This month’s theme is Perfectionism.
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. When I told J, we laughed about him not even noticing me crawling over him to get out of the wrong side of the bed. It felt good to laugh.
I’m now writing outside, instead of at my desk, trying to see if a change of scenery will get the words flowing. It’s so quiet, I can hear the whooshing flap of birds’ wings when they fly overhead. I can smell the sharp and sweet jasmine we coaxed out of dormancy and now crawls up our fence.
I don’t feel depressed, not exactly. I feel somewhat helpless. Overwhelmed. Exhausted.
When I’m feeling helpless and overwhelmed and tired, it comes with a sense of being unable to be in control. Everything in the world is swirling—it always is, but there’s a big ol’ spotlight on it right now.
Today, I was immediately greeted with the fact that I cannot control how I feel when I wake up. I can do as much as I can, I can take care of myself and follow my checklist and not overextend myself and go to therapy and take my meds. One of the trickiest lessons is accepting that I can do all of these things and I still might wake up one morning grumpy and tired and unmotivated to do those things or feel the energy to want to do any of those things.
It’s tricky because my perfectionism looks down from its omnipresent vantage point and tries to tell me that I’m feeling this way because I didn’t do something right. It doesn’t believe that feeling bad, in whatever way that means—sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes anxious, sometimes overwhelmed and tired—is a natural part of the human condition and that it’s normal to have swings.
It also forgets that these swings have a beginning and an end that I can’t always predict or control. Instead, the perfectionism believes that control is possible. It chases this mirage of control, and every time it gets close and grabs for it, it shimmers and disappears.
No, it doesn’t disappear. That would perhaps be a better lesson. Instead, it’s the gold at the end of the rainbow, which keeps moving the closer you get. It seems like an actual place, where you can go and be bathed in rainbow light and claim its treasure. My perfectionism assures me that if I just keep trying, I’ll get to the end.
Perfectionism is a pretty nasty navigator. Even though it is the one guiding and giving directions, it yells at me for being stupid and wrong if we get lost, even if I’m only taking the turns it’s telling me to. It’s my fault if we don’t reach our destination. At first, I try and try to be perfect, to keep moving on, but at some point, I freeze. I stop the car. I can’t seem to motivate to continue. And then, instead of soothing me, the perfectionism becomes even nastier. “What’s wrong with you, you can’t even drive? Other people are able to drive. Why can’t you just drive?”
The thing is, it’s not really perfectionism’s fault, either, other than the fact that it refuses to believe its map is faulty. There is no real destination, there is no route to control to get there. We have both been trained by experience and internalization and biology that this place of control exists. We even have been duped into thinking we’ve had it in the past.
I don’t know how to fully let go of this illusion of control. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps perfectionism will always be in the passenger seat, nose buried in the map. Maybe, then, the trick is to slow down, roll down the windows and stick out my arm, and say, “Look up, you’re missing the beautiful view outside.”
How does perfectionism affect your life? How do you embrace imperfectionism? Comment below or on my Facebook page.
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