Perfect. Perfection. Perfectionism. Perfectionist. What do these words conjure up in your head? For me, it is mainly peoples’ faces, going waaay back to First Grade. The “perfect” work was the only student work hung on the bulletin board, and it was almost always the same three kids receiving the honors. I wanted to rip their papers to shreds because my content was awesome, but my coloring, notsomuch. Isn’t it crazy that I can remember not feeling “perfect” enough at the age of six?! I can still see jaded Little Chelsea, “Well damn, guess my mom has to do my work for me too so it can get on the board!” I hated “perfect”. It pissed me off because it just felt so concocted, even from that early age I strongly associated perfection with being fake. And yet, I strived for it in every area of my life, every damn day. I wanted to be an elite, one of the untouchables; followed and admired by all. One of the Perfects.
So I am not going to drudge you through my entire timeline of perfection, that would definitely be a novella, albeit an interesting one, rather I want to jump straight to the recent past and how my quest ended up being nothing short of exhausting, deflating, and a serious waste of days (also how it took me almost 30 years to finally figure that out).
My latest adventure in life has been becoming a mom. I shared awhile back that I was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder about six months after Andy was born. I seriously could not get my shit together no matter how hard I tried. But guess what, if you didn’t know, you never would have because I kept up that persona of perfection until I damn near went nuts. I was not ok some days. I resigned from teaching. I was still chubby a year after Andy was born. I ate a lot of McDonald’s those first six months, and it was glorious. I didn’t connect to Andy until he was a few months old. He didn’t do enough Tummy Time every day. And the list could go on and on and on, but you get my point. I had literally worn myself down to the point of tears and anxiety because I failed at being perfect in my eyes (keep in mind not a single person ever said anything negative to me). Then, a pivotal moment with my perfection demon came back in December at a place where magic moments always happen…Target.
Andy and I were in the holiday decor section, we were strolling around picking out his yearly ornament (that’s the best, amiright?!). I was holding up animals, colorful shapes to all of which he replied, “No!” I am looking over at the next display when I hear, “Fries!” Sweet Jesus. My year and a half old son just correctly identified an ornament that looked like a box of fries from McD’s. I seriously just stood there, then started laughing ridiculously loud. I knew that moment came straight from my HP as a way of saying, “Yo, chill the eff out. You make things way too hard on yourself. Ease up, crazypants.” So of course I grabbed the red fry box off the tree display and gave it to him, after which he immediately proceeded to stick the felt fries to his mouth and pantomimed eating them *insert face palm emoji here*. I knew I had a choice in that moment: continue on chasing “perfect” (read: phony and drained) or accept that sometimes, yep, my kid eats fries and guess what, we’re still all in one piece.
I then started to share more the actual realness of my life. That some days Andy does indeed eat breakfast with the cats, some weeks my floors do not get wiped down until a weird smell starts filling the air (same goes for my hair), and that, yes, when we occasionally go through the McD’s drive-thru (got that under control at least) he excitedly screams, “Fries!” from the back seat. This goes for real life and on social media. I post lots of cute pics, but I also post Andy eating said cat breakfast, or getting his second fat lip of the day, or me having carpet cleaners over and not realizing until they’ve left that I had stark white Purify mask on my zit. I also know that Andy will drink a damn juice box at a birthday party, that some days he probably watches waaay too much Daniel Tiger, and that I have indeed gotten short with him some days if I am too tired, or hungry, or distracted worrying about my brother (have to remember to put me first). But I know accepting things and loosening up my control (perception of perfection) has been beyond beneficial for everyone in my house. I don’t feel obligated to something so unattainable anymore (seriously what is perfection anyway?!) and I am not setting myself up for failure and self-disappointment which triggers that entire cycle of anxiety and depression allll over again. It was no way for me to continue living and I had been doing it for almost 30 years without ever really realizing it. It was such a freeing change for me.
I love the slogan, “Progress not Perfection.” I heard that in Al-Anon from day one and use it almost every day. And who knows, maybe those kids in First Grade had to sit at their kitchen table and color those pages while they were yelled at by their parents, while I rode my bike carefree around the neighborhood with my friends. It’s all about perception and priorities and the end of my day. The great part is I get to choose if I want to put on a bogus production daily so people will think I am amazing and want to be me, or I can be relaxed and real. And just freaking be. Love me for who I am and not really give a hoot about what anyone thinks about me or the things I do. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days when I feel less than spectacular and it is tempting to beat myself up or let that little voice say, “You suck.” But I look at how far I’ve come and remember that to Andy and Dan (and my pets lol) I am more than enough even on my shittiest of days. Becoming a parent has been such a gift in so many painfully beautiful ways. Andy is one of the best teachers I have ever had and I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for me.
-Be Good, Do Good