The Game of Perfection

The Game of Perfection

 

 

I remember being a softball pitcher from very early on in life. Except softball wasn’t an interest of mine right away. I played T-ball as a young child and it wasn’t all that interesting. I have an idea what it felt like because I cannot recall exactly my feelings on why I didn’t like T-ball. I think it went something like this: go up to this black stick out of the ground with a baseball sitting on top of it. I have to hit it. Then run. Big deal… not. How about boring. There wasn’t much excitement about hitting a ball that I knew I could hit and running, well that sucks anyway, but it’s part of the game.

 

I watched my younger brother progress from T-ball onto baseball, live pitch games, though. He loved the sport. There was this mystery in each pitch thrown. Will it be a ball or a strike? Or will it hit the batter? Will the batter align his body with his brain and make this swing connect and the ball fly to the outfield fence, way over the center fielder’s head. Will the defense be able to get that ball to the proper positions quickly, efficiently, and make a play? There are so many unknowns and so many responsibilities in baseball.

 

After a few years of watching my brother and sitting behind the fence behind the catcher watching the pitcher throw, I knew I wanted to try again. It was the mystery of each throw that lured me in. Softball for me started with slow-pitch. I don’t even know if they offer this to young girls anymore, but slow-pitch was the thing. The coaches saw a natural strength and ability in me when it came to pitching. This husband and wife duo invested their time and efforts in teaching me the craft of slow-pitching. Now only did they invest in teaching, but helping me hone my skills. I was good. I knew I was good–but not in a cocky or prideful way. I knew I was good, but I let what I now know to be perfection get the best of me. I wanted every ball to cross that plate and land exactly where the catcher’s glove was. Victory was watching the ball land without the catcher moving her mitt.

 

But sometimes that didn’t happen. Sometimes my body did not connect with my brain and the pitched ball became a run away ball my catcher had to chase.

 

Embarrassment.

Racking my brain. Who is in the stands?

Shame.

Who is disappointed in me?

 

I pitch again. Maybe this time the batter struck the ball. Maybe she swung and missed. Maybe, oh please, don’t let it be… another deplorable throw off my hip.

 

Embarrassment.

I know I am good. How could I be good and still make a major mistake?

Shame.

I know I am good. I know better than this.

Doubt.

I know I’m good, but maybe I’m just not good enough.

 

The male coach calls a time out in the middle of the game. My head is drooped as I see his large, wide frame make his way toward me. In the center of the ball diamond. The center of attention. Everyone for sure is looking at me. Making judgements. The gentle-giant looked at me unsure what was going on in me because he knew I was good, too. He always told me to breathe.

 

WTF– I am sure I didn’t say that because my innocent ears and soul didn’t know those words nor was it the decade we used text jargon. He asked me to breathe? How can I breathe? I’ve just screwed up. I’m not good enough for this.

 

Then he’d gently ask me what was going on. I don’t remember my exact responses, but I know without a doubt he saw the head games happening. Not from the other team’s loud, obnoxious chants, but from inside my head. He knew. He hated pulling me from the mound some games, but for the sake of the team I needed taken out.

 

This situation continued, even more so as I got older and fast-pitch became a new thing in the community. All of us girls had to start fast-pitch. As the large-framed, wide-hipped, strongest girl, of course I was chosen to practice and hone my fast-pitch pitch. I loved it. I loved the challenge. I enjoyed every moment the coaches put into me. Another coach, from high school, saw me, too. Very similar to my original coach, but this coach’s approach was different. He knew how to meet me at my weakest points– my inner critic. He knew what worked and what didn’t for me. I had teammates that were somehow in tune with my stride, as well.

 

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But it would happen again. My catcher called the pitch. A pitch she and I were so in sync with. But my brain was not connected to my body and the ball, it left my hip only to be so far away from the plate, my catch would have to run after it. Except this was fast-pitch, now. My catcher a new worry of runners stealing bases.

Embarrassment.

I know I am good. How could I be good and still make a major mistake?

Shame.

I know I am good. I know better than this.

 

But because I chase perfection I start the mental games. Oh shit, this cannot happen again. And I’d recite mantras– “Just me and the plate.” I must have said that so many times because I recall it without thinking much now, some sixteen plus or minus years later.

 

The mantra didn’t work because inevitably my grasp on perfection didn’t last and I’d throw another wild ball. More runners stealing bases. Games lost because of my wild pitches.

Embarrassment.

I know I am good. How could I be good and still make a major mistake?

