My sister has an uncanny ability to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.
She does not waste a lot of time on the what ifs. She pushes forward and deals with problems as they come. It’s not that she thinks everything will always run smoothly and be perfect. She anticipates that there will be obstacles, but she also expects to be able to deal with them.
She faces more challenges in a day than I do in six months, but somehow she keeps her head up and pushes on.
Somehow in the midst of her very busy life, she made time to come and walk with me for a week in the countryside along the border of Scotland and England.
She had absolutely no doubt about whether or not we would be able to walk the 63 miles we had set out to cover on our walk and she did not really train much for it, apart from her regular life of being on her feet all day as a chef and owner of a busy restaurant. Oh and being a runner and participating sporadically in a special form of torture known as CrossFit.
So she was a little taken aback by how wiped out we were by the end of our first day of walking.
“It’s just walking,” she kept saying. “It’s not burpees. It’s just walking.”
Just walking. One foot in front of the other. For a long time.
For five days in a row. And there were some tired moments. There were some blisters. There was being baffled by the senior citizens who were in better shape than we were. There was mud. A lot of mud. There was rain. And there was sun.
There were yellow flowers. And there were endless moors.
But we made it. All the way to the end. To St Cuthbert’s beloved Lindisfarne. To Holy Island.
The day after we finished our journey, we walked to the farthest tip of the island where many fellow pilgrims had built cairns out of the rocks along the shore, a gorgeous mini city of rock towers shining in the sun.
“Let’s make one!” Anna said.
We did not have a lot of time before our taxi was to arrive and sweep us away from the end of our long walk. I was feeling a little sad that it was all about to be over, shooting a few last photos of the island and letting the sunlight warm my face.
But I swung my camera behind me and helped Anna stack a few stones. Our efforts were half-hearted, at best. The first couple of tries fell over completely.
Anna joked, “Let’s just make an ‘A’ in the grass instead. It can stand for Alison, Anna and AMERICA!”
We tried again and got our stones to stay up but the shape was sort of sideways and it was definitely one of the shortest structures of the bunch.
“This is the worst cairn ever.” I said, refusing to take a picture of it.
“No it’s not,” Anna quipped, “The worst one is the one we didn’t make at all.” She snapped a picture on her phone, while I stood there dumbfounded.
If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.
David Foster Wallace
This is the difference between us. Between being a perfectionist and being a get-it-done-girl.
That it doesn’t have to be perfect enables Anna move through life so much more unfettered.
How many things am I satisfied to leave unattempted because if I do it, it might be the worst attempt ever made? And it certainly won’t be the best.
But Anna is right. The worst one is the one I never tried. The rocks that never got off the ground. The walk I didn’t take. The words never written on the page.
The cake that falls apart or that Tiny Oven doesn’t cook in the middle is not the worst cake ever made. The worst one is the one for which I never bothered mixing the dough. The one no one got to taste because it never got made.
Now that the walk is behind us and Anna has gone back to the states, I am so grateful that she came and reminded me how beautiful it is to move forward. In walks and in life.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.
PS. Stay tuned, because next week, I am dedicating every day on the blog to more pictures and stories from our wonderful journey along St Cuthbert’s Way.