Barbara Azzara,Teaching Excellence Not Perfection

A little background. Probably twenty years ago, my friend Anna mentioned something casually in conversation about Emmanuel’s Book: A Manual for Living Comfortably in the Cosmos. This was when I was living in the DC area. I filed it away in my brain because the concept she presented, or quote, or whatever it was, was quite beautiful.

Not long after, I came across the book in a used book store and bought it. It is a lovely book. It is one you can pick up, read one page, and feel lighter. It covers huge concepts in few words. I love it. I have kept my copy all these years. A few months back, I read it again and was delighted by it again. I checked to see if there was an author website. There was. There were links. One of the links was to Barbara Azzara’s website. She’s a friend of the author. I signed up for her monthly newsletter and have been very inspired by her words. I sent her an e-mail, thanking her for her newsletter. She responded. We’ve emailed back and forth some. I don’t know her well but she is a very loving person. That much I know already.

In last month’s newsletter she asked four questions. I answered them and learned some things about myself. I’m going to include the exercise and my responses here which is a little scary because it’s so personal. I wrote this last month and put it away for a while to let it simmer. To make sure it is something I really feel comfortable sharing. Fear would have me want to keep it locked away to protect myself further.

But I had a little talk with fear yesterday, and turns out while fear might mean well, (and that’s a big might) it’s basically full of shit.

This exercise helped me and maybe it will help someone else. I feel whenever we learn and share, it is a good thing. So here I go…it’s kind of stream of consciousness, but you’ll get the gist. I don’t know why my responses are all in caps, but I promise I’m not yelling. I’m just too lazy busy to go back and change them.

1. Name your images, and understand and name: “what is the fear and the defensive behavior that these circumstances created. ”  Another way of saying it is:  are you willing to ask yourself what is the belief that my ego is built upon?  (I must be agreed with, I must never be criticised, etc.)  Done in depth, this is a freeing exploration.

I MUST BE THE PERFECT MOTHER

2. What are your self judgments and your faults, that have created your idealized self image?  Another way of saying this is:  What about you will you “not accept” so that you will alter yourself and pretend to be other then you are.  You cannot be vulnerable or transparent if you continue to NOT accept your own “imperfections”. List these self limiting values, and see how you have distorted them into “idealization”.  (I must always be “understood.” I must always be generous of my time, money etc.)

I CANNOT ACCEPT THAT I AM OVERWHELMED. I AM LOST. I OFTEN FEEL LIKE I AM BARELY HOLDING MY HEAD ABOVE WATER TRYING TO PARENT THESE KIDS.

I FEEL LIKE I MUST ALWAYS BE PERFECT AT THIS BECAUSE I SUFFERED SO MUCH AS A CHILD AND CANNOT BEAR THE THOUGHT OF MY CHILDREN SUFFERING.

I MUST FIND ALL THE ANSWERS. I MUST FIND THE RIGHT SCHOOLS, DOCTORS, I MUST STUDY STUDY STUDY TO FIND WHAT THEY NEED FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. I MUST DO IT ALL MYSELF BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO FIGURE IT OUT FOR ME AND THEY NEED HELP. I HAVE TO FIGURE IT OUT. I FEAR LONG TERM EFFECTS. IT’S ALL ON ME. I MUST NEVER LOSE MY TEMPER. I MUST ALWAYS SAY THE RIGHT THING. I MUST PREPAVE EVERY SITUATION AND ANTICIPATE EVERY SCENARIO. I MUST MAKE ALL THE FOOD BY SCRATCH. I MUST PROTECT THEM AT EVERY TURN. I MUST DO IT NOW OR THEY WILL SUFFER MORE LATER. I MUST PREVENT THEIR SUFFERING.

3. Are you willing to be real, (What does this mean to you?) and then are you willing to risk being seen for all of who you are?  Are you willing to accept your own imperfections and not project them onto others.  Are you willing to take the time to write about this?  ( ex:  I am angry, but rather than admit this, I will tell you that you are angry.) 

