Don’t postpone joy.

I don’t remember whether it was for my birthday or for Christmas or some other occasion, but once upon a time a friend of mine gave me a do-it-yourself henna tattoo kit. It was a perfect gift for me, and I was really excited to use it. But I had this notion in my head, that it had to be used at the right time. I looked at the contents once, then put it in a closet, to use when I had an out-of-town friend staying over, maybe, or when I was with someone really dear to me.

The henna tattoo kit stayed in my closet for a long time. I always meant to use it, but somehow the time was never special enough. It wasn’t just something I could do one afternoon because I was bored; this was a present, and ought to be used accordingly. Of course, when I finally did open the package again and test it out – I don’t remember why – the ingredients had degraded, and all I got was a vaguely line-shaped splotch on the back of my hand.

Perfectionism has always been a thing with me, but I never knew the word applied until high school. On the one hand, it makes me incredibly pleased with the work I finish; on the other, it means it takes me a long time to finish just about anything, and even longer to start it. I have an ongoing deal with myself to try and be more satisfied with middle stages and messiness and uncertainty, with not insisting that I choose the timing of every moment of my life. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I try and take it as it comes.

I delay gratification a lot, often for really obscure reasons. Lately I’ve been bribing myself more, to just enjoy things as they come and not soldier on under the promise that someday I’ll deserve something nice for myself. Recently I bought a pair of what are quite possibly the raddest shoes I’ve ever owned, as a birthday present. Just last night I finally cashed in on a new iPod, which I hope will help with my Couch to 5K runs. Last week I attended my first class at StoryStudio, a writing center I’ve been wanting to explore for ages and never quite justified actually doing. (In going through some old emails, I discovered that I’d been on StoryStudio’s mailing list since March 2007, the month I moved back to Chicago. That feels satisfyingly bookend-y, in its way.) The class was on radio essays, and it was an excellent experience on a lot of levels.

My present to myself is feeling like Cab Calloway whenever I want.

This morning on the train, I found myself thinking of the Berenstain Bears. There was a particular book in which Brother and Sister Bear have to knock on the door of a frightening-looking house at the end of a neighborhood street. A witch lives there, or possibly just a mean old woman. Of course, once they do knock on her door, she turns out to be a lovely person who takes them under her wing, and they become friends. I’m not saying that I’m a perfectionist because I’m scared of trying new things, but it is a good reminder that trying new things, and being good to yourself, and not worrying quite so much about whether your experiences will be just as you plan or expect, is a good habit to cultivate.

It’s been a long couple of months since Magpie & Whale was active. A lot has happened, and a lot continues to happen, but nothing has stopped, nor should it. That’s something else I’m working on. Welcome to the flip side, friends. Nice to see you again.

1 thought on “Don’t postpone joy.”

  1. This is so true and I know the feeling. I’ve been so caught up in graduate school that while I do have my small joys, its not the same. Its hard to get over going, I have to do this before I can do this which isn’t fair on yourself and isn’t a happy way to live.

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