Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Newsflash: I'm Not Perfect

Today is a day where I really don't know what to write about.

It's been a busy few weeks for me.  As usual.  I've been reading, working, cleaning, and being as social as possible.   I got a much-needed, wonderful massage.  I even went out last Friday night and played laser tag.  I was shocked, believe me.

I also celebrated my one year anniversary of working at Fish Eye Fun on Saturday!  Appropriately, I was working.  In some ways, I can't believe it's been another year marker in my life.  The markers are getting better, though.  One year of being on a phone plan with my boyfriend (and therefore one year of finally having an iPhone), which hardly seems possible.  And now one year of working at the best job ever.

My first, rainy night of Fish Eye.
One year later, and still not tired of wedding cake. Or really big glasses.

My event was out in Cadet, Missouri.  Don't worry, I'd never heard of it either.  It was over an hour away on a pretty awesome little farm.  I don't particularly mind when I have to drive for events.  I listen to audiobooks.  I get to see places I've never been before.  I get to look up a the end of the night and be amazed by the countless number of stars you can see in the country.  Plus, the drive back helps me wind down enough that I can go to bed almost right away when I get home.

When I was telling my mom about my event, she asked me a question so very typical that I shouldn't have been surprised, but I still was.  She said, "Is this something you really see yourself doing when you're forty?"

I get it.  My mother worries.  She always has.  She always will.  And really, I can't say that I blame her that much.  After all, I've made some pretty horrendous life decisions in the past that she tried to talk me out of.  With my current life decision batting average, I possibly shouldn't be even be trusted to make my own choices anymore.  So it's not surprising that she should be worried about if I have a plan for my life, or worried about the fact that I'm not doing what she thinks I should be doing.

And you know what?  She's right.  I don't have a plan.  I had plans before.  They didn't quite work out.  So now?  I don't have the greatest or most concrete plan for my life.  I'm seeing what happens, and dealing with it when it does.  So far, it's working out better than before.

But the bigger thing is: I like my job.  More than that, I'd even say I love it.  I like the office work portion.  I like the weekend photography portion, even though I might complain about some aspects.  I'm happy and doing something I enjoy for the first time in seven years.  I don't have the angsty first-world-problem, liberal arts degree regret about feeling unfulfilled like I did with any other job I've had.

And even more than that, I love my relationships, romantic and platonic alike.  I have the strongest, most loving and supportive relationships I've had in years, and it's wonderful.

I still feel like it's not good enough.  I'm not good enough.  At least, it seems, not to my mother.

I know she doesn't do it on purpose.  It's not a malicious attempt to make me feel bad.  It's done out of incredible love.  It doesn't make it easier to deal with.

Part of the problem is I'm a perfectionist who hates disappointing people.  I've always felt incredible guilt and regret when I can't do or be what's expected, when I can't control the way I'm seen, when I can't live up to my own standards much less those of anyone else.

Do you know how to control a perfectionist?  It's easy.  Threaten to tell someone else that said perfectionist is, in fact, not perfect.  It's always worked like a charm with me.

As a child, I threw terrible temper tantrums.  I screamed until I was hoarse.  I cried until I couldn't stop crying.  I threw things.  I told my mom she hated me.  But.  I only did this at home.  I never threw a tantrum in public, because I didn't want anyone to know I was bad.  I wanted everyone to think I was perfect.  And all my mom had to do was threaten to tell someone I admired about what I was doing, and I would stop.

Fast forward to a little over a year and a half ago, when my ex and I were separating.  I confessed, crying, that I didn't want anyone to know what had happened.  I didn't want them to judge me, to know my secrets, know that I was living a lie.  And he told me that no one would have to know if I just stayed with him.  I could still be perfect in the eyes of the world.

It almost worked.  The desire for perfection (no matter how false it would be) almost won out over the desire for happiness.  I felt like that child again, choking back my overwhelming emotions so that I could be the good little girl I wanted everyone to think I was.  It was possible, I thought.  I could give up what I really wanted and stay married.  Then I wouldn't be a failure.  I wouldn't be talked about behind my back.  That status quo would be upheld, and I would keep doing what I was expected to do.

(I feel it's no coincidence that it was during this period of indecision that I finally watched Frozen while miserably wrapped in a blanket on my couch after a book club meeting.  I even confess to crying during "Let It Go," because my God, this damn Disney princess was singing about my life.)

Try as I might to "be the good girl you always have to be," even I couldn't hide how unhappy I was, how torn I was about what to do.  So I confessed the truth of my messy, imperfect life to a few of my closest friends.  And I waited for the judgement.

But, amazingly, they didn't judge me.  They didn't look horrified or disappointed.  They told me they loved and supported me, no matter what I'd done and no matter what I decided to do.  Some of them told me about their own messy, imperfect lives.

Sometimes I forget that we are all messy and imperfect, and we all have secrets (maybe those secrets aren't as big as mine were, but secrets nonetheless). I focus instead on the fact that I am imperfect, and that's an all-consuming thought at times.  But we all make choices and decisions that might not have been the best or wisest, but we made them and all we can do is move on and live our lives as best we can.  I can't constantly worry that someone might think less of me for what I've done or not done.  Because then I'll just get caught up in the same web of false perfection, of living my life according to what someone else thinks is right, rather than what I think is right.  I did that.  It was pretty awful.

Not that I'm suddenly cured of my perfectionism or need to please.  Obviously far from it.  My mother still can make me feel like I'm making all the wrong choices, but I've at least come to terms with the fact that my friends are more than aware that I'm not perfect.

But shhh.  Don't tell anyone.

Just kidding.  Mostly.


  1. Ashley, my mother passed over 15 years ago and I still wonder if what I am doing would please her or make her happy or if she would think it was "good enough". She always had some disparaging thing to say about something I was doing. It was hard for me, even though I know she felt like she was saying those things out of love. I realized a year or two after her death that I was still allowing her in some ways to shape my decisions of what I was doing or what I was wearing or... just on and on. My biggest wisdom as a middle aged lady? I finally learned that the person I have to please is myself. I love what I do. Do I think my mom would have approved? Eh... probably not. Do I have a plan if I would decide to stop? Nope. But you know what - I'd figure it out. Would have she liked me bellydancing? Eh... probably not. Would she like the clothes that I wear? Eh... probably not. I loved my mom. Still do. But I live the life that I want now. I congratulate you for doing the same. <3

    1. <3 Everything about this comment. And you and what you do.

  2. First of all, you kick ass at lazer tag, if memory serves. In heels!

    Second, my mother is still the bane of my existence, at 43. "Malcolm, I don't see how we could disagree on (insert my mistakenly wrong opinion or decision here)."

    Really? I'm still an extension of you at this stage of my life? Really?

    I'm gonna have to agree with Carrie. Keep doing what you need to do, even if it makes no sense to your mom. She lives her life in her way, you live your life in yours, and everyone will hopefully be happy one day.

    If not, maybe you can continue to be happy now, and, really, that's the place to start.

  3. You're not perfect?????? What????? Well, there goes my whole belief system. ;-)

    But I get it. I think that's why I stayed in ministry for so long. I wanted to be the perfect girl everyone wanted me to be. But that's not me. Coincidentally, I also cried during frozen to let it go because, yeah. That was me too.

    Here's to not having a plan and not being the good girl you always had to be!