I CANNOT TOLERATE EVEN A WHIFF OF JUDGEMENT ABOUT MY PARENTING. OVER THE YEARS, SOME HAVE BLATENTLY JUDGED. OTHERS HAVE OFFERED JUDGEMENT THINLY VEILED AS “CONCERN” OR “SUGGESTIONS.” OTHERS, STONE COLD SILENCE WHEN I’VE BEEN BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE HONEST ABOUT HOW BAD IT’S BEEN SOMETIMES. AND IT FELT LIKE A BRICK ON MY BACK THAT WOULD SINK ME. IT FELT MEAN. IT FELT WRONG TOO BECAUSE THEY DID NOT LIVE MY LIFE, OR KNOW MY CHILDREN OR KNOW WHAT THEY NEED OR APPRECIATE HOW HARD I AM ALWAYS TRYING.

4. Are you willing to do this as a spiritual practice and devote yourself to “excellence” not perfection?  Without this commitment to go beyond your frustration, without this commitment to go beyond your fear of rejection, your fear of exposure or criticism,  and without this ability to be objective, first with yourself, and then with other, you cannot be present in your heart, and therefore you will not be able to connect and to walk with another in true open heartedness. This is the way of Leadership, and this is the path of intimacy.

I HOPE TO BE ABLE TO HEAR SOMEONE’S CRITICISM. I HOPE TO BE CONFIDENT ENOUGH IN MY PARENTING THAT I CAN LOOK AT ANY CRITICISM CURIOUSLY. WHAT THEY ARE CRITICIZING ABOUT ME IS A FEAR THEY HAVE THEMSELVES ABOUT WHAT THEY DID OR DIDN’T DO OR WHAT THEY MIGHT DO. WHAT THEY THINK THEY KNOW ABOUT ME, IS ONLY PROJECTION. I AM STRONG ENOUGH TO ENDURE ANOTHER’S CRITICISM. IT DOESN’T MAKE IT TRUE. THOUGH IT MIGHT BE. I’M STRONG ENOUGH TO LOOK AT WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, WEIGH IT CAREFULLY AND DECIDE EITHER TO ACCEPT IT AND WORK ON IT OR TO REJECT IT AS INVALID PERCEPTION AND LET IT GO. I DON’T NEED TO LET IT THROW ME AND GET ALL UPSET ABOUT IT. I DON’T NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING.

I DON’T NEED TO BE PERFECT. I AM NOT PERFECT. I DON’T NEED TO BE SEEN AS PERFECT.

I CAN MAKE MISTAKES. I AM FALLIBLE. I AM HUMAN.

I AM VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH PEOPLE NOT LIKING ME. I DON’T HAVE TO BE LIKED. I DON’T HAVE TO BE APPROVED OF. RILEY HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE AT THE ORTHODONTIST RECENTLY, AND I STOOD UP FOR HER, BUT THEN WORRIED THE DOCTOR AND STAFF WOULD BE MAD AT ME. IT ISN’T MY JOB NOT TO RUFFLE ANYONE’S FEATHERS. IT IS MY JOB TO ADVOCATE FOR MY CHILD.

IT ISN’T MY WORK TO MAKE THE WORLD APPROVE OF ME. IT IS MY WORK TO BE ME.

I AM A GOOD MOTHER.

I AM NOT A PERFECT MOTHER. MY CHILDREN WILL SURVIVE MY IMPERFECTIONS.

I AM AN EXCELLENT MOTHER.

I AM NOT A PERFECT MOTHER.

I AM ENOUGH.

 

*If you would like to recieve Barbara’s newsletter aka Love Letters, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.

**The Alden Nowlan quote on my sidebar came to me courtesy of Barbara too!

5 thoughts on “Barbara Azzara,Teaching Excellence Not Perfection

  1. Oooohhhhhhhh get OUT of my head.

    …I heard a dharma talk, and the teaching was to ask/ see when something may be
    “real, but not true.”

    As in, our feelings/fears are real. They are real to us. But are they true? You and I feel we must not be what our parents were, and we fear our children someday thinking we didn’t try hard enough (let’s be honest– that’s the fear), that they will feel like we felt… But it is TRUE that they will feel this way? Is it true that we can be perfect moms? Is it true that if we are not, our kuds will suffer as we did? Our fears are real, but are they true?

    I love you. That’s true.

    🙂

  2. Brave, brave woman. When you put yourself out there like this, you provide an opportunity to your friends/readers to embrace you in all your excellent imperfection. That is when real human connection and spiritual growth occurs. Thank you for offering me this gift. Love.