There was a time (fine, whatever, most of my life) when I didn’t prepare for things. At all. I didn’t see the point.

Thinking about whatever was approaching was stressful, and the dreaded doom of doom was going to happen anyway. Why bother. Avoidance mouse!

Then there was the period of over-preparing.

About eight years ago, I had the Shiva Nata induced epiphany that I am, in fact, a perfectionist.

This surprised no one, other than myself.

Me: Ohmygod I’m a perfectionist. A perfectionist! How is that even possible.
All my friends: Yawn. Bored. Tell us something we don’t know.
Me: What are you talking about? I have seriously done nothing but sit on a couch and drink beer for the last decade. And you know that, because you were there. You brought the beer! And when I’m not at work behind the bar, I’m sitting at the bar or we’re here.
All my friends: But it was always obvious that you only do nothing because of the paralyzing fear that doing something might involve not getting it right.
Me: I hate you all, you perceptive sons of bitches.

Actually, I called them sons of whores because that’s how you say it in Hebrew. But the rest is pretty much how it happened.

Anyway. They were right.

So I decided to claim it.

I decided that I did want to make stuff happen. I wanted out of this life-run-by-fear experience. To be a full-time writer and yoga and Shiva Nata teacher instead of just thinking about it.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t really know what to do with that, so I figured I had to make peace with the perfectionism.

And proceeded to just over-plan the hell out of everything.

Because hey, perfectionism kind of made sense. Until then it didn’t again.

Then we went back to under-preparing.

Because teaching was so much fun.

And it was always more fun if you had no idea what was going to happen.

The surprises! The exploration! The epiphanies!

It was good, but there was still something missing and the pendulum swung back around.

I’ll spare you the rest of the history of the perfectionism-procrastination roller-coaster and ensuing shivanautical understandings. Fast forwarding to how I do things now.

How I do things now involves lots of prep time, but no planning at all.

What I’m preparing is the situation in which I am most in my me-ness, and least in my stuff.

Messing around with the video game, adjusting my invisible crown, connecting to Slightly Future Me and finding out what I need to feel comfortable in any given interaction.

Yesterday I had two meetings. Another one today. Highly unusual. And, according to the Book of Me, that’s probably too many.

But here’s what I did to intentionally prepare-while-not-preparing.

I didn’t go over what I would say or what I would do if X happened or if Y didn’t happen. Instead, I asked a bunch of questions and then scribbled answers:

1. What does this remind me of?

Am I going into past experiences of meetings or uncomfortable interactions?

Am I accidentally getting triggered into thinking this is going to be like that one traumatic altercation from then? Or like stressful family meetings of doom?

Are there parts of me that are not stuck back then and feeling tense? What do they need?

2. How is now not then?

If I keep getting pulled into that situation or a certain unsuccessful encounter, what’s different now?

What do I know now that I didn’t know then? What accumulated experience, resources and insights are available to me now?

How is my situation now a completely different thing than whatever it is I’m worried about repeating?

3. What qualities do I want to bring to this encounter?

Courage. Love. Sovereignty. Possibility.

And clear, strong, powerful, flexible, loving, healthy boundaries.

And I want to be able to be really present for this, without imagining what might be going on.

Thanks to Hiro for reminding me to ask this question, which is the best question ever, and for the lesson that I don’t have to do anything to embody the qualities I’m asking for other than remember them.

4. What do I want?

Oh! I want help maintaining clear vision. Staying connected to myself.

To stand unapologetically in what I want, without pushing.

To remember that there is a simple solution that is good for everyone involved. Possibly even many solutions.

5. What do we have in common?

Ten things. This is the extremely useful and in-need-of-a-new-name thing that I call the Alignment Exercise.

See: PTSD and Encroachers, both unpleasant and awkward conversations, and phone call dread.

6. And how will this experience help me in the future?

What is now teaching me about next time?

How am I setting things up to be less crappy and more supportive for Future Me?

7. Without having to appreciate this situation, what might be useful about it?

If this is a turning point — which who knows, it could be, theoretically — what is the useful thing that results from me being here in this situation now?

8. What might help this encounter be less agonizing more harmonious?

I can read the letter of reminders that lives in my Teaching Anthology.

I can write a Very Personal Ad to get clearer on what I want.

Even if I’m not clear on the desired outcome, I can recognize the feeling. That’s a start.

So here we are.

It’s definitely a lot of preparing. But it’s a different kind of preparing.

Curiosity-driven, not anxiety-driven. Figuring out what needs to change in my kingdom, and not what needs to change in other people. This is new.

And mostly, the point of this internal preparation time is to support me so when the meeting is over, I’m not analyzing it and second-guessing it to death.

It’s putting in the time beforehand so that the experience itself is smoother.

I like it. Anxious Me gets the comfort of structure without needing to control things. And Screw-it-all Me gets the freedom to allow for surprising possibilities, without the disaster scenario monsters running wild.

And comment zen for today.

Oh, I would love to know if anyone else hangs out on the perfectionism-avoidance rollercoasters.

And ways you’re rewriting or thinking about “preparation” (hmmm, still not loving the word, maybe we need metaphor mouse?), to be supportive and not stressful.

And I would like sparklepoints for having survived a day of meetings unscathed. Sparklepoints! I’ll share!

As always, we all have our stuff and we’re all working on our stuff. No advice, just love.


The Fluent Self