to just be able to enjoy the things I did very well and to love and appreciate myself for the tremendous contributions I make to my work, my family and my community–exactly as they were.  To be able to see the beauty of the things I did well and not rush to improve upon them.  It took years for me to be able to settle into and enjoy doing something well, to take a compliment sincerely and to applaud myself and relax before upping the ante next time.  It took years before I stopped beating myself up around the things I do, by all accounts, very well. 

The good news is that from where I stand today I really have (for the most part) learned to embrace my success.  I am able  to recognize a well executed piece of work, to appreciate the kindess I extended to a stranger, to value and appreciate and love the things I bring to the world.  I have come to value myself for the things I do well instead of beating myself up for not doing them perfectly.  And that is no small thing.

But if I am completely honest with myself I will have to admit that while I have come to be quite comfortable with my accomplished self–I still struggle with the part of myself that is downright rough around the edges.   The part of myself that isn’t doing things well at all.

The mother who loses her patience and yells at her scared child.

The worker who sits and stares at a blank computer screen unable to finish the report that should have been done days ago.

The friend who is not attentive to the exhaustion in her friend’s face and just keeps talking because there is a good story to be told.

The girl who, no matter, how hard she practices, can’t form that damn F chord.  Who trips over the rhythmn.  Who can’t play the simple song cleanly.  Who finds herself playing the song WORSE today than she did yesterday.

Who among us, doesn’t struggle with that self, at least a little?  Up until last night, I didn’t think twice about letting my little inner gremlins grumble about the unaccomplished, messier parts of me.  Yeah yeah yeah of course I bought into the need to be kind to myself, and TRY to love my uglier self. 

But really, if I had my druthers, I would rather improve my imperfect self a bit, and then appreciate her success.  After all I had finally nailed the whole appreciating my accomplishments thing and it seems at this point in my life to be so much easier than embracing the ugly bits. 

Learning to play guitar is a dream come true for me.  And its not a dream I intend to give up on all too easily.  I want so badly to play this instrument well.  To make this guitar sing.  But it is so hard for me to do it.  I am not naturally talented at this instrument and picking it up later in life has been a bit of a challenge.  When I play guitar, I am face to face with my most imperfect and untalented self.

But last night I learned that if I want to actually learn to play, I am going to have to learn to have patience and love my no-talent, tripping and falling, not very nimble guitar playing self.  I am going to have to do it RIGHT NOW and not wait until there is a success to be celebrated. 

Last night, Jeff said something very profound…something I can’t quite shake…something that applies to so many areas of my life.  He spoke a truth which is settling into my heart and is resonating far beyond that pretty little instrument on my lap.

My frustration and lack of acceptance of my imperfect, messy playing–that is what is preventing me from getting better.  No matter how hard I practice if I can’t get rid of that bad attitude I am not getting any better.

As I get pissed off , annoyed, frustrated with my mistakes, he showed me, my hands tense up, freeze in positions that make the stretches impossible.  If I could just keep it loose and enjoy my imperfect chords, my sloppy rhythm, my muffled  notes, if I could just learn to love my messy, imperfect guitar playing and appreciate it for what it is–FUN–my hands would be free to, with some intention, move more naturally where they need to go. 


Its not just enough to appreciate what I do well.  If I want to really reach my goals and live the dreams I have dared to dream–I am going to need to find some love and acceptance for the me who makes mistake after mistake.  Its not enough to recognize and appreciate my successes.   Its not just a nice sweet goal to hold my imperfect self gently–ITS A REQUIREMENT OF SUCCESS.

This lesson is sitting rather heavy on me.  Its going to take a while to completely digest.  Yes, I recognize that this is in many ways, a more advanced version of the lesson I have been working on for years and really an echo of things I have talked about not only here but in life for a long time.  Yes, this is just an extension of the lesson I learned about silencing my gremlins-just a bit more subtle perhaps.  In many ways this lesson feels so familiar, for indeed I have embraced doing things badly for some time now.  But it also feels so revolutionary for me as well–a real “Eureka!” moment.  The great aha is the necessity of loving the imperfect rough around the edges, not quite got it right girl–that its not a nice-ity, its non-negotiable to success. 

The good news is that I will have a lot of opportunity to practice this appreciation for the bad.  I am off to practice my sloppy shuffle.  And to groove on it, messiness and all. 

And I suppose, that when I am done, my heart will be ready to hold all of me, a bit more  gently.

3 Responses to “Grooving on Imperfect”

  1. Jen Ballantyne Says:

    Meg again you leave me awe struck. How do you do it? You manage to express yourself with such clarity and put into words that which seems almost impossible to define. Again you have helped me to understand something important about myself as I too need to embrace the ‘not so great’ things about myself. Perhaps this would help when I am struggling to get some art done! Thank you for sharing such wisdom, you truly are an inspiration. Take good care : )

  2. Meg Casey » Advent Says:

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