We went to the sunflowers the other day to take some pictures. We are surrounded by stretching, rolling, breathtaking fields of sunflowers in this area of North Dakota and I wanted to document that somehow. I have this anxious stir inside me to fully capture my favorite parts of life, and our time together here in ND is one of them.
But I also have this thing about me, this drive inside me to always do my best. Call it perfectionism if you will, this drive has helped me achieve top grades, make nice things, and receive the beaming validation I crave deep down. But it has never really satisfied me on the happy side. I often have to give up other things that matter a lot to get it (like my time, my energy, and my goodness it’s stressful.) I’m working on challenging it and letting go, but it’s so engrained in me. It’s taking time.
So the sunflowers. We drove into North Dakota for the first time last year at the peak of the sunflowers. I was in awe, and I couldn’t wait to take pictures of them. Well, moving in took most of our time and energy and by the time I felt settled enough to go anywhere other than the grocery store, the sunflowers were drooping, brown, and dry. I determined that next year I would catch them when they were just right, and get these cute pictures and video of the kids playing in them to remember our time here in this state.
Well it’s sunflower season again. When we got back from Utah, I started thinking about taking those pictures. There were lots of fields to choose from, I almost couldn’t decide which to go to. I wanted to go to the best one. We planned to go a few different days, but things got in the way or I wasn’t up for it. So we decided on a day last week and stuck to it. That was the problem though. I had too much time to think about it and plan it out. Because if I was going to do it, I was going to give it my best effort–simply because I could. That drive really takes over sometimes.
So when the day came, I bathed the kids and laid out their clothes, and even made sure Ava didn’t put her hair up in a ponytail so her hair wouldn’t get kinked. It seems so silly to me now, but at the time I just thought, if I could make the effort, why not?
Then Jake had to stay at work longer than expected, so when he got home we rushed the kids in the car to make it there before the sun went down. Unfortunately perfectionism breeds indecisiveness. I couldn’t even decide which field to go to while we were on our way! We turned around a few times, and tensions mounted as the sun inched its way closer to the horizon. Ava fell asleep after five minutes.Finally we arrived and parked on the side of the road. The grass was a lot taller than it looked from the road, and Ava would NOT walk through it (we’ve warned her so much about ticks in tall grass in the past, and she was not going to risk it.) It didn’t help that Jake mentioned to watch out for snakes as I made my way in. Hyrum fed off her worries, and screamed too. So there I was tromping through the prairie grass with two crying kids clinging to my neck. Somehow this was not what I pictured. I did everything I thought I could to make these pictures the best they could be, but somehow all my worrying and stressing didn’t make it happen.
I brought Ava back to the car, took a few pictures with Hyrum (and did everything we could to distract him and make him happy out there,) and counted it unsuccessful.
We still managed some pretty pictures, but the moments weren’t all that pretty. What I mean is, my high expectations spurred the negativity, the stress, the tension. And frankly, it didn’t turn out to be a moment I really wanted to capture anyway. I’m glad I got some pictures of the beautiful landscape, but that was all. That happens a lot when I let this “thing” get in the way.
Jake goes with the flow. He rarely stresses, worries, or overthinks. So often he reminds me to let it go, let it be, let it happen, and when I do, I feel so at peace, like I’m really overcoming something. Because frankly, this perfectionistic mindset has been driving for a long time. It feels so good to let go, to let things be and enjoy them as they come. Grateful to him for that.
After the shoot I told Jake that I want to try again maybe during the day sometime–that I’ll just take the kids out to a field that doesn’t have such tall grass and get some fun pictures with them happy in it and all. This morning looked like a good day for that, and I thought about it.
But we didn’t. I gave it up. This time I surrendered my perfectionism, and I’m really glad I did. The kids and I went on a little nature walk out on the path behind our backyard instead. We stopped to watch the ants scurry, the butterflies flutter, and the grasshoppers jump into the grass. We listened to the crickets and ran from a bee. We called out to the horses in the pasture, and waited for them to come to us so we could pet their soft noses and feel of their goodness. We passed a pretty green meadow, a rolled up hay bale, and a field of sunflowers. We stopped to admire them, then went on our way.
It was freeing, light, and peaceful. It felt so good to let it go and just enjoy.
While on our walk Ava said to me, “Mom this is a fun walk. I really like this.” And I really did too.
I have this little piece of notebook paper that I keep in my scriptures. I wrote down a number of notes in it while listening to a talk a few years ago. I probably wrote down some of what the speaker said, but mostly thoughts and impressions that came to me, thoughts I believe were divine instruction just for me. I keep it in my scriptures and refer to it often because those words are often just what I need to overcome some of my greatest challenges, some of the things most holding me back from greater things. One of the notes says this,
“Surrender your perfectionism. It’s slowing you down and keeping you from your potential. It’s keeping you from doing things that will make you happy.”
How grateful I am for the Holy Ghost, for His gentle guidance to better things. I still have a ways to go to fully surrender, but I’m trying. Dropping things one at a time. And I’m learning that following these divine impressions really does bring me the most joy. I’m learning that the times I give up my will, I’m more open to His will, and that always makes me happier.
Ether 12:27 “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weakthings become strong unto them.”
Do you take comfort in this scripture? I do. I really do.
I also appreciated this little excerpt from a talk by Neal A. Maxwell, April 1988…
“We are here in mortality, and the only way to go is through; there isn’t any around! Yet our Deliverer assures us: ‘be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours’ (D&C 78:18)…Thus He leads us along, but He desires that during that process we take His yoke upon us in order to learn of Him by our personal experiences. We surely feel the weight of that yoke at times, but the path is clear.
Jesus, our Shepherd, has “marked the path and led the way, And ev’ry point defines” (Hymns, 1985, no. 195). His clearly defined footprints are easy to see. They are pressed distinctly and deeply into the soil of the second estate, deeply and distinctly because of the enormous weight which pressed down upon Him, including the awful burden of all of our individual sins.
Only He could have carried it all.
I thank the Savior personally for bearing all which I added to his [bleeding] at every pore for all of humanity in Gethsemane. I thank Him for bearing what I added to the decibels of His piercing soul-cry atop Calvary…”
I find great comfort in that reminder. Because of His sacrifice for us He can lead us along, and because of His perfect love and mercy, He does. Even in the little things.