My Big, Wide Road

One of my favorite writers in all the momblog world is here today, visiting from her AWESOME blog, A Teachable Mom!  I just love how she writes, and I always find myself nodding and wanting to meet her for coffee after I read every one of her posts.  So many amazing posts are written over there like this one:  Mary will be your new best friend…promise.

My Big, Wide Road

Do you ever find yourself obsessing over decisions, turning seemingly small choices into life-altering ones? Does the entire future of your existence ever rest on choosing the right summer camp for your kids or picking the perfect nail polish color for your not-often-enough pedicure? No? Just me? Apparently all of you have actually learned not to sweat the small stuff? Miraculous!

As a recovering perfectionist, I often believe life involves making “right” decisions and that my job is to use all my brain power to figure out that one right way. While my intellect rejects this idea, my muscle memory doesn’t always get the memo. At times I long for the illusion of security that would come from never making mistakes, never pissing off or disappointing people I love and always making spot-on decisions.

Obsessing about doing “it” right sucks the life right out of me. And I can fill in the “it” blank with anything and everything:   parenting, being a spouse/mom/daughter/sister/friend, writing, pursuing my dreams, brushing my teeth. In my lovely mind, there’s even a right way to “let go.”  And I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not doing that right!

Yesterday, at the suggestion of a friend, I tried an experiment. I committed to making all wrong choices for an entire afternoon. Whaaatt? (Yes, I do indeed have some crazy creative friends!)

Here’s my friend’s strategy:  By committing to doing everything wrong, I free myself up to do what I actually want and what I would enjoy. For example, if writing for 30 minutes isn’t going to be good enough, I may as well only write for as long as I want to. If I am going to tell myself whatever I choose is wrong anyway, I may as well have fun!

I had the best afternoon! I made the following wrong choices:

  • Exercised for 30 minutes (Right choice:  an hour)
  • Yelled at our daughters for leaving their coats on the floor (Right choice:  no yelling; loving at all times)
  • Let the girls watch one hour of TV while I wrote (Right choice:  no TV on a school nights)
  • Wrote a blog post before playing “Polly Pockets” with our girls (Right choice:  kids come first)
  • Threw away four plastic grocery bags (Right choice:  hello! Recycling!)
  • Returned two phone calls from friends (Right choice:  return each and every one, damn it!)
  • Made sandwiches and popcorn for dinner (Right choice:  cook the chicken I defrosted and the broccoli that was about to go bad)
  • Watched reruns of Sex & the City before bed (Right choice:  have sex with my husband or read/comment on the four thousand blogs I’ve subscribed to)

While I wish I had chosen sex (and recycling!), this experiment helped me see that my decisions are fine, but my perfectionism is still alive and well. My thinking doesn’t always match the person I want to be and the life I want to live today.

I want to remember that my life isn’t a tightrope to carefully navigate with perfectly-spaced steps, but a big, wide road to skip down and enjoy. (Trust me, if tightrope walking was a viable career choice for me, I’d be queen of the circus. Fortunately, my skipping skills are slowly improving!)

On my big, wide road, there’s room for all of me – wise, mature and careful me and hot-headed, silly and impulsive me. On my expansive road, I trust the universe and believe I deserve to live an abundant, heartbreakingly beautiful life full of passion and sorrow, anger and joy.


And there’s room enough on my road for all of us – enough recognition, light, love and attention. And money, too! Definitely enough money for all.

On my tightrope, I’m small and clenched. There’s only room for me and my tiny, controlled steps. I’m easily thrown off balance whenever anyone else takes a step or gets on or off the tightrope. And the pressure? Forget about it! The pressure I put on myself paralyzes me; makes me unwilling to take risks toward a fulfilling, abundant life.


While I’m predisposed to tightrope walking, I’m slowly learning to breathe more fully, let go more often and skip with gusto. Trust for me means believing I am an amazing, worthy child of God on a gentle, forgiving road whose challenge is to imperfectly love myself and those around me. When I lead with trust, my life touches others in mutual admiration and support. And I get to skip! What could be better?

Jumping off my beloved tightrope into the open, snuggly arms of my God requires a leap of faith. I’m leaping.

Wanna join me?

When not high wire walking or checking off her “to do” list (often at the same time), Mary Nelligan can be found blogging at about the messy ups and downs of growing up with her two best teachers, daughters Ava (9) and Rhys (4).  Make her day and follow her on Twitter at @ateachablemom and on Facebook at “A Teachable Mom.”

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  1. says

    Chris, you are an angel! Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog today. I’m honored to be here and can’t wait to meet you for coffee one of these days – maybe we can meet halfway? xo

  2. Alyson says

    I firmly believe you don’t have to get it right all the time. Good enough is good enough. For you. Could it be good enough for me, too? Thanks for a beautiful & powerful reminder…and as a bonus I can skimp on tomorrow’s workout. Or maybe Sunday. Or maybe both??! Crazy! Cheers to a great weekend ahead and accepting the cards as they fall

  3. says

    Love your tight rope/open road analogy. There’s room for us all! BTW – many of your wrong choices look like my everyday choices. Rather than bash myself I’ll just say that there’s room for all of us on this road of life!

  4. says

    Mary, about those tightropes – I think in another time and place, you and I could have run off to the circus together, but I’d rather hike down that wide road with you – or perhaps a wide, sandy beach for that matter? Just a personal preference. Anyway, I would love to leap with you! Or go anywhere with you for that matter! xxxooo

  5. says

    Love this post – As a recovering perfectionist, I can so relate to so much. The image of walking along the tightrope is so spot on. By focusing on being perfect, we clench ourselves up so small and tight that we are unable to experience anything else around us. And yes, there IS room for all of us on that big open road.

  6. says

    Uhm. Wow. All the wrong choices you made yesterday? I do on a daily basis. What does that say about me?! OH WAIT! I made one right choice today… made my 9YO stay at school when she begged me to come home early. Of course, I had to break down her wall(tears and all) to find out what was bugging her so much but we did it AND she stayed at school 🙂

    • says

      Wow, that’s a big one. I’m thinking I’ll outsource those situations with my kids to you since you do them so well! Doesn’t matter what other decisions you made today, that one earns you a mom of the year award in my book! Well done!

  7. says

    Wow! What a great way to describe that feeling of pressure and stress…walking a tightrope. It is like that! I laughed out loud at the last thing you did that was wrong instead of right. So funny. I need to find me a wide open road and let go of all this tension.

  8. says

    i love your wrong day!! but why didn’t you add two scoops of ice cream in? that would have made it perfect. even without the sex and recycling, i still think it was a perfect day, because you can’t do everything right every day, and sometimes doing the wrong things or the easy things are okay… even better than okay, they’re what you needed to do for you. remember… good enough and smile. 😉

  9. says

    Fantastic post. I am perfectionist by nature and it’s taken me a LONG time to overcome it–especially with parenting. (Sometimes I do better than others) I love how you described that feeling of being on the tightrope. So perfect. –Lisa

  10. says

    I loved your analogy. This piece really spoke to me. Thank you. I’m going to take your creative advice and try doing all the wrong things for the right reasons, too. Have a lovely day!

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