Thursday, May 17, 2012

something you learn, or something you better get right right now

I saw my counselor again today. We got to talk about my picture story regarding last Sunday. When I cited my drawings on the sermon notes as an example of my "sin" (I wasn't listening to the sermon like I should have been and I was not hearing the pastor "right"), she told me a story to help me understand that lots of factors go into what happens. Her story was about someone student teaching with a bunch of complicating factors. I didn't quite see how I could "blame" my trouble listening to sermons on any factors besides my own "sin," but instead, I saw something else. I realized that in the childcare setting, I knew people had to learn skills over time, but in my personal Christian life - the stuff closer to the more "churchy" parts or formal religious parts - I didn't see a development of skills. I saw pass/fail with no way to pass. No wonder I get depressed about that.

Recently, a new person started working at the childcare center that I work at. She helped me see how much I had learned from when I started. When I started, I had a hard time taking care of... (drum roll...) two toddlers, with three toddlers almost doing me in. Three and a half years later, there are days when I can handle six or seven with no major problems. It took me years to get there, and there is still plenty more for me to learn. And I kind of understand this, especially looking back (sometimes in the present I go back to black-and-white thinking).

But with my "spiritual" life... Okay, first, let me set aside the whole "your faith involves your whole life, not just what you do on Sunday" issue. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about how I'm dealing with things. It's a little OCD-ish. My counselor explained that, while a person without OCD could work towards being "perfect" and still go about with their normal lives, a person with OCD could get stuck in it and put an enormous amount of energy into it because we would be going for "perfect" in a different way. That makes sense to me in that I have explained myself enough a few times to get strange looks from people without OCD. Somehow, they handle the whole issue differently. My friend locally with OCD similar to mine, though, she understands where I'm coming from.

Anyway, I'm rattling on. The point is, I want to start thinking of my spiritual life as a learning experience instead of a black and white, beat-your-head-against-the-wall-to-no-avail issue.

I thought about it at the store today in the context of how I use my money. I had told my counselor how I had sinned, buying a two dollar item from the thrift store that I shouldn't have (the item wasn't wrong, I just shouldn't have spent the money, I concluded), and my miss-spending my money eventually hurts other people, like her (she works with me to help me be able to afford counseling). She said that she didn't care. I said I still felt guitly. She said that she knew I would and that nothing she could say would change that. Yup. She had me there. Anyway, at the store later, it occured to me that spending money wisely and budgeting and all is actually a skill one learns. When I looked at it that way, I felt so much more free. I got through shopping with decidedly less guilt. I am learning to use my money well; who would even expect me at my age to have that down perfect (okay, some rigid, black-and-white thinking in that area might let a person still judge me there, but rationally, I don't have to judge myself).

So this is my current goal, to allow myself to learn and grow instead of demanding perfection, in my whole life instead of just at work.


  1. Wow, Abigail, this is a wonderful way of thinking about different aspects of life--we're learning and gaining skills as we go along. I tend to beat up on myself, too, when I'm not perfect at certain things. For example, in my therapy, I get frustrated with myself that I don't "get it" more quickly, that I'm not already 100% better. But my therapist even tells me, you're going to be gaining new skills. That's not something that happens overnight.

    You've give me a whole lot to think about now, and I appreciate that. And I think you are doing fantastic!

  2. This post has given me much food for thought. Like you, I expect perfectin in certain areas of my life and I am very hard on myself when I don't measure up.