Here’s the deal.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist. This should be obvious from the attention I spend on my glorious physique, but actually, I think it might be a secret known only to myself. Certainly, hearing I am a perfectionist will come as a shock to anyone who has ever been my parent/sibling/friend/lover – that is to say, anyone who has ever set foot inside my home and seen the very great yearning that the floor has for the broom.
But it is so: I am a bit of a perfectionist. For a long time, I was the sort of perfectionist who never did anything. You know the type – maybe you are the type – that sort of person who, recognizing that whatever you do cannot possibly be good enough, does not do anything at all. While I seem to have retained that same attitude when it comes to things like cleaning the house or paying the bills, somewhere along the way, against all of my better judgment, I started doing things.
On one hand, that’s good. I go to university, I parent, I have a friend or two, I like to write the odd thing down. But the problem for me, being a perfectionist, is that whatever I do is not enough.
I say something stupid in class (always) and I spend the next three days cringing over it and wondering if I ought to make a public apology.
I get 4.5 out of 5 on a section of a recent midterm and I think, “you loser. You should have got a 5. What a waste.”
I take my kids to hockey and feel ashamed I haven’t signed up for one of the volunteer positions for the team. Heck, I’m not volunteering anywhere at the moment, and I think That Is Wrong.
I complain about politics but don’t run for office myself (and thank god for that, let’s face it).
Whenever I walk into the bathroom, I see that I need to clean the baseboards, but I don’t clean them, and then wonder what is wrong with me, that I have unclean baseboards and don’t actually seem to care.
When it comes to going to school full-time, working in after-school care, working as a research assistant, parenting two children, being a hockey-Mama, writing things down, I sometimes say, “man, I dunno how I do it,” but the secret that I carry is that I am not doing it. I am barely staying afloat, to tell you the truth, and I have papers coming due – you know, big papers, 30% of my grade papers – for which I have yet to even crack a book. I think I should play with my kids more. I’d like to invite more people for dinner. I wish my youngest daughter had more play-dates. I’d like to write her a book she’d actually want to read. I think I should be working out more (that is to say, at all) so that I can do a triathlon with my oldest next summer. I wish I had more money. I worry what my parenting legacy will be (I want it to be something good, like ‘my mama loved me!’ but fear it will be something more like, “my Mum’s a freak”). I think I should know how to fix the dishwasher, because that seems sort of handy, and it would also mean that we actually had a dishwasher that worked, rather than what we have right now, which is a sort of stockpile of dishes beside the sink that I get to in the late evening and pile up, dripping hot sudsy water, on a towel to dry for the morning. I should get the snow tires on the car before the snow comes, but I don’t know how to pay for that, and I think there’s something really wrong with me that I am 37-years-old and unsure if I can afford to put snow tires on the car. Aren’t 37-year-olds supposed to have it all figured out by now? Isn’t it all supposed to be in place?
There’s this tape in my head that is constantly barking at me about all the things that are wrong with me.
Sometimes, I wish it would just stop.
When I was in university the first time around, I don’t remember worrying about any of this stuff. Back then, I was the perfectionist who didn’t do anything, by which I mean to say, of course, that it was hard to get anything done in between all the bong hits. Clearly, I wasn’t suffering over any lack of accomplishment; I was kind of majoring in lack of accomplishment, and I did quite well at that, I think. I wonder how I managed to be like that – with my Fs on my transcripts and all – and still think the only thing that was really important in life was whether I did or did not have a boyfriend. But maybe that’s why I was able to be like that, because that was the only really important thing in my life, and now I have actual important things, like my children, and parents I’m sick of letting down.
I wonder if it’s like this for other people – if you’re so busy that you find out you’re doing nothing you can be proud of, because you’re run so thin you’re only doing about 50% – on a good day – at anything. Then, it’s not exactly as though you’re racking up accomplishments, but rather that you’re just barely functioning at all that you do – so you’re not being a super student, a super parent, a super chef, a super friend, a super writer, a super employee, a super home-maker, a super citizen … you’re just kind of drowning, so slowly you hardly notice.