Shame.

I know I am good. I know better than this.

Doubt.

I know I’m good, but maybe I’m just not good enough.

 

Today, as a mother of three and a wife of one very lucky husband, I realize I’m not much different than that young girl playing softball. I’ve said it for years, but the reason I chose to teach eighth grade English is because it is one of the last years we get to put children on the right path. The person we are in eighth grade, the struggles, the concerns, they are the same in our adulthood. The situations and circumstances are different, sure. But we are still, at the core the same person we were in eighth grade. I am no different.  I still chase perfection. I still experience embarrassment, shame, and doubt.

Embarrassment.

I am not one of those that gets embarrassed easily. I don’t care who sees my pants unzipped. Actually, I do hope I didn’t scar them for life! I don’t care if I have food in my teeth–people should speak up for a gal! No. What embarrasses me today is when someone doesn’t act with integrity and hurts so many people. Let me explain a little bit further.

According to Merriam-Webster, some words associated with embarrassment include agitation, bother, discomfort, discomposure, dismay, distress, disturbance, perturbation, unease, upset, disgrace, shame. These words help to make a picture of how I feel embarrassment now. Embarrassment comes in the form of me being upset, disturbed, or in utter distress when people I love dearly choose destructive behaviors or choices. When they choose to live in denial, causing more harm to them and to others around them. I’m embarrassed when my child can see, speak, and live in truth and adults around me choose not to. When I’m embarrassed, I question:

I know God is good, so why do people I love dearly behave the way they do hurting me (themselves and others) so deeply? Oh, goodness, am I an embarrassment to them? Who is watching these behaviors?
Shame. It’s something I fight often. It’s not enough for Satan to cloud my mind with shame, but as a person who strives for the unrealistic goal of perfection, I feel nothing I do is every good enough and thus I am never enough. Oftentimes I think my inner critic (Enneagram type 1) is worse than Satan’s voice.

What shame says to me–I know what you did that summer and your parents will never forgive you. They’ll never move on. It says, I know what you did that summer that caused the demise of your family. Shame says you married unequally yoked, you deserve this pain– put up with it. Shame says,  I’m not good enough to parent. I’m homeschooling and going to destroy my kids, but putting them in school is not the best, either, so deal with how bad you really are, Danielle.
Put up with it. Walk on egg shells. Pull up your big girl panties (they are big because you eat for comfort) and put up with it. This is your fault Danielle. If only you’d stayed perfect people would love you well.

Shame.

Who is in the stands (social media, public, family) watching me mess up?  Who is waiting for me to mess up?

DoubtMaybe I am not good enough after all. Maybe I’m not good enough to be respected. Maybe I’m not good enough for a life of freedom and joy like other people have. Maybe all those people waiting for me to fail are right!

BUT  JESUS

He let me find him in a Southern Baptist Church in Northeast Indiana when I was in high school. He’s rocked my world since. I didn’t realize how life would change once I surrendered my life. It didn’t get easier! It actually got harder. I had to make a lot of decisions that seemed so opposite to what everyone else wanted for me. But the decisions I made I know without a doubt they were right for me.

The fun thing about handing your life over to Jesus, is it isn’t a one and done thing. It’s a daily and sometimes moment by moment thing. It’s choosing to realize the world we live in will perish. It will be all gone. The people, the things, the circumstance– they aren’t forever. But Jesus is.

All the naysayers, all the doubt, all the shame, all the embarrassment– it does not matter. My body. My mind. My strength. It will ALL fail me. Those will will never respect me or love me well, yeah, that doesn’t really matter either, in the long run. You see, I know people won’t like me. I shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus told us people wouldn’t like us. I know I’m a very tough personality. Know I have high expectations of myself and others, too. And this, while needed to be kept in check, does not mean I’m bad or not good enough. It just means my focus needs to be on Jesus. Things of heavenly realms. Because the reality is:

I am built for a purpose.
I am loved.
I am enough.
I have influence.
I am a safe place for those to spill their crazy life.
I am the person who people walk up to in a room asking for direction.
I am the person people stop on the street for directions. (Even if I’m on vacation!)
I am an outsider with many.
I am a leader.

 

Embarrassment. Shame. Doubt.

They are the inner-critic game I refuse to play any longer.
Because perfection belongs to the perfect One.

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: torbakhopper via photopin (license)

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hey, i’m Danielle

I love Jesus. I love my family. And I get joy from having a front row view of people growing toward their goals because of what I’ve taught.

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