Recovering Perfectionist

Last night, after a fun and successful dress rehearsal for the show I’m in, I dreamed I could fly. It was the most vivid and exhilarating flying dream I can ever remember (and I don’t have a lot of them). It felt great, like I was soaring above it all, having a fantastic time, trusting myself to the air currents and my amazing flying powers.

The kids both stayed overnight at our friend’s house (the awesome one who hosts the homeschool group week after week after week) last night after the Halloween party. So I was a bit relaxed about getting to the homeschool co-op today, especially since it was the end-of-term review and party.

BlackLion and I got on the road by 10am, which is when the event starts. I said to him, knowing that we still needed to stop and get gas, “it’s okay if we’re late, right?” His reply was, “well, you’re usually the one who’s worried about that kind of stuff.” “Oh. Well, I’m okay with it. Right?”

My phone rings. It’s ElvenTiger, calling on her friend’s cell phone from the co-op, and she wants to know where I am, and if I have her baskets (which she made during basket-weaving class). I do have them, but I’m still just leaving. She says they’re about to show them off, and I realize I won’t get there in time. Cringe.

We stop at the store, and while BlackLion pumps the gas, I pull out my planner and take a look, just to make sure I’m on track. Most of my stuff is on our online Google calendar, but I also have a paper planner that I can take along (my ancient cell phone won’t do that stuff. It’s from, like, 2006. Yes, really). I realize that Tuesday was my parents’ wedding anniversary, and I forgot to send them a card, or even wish them a happy day. Even though I did talk with my Mom that day. Cringe again.

“Wow,” I quip, “I’m in trouble with both generations! What a rebel!” Of course, there’s no trouble. I call my Mom, and she’s fine with it. She tells me my brother didn’t call that day, either. “Well,” I tell her, “but he’s the prodigal son, and I’m supposed to be the good one.” Laughing at myself and all the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. And aside from an eye roll, ElvenTiger doesn’t seem to mind that her baskets arrive late, and as they sit on the table all day, they do get lots of admiring comments from other Moms.

As I tell a group of the co-op Moms at lunchtime, when we sit chatting about all sorts of interesting things, I’m a recovering perfectionist. We all commiserate on feeling that way. Many women do. We can get 25 compliments and one mean-sounding comment, and we’ll remember the negative one. Why? We want to fix it all, have our lives be perfect…or at least appear that way to all our acquaintances and colleagues. But that’s what keeps us distant from each other, at times. It’s when we get real, admit our fears and flaws and failures, that we can empathize and really feel for each other. That’s when friendships are made or cemented.

And trying to be perfect is often just a recipe for stress. Face it, no one can be all things to all people, not even (or perhaps especially not) our kids and our parents. That’s why I’ve given up perfectionism. It’s when we let go that we can really soar. I’m now a recovering perfectionist. How about you?

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