My life in six words.

Several years ago, I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR as usual while I got ready for work. I was still in my blue fleece robe, nursing my second cup of coffee and putting on make-up, when I heard a story about a six-word memoir project.

Huh?  I thought,  That’s nuts.  How can anyone write a memoir in six words?

I had started writing a conventional memoir years before, and I knew six words wasn’t even the tip of the pencil point.

I applied a couple more swipes of mascara, then stopped, my hand paused mid-air.  Listening.  My mind drifted away from the radio voices. I looked up at the ceiling as I do when I need to think. Memories and words flashed in my mind and then faded, like fireflies.

Nope.  No way could I sum up my life in six words, I thought, tuning back in to NPR and the mirror.

But as I finished my makeup and my coffee, I couldn’t let go of the idea. Getting dressed, taming my hair, slipping on shoes, I mulled it over. The fireflies were too distracting, new ones popping up just when I thought they were quiet.

And then suddenly, I had it. Before I even clasped my watch or spritzed on perfume, the fireflies spelled out the answer. I was surprised how quickly they came together.

Looking in the mirror for my final inspection before I walked out the door, I nodded approvingly at the wisdom of these six words:

Sought perfection.  Achieved authenticity.  Much better.

The funny thing is, I probably don’t even have to explain it to you, and you kinda get it.

But in case my six-word memoir needs some explanation, let me try to explain succinctly, in keeping with the theme of brevity:

For much of my life, I felt I could not be really happy until everything was perfect – my weight, my hair, my marriage, my organized kitchen cupboards, my…  OK, you get my drift. I won’t try to explain why or when this crusade began. And I’m not sure I know the answer anyway.

What matters is that when I gave up the fruitless quest to be perfect, I achieved something even better. By embracing my imperfections and flaws, I became the most me.

It hasn’t been easy. My flaws include some characteristics that I detest. I am mortified and deeply humbled by them. But in owning the worst of me, I become authentically who I am meant to be. And true growth lies in that space.

I’m a work in progress. Perfection still woos me, drawing me back to the mirror one last time to smooth my hair, keeping me quiet when I’m not sure of an answer, beating me up about a mistake. But its grip is loosening more every day. What a relief.

Authenticity is so much easier than perfection, and yet it’s my greatest achievement.

What about you? Do you have a six-word life story in you? Will you share it here?

This project originated with Smith Magazine, an online story-telling community. You can read more about it here:

Not even remotely in control.

I wake up feeling refreshed, so I practically jump out of bed when Michael’s alarm goes off.  I have big plans for the day – Christmas decorating, a little baking, starting my shopping.

As soon as Michael leaves for work, I go into the living room to turn on the stereo.  Since we got our new receiver, I’ve kept it tuned to NPR, but now Michael’s favorite blues station comes on.

I hunt down my glasses, get on my knees and peer at the receiver.  WTF!?  There’s no tuning button.  There’s no volume button either.   “What the hell good is a receiver with no volume or tuning button?,” I ask the receiver.    I look at the remote in my hand and punch just about every button I see- arrows, double arrows, plus and minus buttons, but nothing changes.   F***!!   Then I pick up each of the other six remotes and try all those buttons.  F***!! 

(To help you understand the extent of my frustration, I would write out each “F” word I yell, but I can’t ‘cause I try to keep this blog to under 600 words.)

I call Michael, who is driving to work.  His BlueTooth doesn’t pick up, so he has to pull over. I feel bad that I’m interrupting his commute; he’s our only bread winner right now, so my listening to the radio is not nearly as important as him getting to work safely and on time.

But still … I want NPR.  I’m stuck at home a lot these days, and I need NPR’s company.

I start yelling to Michael … OK – yelling at him, but I’m laughing, too, because I know I’m completely overreacting.


Michael starts laughing, too. Then he calmly tells me where to find the tuning button on the small remote.  He emphasizes small.  “Which of the three small remotes is that, exactly?,” I ask, only a little sarcastically.  Turns out it’s the one in my hand, which by the way, has a clearly marked tuning button which I swear was not there before.  I hit it and magically, the station changes.

I thank Michael and quickly get off the phone so he can get to work.  Later, I sheepishly text an apology.  Then I apologize again in person when he gets home.

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century, as far as technology goes anyways.  The next time I can’t figure out the remote, (because I assure you, and Michael would assure you, that it will happen again), I’ll just pretend I was born in another century, and hum some Christmas carols.

But as a back-up, I add this to my Christmas list:

Small, portable radio, preferably with ability to preset stations, to keep in the kitchen SO I DON’T HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHICH OF THE 7 REMOTES WORKS THE STEREO RADIO RECEIVER THAT DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A TUNING OR VOLUME BUTTON.

Because that might help me feel remotely in control.