Wednesday, December 21, 2005

JK: The Season of Lowering our Standard

It could be the fog that rolls in along the Columbia River Basin where we live or it could be the temperature hovering around freezing each day or it could be that this is the month that my sister died eight years ago and she’s been on my mind. But I suspect it’s the passage, the nearing of the end of the year. My SAD light gets turned on more often and I try not to abuse myself with negative thoughts like “you’ll never have a NY Times bestseller you know,” or “you’ll always have to work this hard, even when you’re really, really old because if your ship does come in it’ll be investigated and the cargo likely marked ‘return to sender’ as the recipient is too decrepit to receive it.”

I call my friends more often (to be sure I still have them) and discover that they’re struggling with the same sort of emotional fog too. We compare ourselves to those we admire instead of finding qualities in those we admire that we have inside of us too. We regret all we haven’t accomplished only to discover that those we think have accomplished so much seem to lament their level of inactivity too.

Then we note that we’ve stopped doing the things that made our lives richer. My morning devotional time gets cut short so I can sign those Christmas cards. My exercise program seems waisted (or rather wasted) when I’m consuming holiday confections so I don’t do it. And the rush I always get from writing, well I’ve told myself I don’t deserve it and the former guilt I got from reading when I should be writing, well, that guilt comes back up like an overindulgent burp.

What to do? Lower my standard, bring down the flag that I push so hard towards and always feel I fall short in achieving. Poet William Stafford once noted that when feeling inadequate one should “lower the standard.” When I first read that advice it felt like he suggested giving in. It suggested the standard of a failure.

Today, lowering my standard is a reminder that perfection doesn’t mean “without error” it means “completion.” I suspect many a manuscript does not get sent in because the standard is a high one rather than a completed one.

I completed this piece despite the freezing fog, the waiting Christmas cards, and the memory of my sister’s shortened life. Today the standard is to savor the life I have.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s eleventh historical novel, A Land of Sheltered Promise, is available through WaterBrook Press. www.jkbooks.com

3 Comments:

At 8:12 AM, Blogger Dianne said...

Wow, thanks for the good thoughts today. Blessings to you this month.

 
At 9:56 AM, Blogger Patty said...

Such a well-timed post, Jane, here on the cusp of the New Year. I think you are hitting all of our hot buttons this time of year. We toil and do not give up, we spur one another on to His good works, we do not lay down the plow. Be banished, self doubts! Christ is still on the throne!

 
At 11:49 PM, Anonymous BJ said...

Timely post, Jane, and one with which most of us can probably identify.

May Christmas and the New Year bring you many blessings.

BJ

 

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