Thursday, January 19, 2012

Perfectly Imperfect

A few days ago, I wrote THIS blog about the perception other people might have about me and then today on Momastery, I read THIS.  Pretty "perfect" posting, right?  

My friend Shemika and I have had this conversation more times than I can count.  I have a beautiful home with a loving husband, a gorgeous daughter and a fancy Acadia parked in my garage.  From the outside looking is pretty perfect.

But once you delve beneath the surface things can be a big, fat, ugly evidenced by the past year of my life.  I tried desperately to be the perfect wife, mother, sister, sister-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend and co-worker.  The perfect everything to everyone, all the time.


That word has been my greatest motivator and at the same time, the bane of my existence.  

My strive for perfection has led me to accomplish great and wonderful things.  It has pushed me to become stronger both physically and emotionally.  Through my pursuit of perfection, I graduated college with honors (having nabbed two perfect 4.0 semester GPAs along the way) and then landed a sweet job in the district and school of my choosing directly after graduating.  The idea of perfection helps me to be prepared and one step ahead of any sort of impending catastrophe.

But my goodness.  It sure is exhausting.

There was a time in my life that I put on that perfect persona and tried to fool the world that I wasn't drowning.  That I was absolutely thrilled with being single and living my life by myself.  I went out all the time, wore fabulous clothes and put on a smile - I was the life of the party and played my part well.  But when I came home at night I was a mess.  A hot, drunken, depressed, ridiculously out of control mess.  Because I saw everyone around me getting what I wanted in life (the love, the husband, the white dress and the house) I figured that there was something so inherently wrong with me that there was no way any man would ever love me.  For real.  For every guy I dated I tried to be the perfect girl.........for them.  I tried to mold into what I thought they wanted me to be so that I could find that love and happiness all my friends were experiencing.  But once I let my guard down and shared with them bits and pieces of my true self - they left, they apparently didn't like what they saw.  So I just figured that it couldn't be something wrong with them - that it must be something wrong with me.  I was the one that was unlovable.  My penchant for perfectionism has caused panic attacks, self-doubt and sleepless nights.  Did I say the right thing?  Did I make them mad?  Will a parent email about the game?  What should I have done differently to make everyone else happy?  It was a never ending spiral of shame.  I was holding myself accountable for everyone else's thoughts, emotions, and reactions.  I forgot about the forest of good things that happened during the day and instead focused on that one damn tree - the one thing that might not have been so wonderful.  One word, one phrase, one email would set my brain ablaze for the remainder of the day and evening - I couldn't let things just be, I had to rehash, rethink, replay and beat myself up in the process.

I wasn't perfect.

I used alcohol, shopping and food (or lack thereof) as a way to fill that imperfection.  To make me feel that if I go out and have a great time with my friends, I'll forget about my loneliness.  Or if I have a fabulous wardrobe in my closet then I'll attract the attention of guys at the bar.  Maybe if I'm skinnier that will earn me love - or better yet, if I control my intake of food I can completely control my completely out of control life.

So.....there's that.  Now you're probably thinking - "SHEESH!  I'm dealing with a full fledged crazypants!  Why on Earth am I still reading this woman's blog?  Hell, why is she even writing a blog - shouldn't she be in an in-patient facility somewhere?"  All I can say is - I've come a long, long way.  There are still mountains to climb and obstacles to overcome.  Some days are better and easier than others.

I'm trying to find the balance of perfection.  Where are the areas in my life that perfection can serve me well and in what aspects do I just need to let go of perfection and embrace flaws and chaos.

My house is organized practically perfectly.  There is a place and space for everything and this allows us to know exactly what we have, what we need and provides us with a well functioning home.  It's easy to maintain and when things go a bit askew (as most things in the house do when you have a tenacious 10 month old cruising around) there isn't that much anxiety for me because I know that the imperfection of a messy house is something that can be easily fixed.  Set a timer for twenty minutes and voila - the house is restored to normal order.  I'm also good with Excel.  And Word.  And creating folders on labeled flash drives.  The blue one with the H?  That's for HOME - where I keep all our family photos and the template for Craig's basketball tournament information during the summer.  The pink one with the W?  That's for WORK - it holds all my different Cross Country, PE, Advisory and Volleyball documents and information.  It keeps things at my fingertips where I can always access them at a moments notice.  This is a moderately healthy aspect of perfectionism that serves a certain purpose - to keep my life running smoothly.

But the idea of a being a perfect mother.  That's where I run into trouble.  The reason for my "perfect mother" routine is a good one - I fully understand the importance of the role I have in Natalie's life.  I take my job as her mother incredibly serious and I know that out of all the jobs I have held in my life - this is the most meaningful and crucial.  I know the type of woman that I want to create and I recognize the amount of hard work, effort, dedication and diligence that it's going to take over the next twenty years in order to get to that point.  If ever there was a time in my life where there wasn't any room for failure - it's's raising my child to be assertive, strong, confident, independent, passionate, kind, caring, compassionate, selfless, worldly, grateful, humble, witty,'s quite a job.  I am terrified of making a misstep and screwing her up for life.  I know what you're going to say (at least I know what my own mother will say) "we all screw our kids up in some way - there is no perfect parent."  This is where I roll my eyes.  I know that.  Obviously I'm going to mess up at times.  I just know that Natalie deserves the best and it's my job to ensure that she receives the best possible example of the kind of woman I want her to be.  So I guess in turn, that means that I have to embody all those characteristics I listed above.  Whew.  I've got my work cut out for me.

This past year has taught me a lot, not just about myself, my husband, our marriage and my faith in God, but about JUDGEMENT and being PERFECT.  The majority of mothers are trying the best they can to raise their children to be exactly what I wrote above - even if the methods and philosophy are different from mine, their heart is the same.  Just because a mother doesn't breastfeed or chooses to have a doesn't affect the amount of love and dedication they have to their child.  Other mother's decisions are simply not up for my judgement.  And as far as the perfection goes - it's a work in progress but for the most part I've really tried to let go of the "being everything to everyone" concept and instead tried to focus on just being good enough for two people and one four legged fur baby.

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