In a previous post, I uncovered five surefire ways to make yourself nuts. This week, I delve further within to reveal . . . no, don’t run screaming from the screen just yet; there is something I must tell you.

Being your typical human, I regard the world and everybody in it from a point of self-reference, which leads me to suspect that my flaws are not unique to me. So perhaps you will resonate with the following confession:

I take myself seriously.

Not all the time, but often. There are clear symptoms when I fall into this error, symptoms observable to others though less obvious to myself. I become frenetic, or frustrated, or fearful, or any combination thereof. My shoulders ascend toward my ears; my brows draw toward my tightly-compressed mouth as I become ever more busy and preoccupied. My goals, so earnestly set, recede from my grasp the harder I reach for them, so I reach harder. The tasks I’ve set for myself loom in oppressive importance in direct relation to my lack of progress toward completion, so I work harder. And while I’m failing to catch up with it, the world spins toward calamity.

I never said I was perfect. The trouble arises when I forget that I’m not supposed to be. Setting goals and having standards is all well and good, but perhaps you, like me, have a tendency to impose crushing goals and nosebleed-high standards on yourself in a way that you would never do for a friend or loved one. This explains how I wind up in self-improvement campaigns that don’t align with my aptitude, personality or schedule.


It’s a waste of time and energy, but the real problem is that when I try too hard, I miss stuff. It’s as though I’m on a relentless search for a tulip in the middle of a rose garden. All I can see is the lack of a tulip, not the gorgeous blooms that surround me.

There are things in life that deserve to be taken seriously; don’t get me wrong. Doing good work, enjoying friends, living with joy and generosity, facing tough times with resolve and hope . . . these are worthy pursuits. All of them are a lot less likely when I’m blinded by self-importance.


Luckily, before long I do something so ridiculous that even I can’t pretend I meant to do that. Or a good friend or my beloved husband or, often, my dog Molly will find a way to remind me that it’s high time to lighten up. When this happens, it’s often hilarious and always humbling.

Molly takes lightheartedness seriously.

I don’t know why it is that I keep having to learn this lesson over and over, but I guess that’s just part of my personal curriculum here in Earth School. Eventually, after many contusions to my ego, I will eventually get it straight that life is much richer when I loosen up about it. Things have a way of working out, ideas arise spontaneously, and problems have a way of solving themselves. I am so not in charge.


Which is a darn good thing, as well as a vast relief. Somebody else can command the tides to go in and out; I’m going to take the day off and have a little fun.

What do you do to maintain perspective? Your comments make my day. Seriously.




  1. I had to laugh when I read your “The world is a mess…” graphic. That is what I think most of the time. If only everyone would listen to ME, they would be so much happier. I need to be in charge. Of everything. If I knew how to change, I would tell you, but I don’t. I am just so often right! 😉

  2. To paraphrase a bumper sticker once seen by Anne Lamott: “Only one 7.6 billionth of this is about you.”

  3. You’re posting this and I’m reading it at a time when I need it most. I’ve been despairing over my fencing game because of factors I can’t control, to the point that I lost track of both the stuff I CAN control and why it’s supposed to be fun.

    I need to learn to have no expectations while open to pleasant surprises.

    • I’m glad it resonated with you, and can I just say I admire anyone who takes up fencing — I’ve done a little of it, and it’s like whole-body chess designed by a demonic Cross Fit trainer. But it IS fun . . . of course, I never got beyond the initial look-at-me-swashbuckling stage, so there’s that.

      May all your surprises be pleasant ones!

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