As I headed to Albany, New York last week to film a 90 minute public television special, as well as 6 hours of additional DVD content that would be included as part of the PBS fundraising pledge package, I knew I was walking into a situation that was completely out of my comfort zone. I so wanted to feel like I was going to just nail it on that television set, that I would get it all perfectly right on my first try, that I would wow everyone with my professionalism and TV chops, that everyone would come to me later and say, “Lissa, you’re a natural!”
So I loaded myself up with expectations, hoping I’d get it right, wanting to impress my producers and please my publisher and all that jazz. Naturally, heaping myself with expectations of perfection only left me feeling stressed and overwhelmed in the months before the film date. And then, suddenly, I was backstage, about to appear before a live studio audience to deliver what I hoped would be a perfect performance. (No biggie.)
Permission To Be Imperfect
Suddenly, inside my head, I heard the soothing voice of Brené Brown (with whom I just did a free teleclass - you can listen to us here). When Brené was about to appear on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, she wrote herself a permission slip, which she hid in her pocket. The permission slip said, “Permission to be imperfect.” So right there, back in the wings, I wrote myself the same permission slip, and when I stood in front of that studio audience, I told everyone to bear with me because I was about to give an imperfect performance.
I then proceeded to royally flub up several times, stuttering over my words and misreading the teleprompter. Fortunately, the special was prerecorded! All I had to do when I screwed up was stop, admit my mistake, and try again. The audience had even been prepped so that if I said the same thing twice, they were supposed to pretend they were hearing my hopefully wise words for the very first time!
What If Life Had “Do Overs?”
After a few mistakes and do overs, I said to the audience, “Wouldn’t life be great if we were allowed to just pause and get a ‘Do over’ in other aspects of our life?” And then I realized I’ve done just that. I married imperfectly - twice - and I’ve now been with husband #3 for almost eleven years. (Do over! Do over!) I wound up unhappy in my job as a practicing physician, so I went through a massive career change. (Do over!) My health broke down because I wasn’t caring for my body or my mind, but I was blessed to get a do over in my health and am now down to half the dose of one of the seven medications I was once taking.
I have been pausing, admitting my mistakes, and doing life over again time after time! And this, I’m realizing, is one of the essential keys to a happy life.
Although I adore my family and it's beautiful up here on Lake Erie in Ohio, the place I’m spending my summer vacation with my mother, daughter, nieces, and nephews isn’t the kind of place I’d choose to hang out left to my own devices. We’re vacationing at a Methodist-owned resort peopled by those who claim to share virtues and religious beliefs, pride themselves in being “old school," and live by the four pillars of education, religion, the arts, and recreation.
It’s all very… I don’t know… Pleasantville. I almost feel like I’m in The Truman Show, the unwitting star of a reality TV show everyone but me knows is fake. Only this is real. Sort of. And as far as I can tell, there are no Big Brother cameras lurking around.
My six year old Siena just finished her school year, and on the last day of school, her adorable little Waldorf school in Sausalito held a performance to showcase the musical talents of the children. Six year olds who had only been playing violin for six months played their instruments. Two youngsters played the harp. Eleven year olds sang risky, fabulous, brave solos (Adele’s Rolling In The Deep! Whoa…) Seventh graders rocked the guitar, the drums, and every possible orchestral instrument, while playing Taio Cruz’s Dynamite. And the whole school - kindergarten through seventh grade together - sang a capella.
It was precious.
As we all danced, clapped, sang along, and celebrated the musical talents of each other and our children, I noticed one precious thing that separates this nurturing Waldorf school from how I felt growing up. Nobody expects anyone else to be perfect.