Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Managing Expectations

I am so damned hard on myself. Harder than any abuser in my past has been. Inside my head, I expect myself to do everything, well...perfectly. Except I wouldn't consider myself a perfectionist. Duh!

Here's the deal. I sing with a trio--we take our little act and go to retirement communities and sing for folks who can't get out any more. Music makes them happy. Music makes me happy. I've been singing since I could talk. When the shouting between my parents became unbearable, I'd go to my room, close the door, sit on the floor and play my 45's, singing along with Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Crystal Gayle, The Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, Elvis, and so much more.

But I'm not a professional singer. Never wanted to be. Never intended to be. That means sometimes I go off key. Sometimes my voice cracks. The audience doesn't seem to care. They love us. Keep asking us to come back. While I'm singing, I'm ecstatic. It's when I watch the video we've asked my hubby to make, to use as a learning tool, where my problem starts. I only see what's wrong with my performance, not what's right.

So I have to ask myself, what are my expectations regarding singing? In the deep, dark recesses of my mind, am I expecting to be discovered and become another Susan Boyle? Truth is, there is a little girl inside who is craving that kind of attention. She wants to be praised and adored and told how wonderful she is. But the adult me knows better.

My former teacher told me I didn't belong in the group I was in. Perhaps she was right. She wanted a professional group. And that's definitely not me. I need to keep honing my craft, taking lessons, improving my technique. But an old slogan, Progress, not Perfection, is what I need to remember. And like the character in "Some Like it Hot" said at the end of the movie, "Nobody's perfect."

The same goes for my writing. I've been avoiding the attempt to write fiction because I've never done it. My expectation is that I should be able to do it very well or I shouldn't do it at all. Nope. Not gonna happen if that's the way I'm thinking. Instead, I'm telling myself I just need to try. Have fun with it. Even if it's terrible, the experience of writing it will be well worth it.

So how about you? Are your expectations of yourself realistic? How do your expectations get you in trouble?


Joanne said...

You've mentioned recently a resistance to beginning your novel. How about bringing your singing to the manuscript? Infuse a character with your love of the art, bring the senior communities into the story, let your love for singing inform your words?

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Your post reminded me of all my bad qualities: perfection, controlling, dominating, not feeling worthy, competitive, wanting to be like or better than everyone else, etc. I know that all that is self destructive. But I am learning that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made" and God doesn't make junk and that as with others, I am special with my own gifts. I pray that my life experiences and my gift of writing will honor Him first and maybe be a blessing to someone else along the writing journey.

I love reading your posts and getting to know you better. I can feel the spirit connection between us. Your journey lifts me up and encourages me to be more than I ever thought I could be.

Praise God for all the wonderful Godly sisterhood of writers out there!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Aim for excellence not perfection, Karen! That is all we can strive to achieve.

Cyndi said...

I hear ya on this one. I gave up singing completely even though I love it, because I'm not good enough to sing professionally. It literally never occurred to me until I read this post that I could still sing in some other venue or group. Hmmmm... I too beat the crap out of myself all the time about pretty much everything. I have to constantly stop myself and remind myself of reality. It's exhausting isn't it??! But, it is less so than hanging on to the feelings of worthlessness. It definitely is a process. Great post!

Marvin D Wilson said...

I aim high, but I always advise people (including myself) to take small steps at a time out of the comfort zone, continuously pushing the envelope, but not so hard you get slammed and fall back into a smaller comfort zone than before out of fear.

The Old Silly

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

The little critical voice is always there, but I've learned to tune it out. I just don't listen to it...most of the time. Every once in a while I do and it really, really messes me up. If I find myself going off in a self-critical direction, I try to just nip it in the bud.

Enjoy your fiction writing! I think you'll have fun with it. It's great to pretend.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

It's great to pretend. It's great to pretend. Ooh, that is going to be my writing mantra for this piece. Thank you all, so much. A special thanks to Elizabeth, for this quote.

Helen Ginger said...

Sometimes it's easier to criticize yourself than to accept yourself. That doesn't mean that by accepting yourself you have to settle for less than you can be. With your questioning and analyzing, you're working toward being all you can be and trying out new concepts, ideas, and goals.

Straight From Hel

Suzyhayze said...

I'm a doom prophet/hypochondriac. My expectations are always LOW. That doesn't mean I don't swim like hell... It just means I don't expect to get anywhere. And I am okay with that. As long as it burns calories......

Jody Hedlund said...

Like anything new, you won't know how well you can do until you try it! And then maybe you'll find that this kind of writing really brings you joy! And perhaps then you'll decide you want to pursue it further. But you won't know until you give it a shot!

Crystal Clear Proofing said...

I am a perfectionist. But in certain areas of my life, I (feel as though I)have to be. A proofreader or editor has to be as close to perfect as they can be, (don't they)?

In reality, we are not perfect. This is something that I work on continually. I do the best I can do, and hand the rest over. It takes practice and I don't always succeed in accepting less the perfection. But I keep trying...

Stephen Tremp said...

I have high expectations for myself, but I'm not afraid to stumble and fall in the mud along the way. Life gets messy. I'm concerned with the end result, not so much on how I look along the way.

Stephen Tremp

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I think having high expectations are a part of human nature; realistic expectations are much harder to achieve. Do what gives you joy. Singing seems to give you joy; so do it! If you discover writing fiction gives you a similar feeling, then continue on!


Tabitha Bird said...

Expectations are slippery things for sure. I think they are good to have and good to get to know. They tell us what we want and need, not always what we thought either :)

My email is tab[at]zaeya[dot]com