What I'm referring to is the way that things are often at their worst just before the pressure lifts and we find calm again. I'm sure many of you can relate to a deadline, loitering in the distance, gradually approaching and finally looming up right in front of us. And if we've left the task to the last moment, we'll probably experience a large amount of stress. So we rush around, plough through the stress, and finally reach the deadline. Hopefully the task will be finished and done well, but either way, the pressure will now be off, there will be a lull after the storm of stress we've just been through. We may have lessons to learn from the experience - to be more organised in the future, that we are capable of things we didn't know we were before. But we also get to have a rest before the next "storm" brews. As with deadlines, so a similar thing happens with emotional challenges. But often with them, we don't understand it in the same way. And also as with deadlines, we tend to have a series of emotional challenges or lessons throughout our lives, as this is the way we learn and grow. So, as this is set to continue, it might be useful if we understood the process a bit better. I started noticing this when I'd have huge periods of stress or feeling very low. Sometimes things would feel at rock bottom. I'd feel down but not know why. And I'd think "here we go again". Then after it had got about as bad as it could get and I'd spent a day in tears, suddenly I'd wake up and feel normal again. And although I was hugely relieved, I'd feel rather confused. I've often thought that it would be far easier if I could just deal with my emotional challenges before they become that stressful, but somehow it doesn't seem to work like that. And I believe this is because we tend to protect our past pain - rather too well. This is quite understandable: if we were hurt badly in our past (and this could have been when we were a very small, vulnerable child) and we've hidden that pain away because it was too difficult to deal with at the time, then it's reasonable that we don't want to revisit it now. Our memories of the pain are always stronger than our memories of the event. That's our protection mechanism. So it can take a lot of discomfort before we access it and release it, which we finally do at the end of the storm. So next time you feel a storm, take consolation from the likelihood that once you've resolved the current emotional challenge, you will find calm again.
I don't think there's a definitive answer to this. Which obviously offends my perfectionist streak? Ever since I was a child I liked the questions that had a right/wrong answer. I excelled at maths and science and failed miserably at English. The thing about maths is that you can get the answer perfectly correct. As I've got older, I've translated that desire for perfection onto other areas of my life; craft projects, employment tasks and more recently my own business. I want it to be perfect or else I don't want to play. I've done a lot of soul searching on this - it all comes from my parents, of course. My father is a complete perfectionist - the type that offers unsolicited advice whenever he sees an area of potential improvement. My mother is an amazing seamstress and her work is actually technically perfect - a hard act to follow. It takes a long while to get things perfect, which is fine if it's a hobby, but I forget how many hours I've wasted wondering to myself if an advert is perfect enough to bring me in clients rather than just sending it off. Now, please believe me when I say, I don't always believe perfectionism is bad. If I was unfortunate to need some kind of surgery, I'd hope that the surgeon was a perfectionist of the highest order, but so often we carry this over to the rest of our lives and put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. I guess the key is to know when it's important and when it's not. It's also important to work with our own nature. It's in my mum's nature to spend a lot of time working on her latest quilt. She loves the process and it pays off with the results she gets. I like producing a finished product, but I get bored if it takes too long, so I'm better sacrificing a bit of quality for the overall enjoyment and the likelihood of finishing it. I am like my father in that I see errors and imperfections in other's work. Having grown up with his negative criticism, I'm now aware of how this feels. So I can either balance it out with positive feedback, or I can just decide that it's not that important and let it go. And it's amazingly liberating to finally realise that in everyday life, "good enough" is often good enough. So having dithered for the last few days as to whether this was a good subject for a blog post, I've gone ahead and written it anyway. You can decide.