Urgency and Perfectionism

I’ve written less than ever this year. I’ve been busy with school and therapy, but I’ve also allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good. I’ve been unlearning my writing assumptions and learning how to write more proficiently. More than all that, I’ve been taking many hard lessons in humility. My place in this world is very unclear to me. In the depths of my struggles with depression, anxiety, and codependency, I’ve been using writing as a blunt object to fight against reality. I used to write with urgency, screaming out into the void that so many changes need to happen.

I’ve written a great deal about what has led to my frustration, from injustice and trauma to economic inequality. My personal experiences have deepened both my rage at systemic cruelties and my empathy for those suffering because of them. I’ve often said that escaping my small world of extreme fundamentalism feels like having escaped one cage to find myself in another, larger one. My urgent passion for seeing the world change for the better has not gone away, but my relationship with it has changed a great deal.

Unfortunately, passion is not enough to be effective. Bitterness and anger are ineffective ways to influence anything at all. When someone is traumatized, they are caught in a loop, watching their traumatic experience repeat. We think we are in danger, triggering the urge to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn – referred to as the four Fs. We cannot think clearly when we cannot relax – that is, we cannot find rational, effective solutions until we know we are safe.

This is a complex reality to acknowledge because, well, it’s really hard to convince someone the world is safe when our experience has told us otherwise. The fact is that the world is not totally safe, it only offers a spectrum of safety. Some people are more trustworthy than others, and some situations are more safe than others. Trauma heightens the sense of danger, so that the traumatized are trapped in always thinking about the possibility that something bad could happen, and on edge.

I’m learning how to cope and relax, but it is a difficult journey and it will take more time. Even in this moment, it’s nearly 6 p.m. and I should be letting myself have the evening off so I can wind down, but I have an urge to write. That urgency tells me that I’ll lose this moment of clarity if I don’t write RIGHT NOW.

My influence is not gigantic. I don’t have a massive following or a huge platform. Yet I wake up every day with the weight of the world on my shoulders, pressured to fix its problems with my blunt object. I am undereducated about pretty much everything, piecing words together as well as I know how. My therapist recently reminded me that the problems in the world can’t be my responsibility because I did not create them. My traumatized mind is still caught up in the fear that something bad will happen if I let go of control and relax.

To compound all this, my perfectionism holds me back from writing very often, because I think everything needs to be just right. I need to lower the stakes to not feel immense pressure before I hit “publish” on each blog post. My imagination is full of delusional ideas, like that my writing changes hearts and minds overnight. That I’m going to make massive changes singlehandedly. The thing is, that’s just not how things work. Nobody has that much power, and nobody should, and I certainly don’t.

So I am learning to face reality. That is, it turns out, all acceptance is. It’s not saying things are okay. It’s not saying the world is safe. It’s not approval of the state of the world. It is merely saying, “I acknowledge what is happening.” Accepting reality is extremely difficult, but it’s better than living under the delusion that my hatred for injustice is enough to make it go away. Refusing to acknowledge reality is like picking a fight with a brick wall, armed with a butter knife. I realize now that I have spent many years doing just that.

Telling my story is telling the truth, but writing about it can’t change that it happened. I’ve been fighting without the skill and perception to fight. That is why I’m finally finishing school and learning more about the world, myself, and how to live. I’m learning to live, including to have fun and to relax, as these are vital and necessary parts of life. It’s not all bad, no matter how much my brain fixates on the negative. It’s not all urgent, no matter how much my mind insists that it is. The world improves little by little, not overnight.