The chase of perfection

becca-and-scrappyLast week I discussed the quest for perfection. Now I had intended to answer some of my own questions about this subject and reflect on how much I have improved in this area of my life. But then came the past seven days and suddenly I am looking at this insatiable need in me and I am beginning to understand it just a little more clearly.

I am a mother to two fantastic daughters. One is in her first year of college and the other is getting married in a few short weeks. The wedding is a big deal; out of town guests, showers, many hours planning and making bouquets and center pieces, stretching dollars till they break and so much more. In the middle of this chaos I also have two dogs whom I love. One is aging much quicker than I want and another who is my youngest daughter’s best buddy has been sick off and on the past few years but there is a surgery to fix the problem and he should be all better…or so we thought.

Last week I got him groomed and all ready to meet with the surgeon and get things taken care of. Then comes the bad news. It will cost many thousands to try to fix his problem. Secondly, there is only about a 50% chance it will even work. Now as I said I am a single mother with one getting married and another in college. I am wearing shoes with holes and stretching pennies in more ways than I can count. There is no option here. I just cannot do it.

So now this mother who wants everything to be wonderful for my children has to tell my tender-hearted, loving child that I have to put her dog down. His condition is deteriorating and he is often in severe pain and it breaks my heart listening to his cries. The only thing worse right now is seeing the pain in my daughter as she faces this realization.

I just wish so much that I was perfect. Not for myself. Not for the accolades. Not for any legacy or pat on the back. I simply wish I was perfect so I could make my daughters’ lives perfect.

As parents we want the best for our children but we know it is impossible and often those hardships bring growth and maturity for them. But sometimes, no matter how old they are, they are still our babies and we just want to dry their tears and make things perfect.

But we can’t.

 

Pressure to be perfect

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What if I fail?

What if I let people down?

What if I can’t keep it all together?

What if…?

Without ever realizing it I have taken these questions to heart throughout my life.

My father died when I was young and I was the only sibling still at home. My mom needed me. She needed me to make sure she took care of herself. She needed me to move heavy items. She needed me to figure out how to hook up the VCR. (Yes I am dating myself here). She needed me to take care of the yard. She needed me.

I married the man of my dreams. Or so I thought. He was kind and gentle, but not the take charge kind of person. I believed we were a perfect fit. I would support him, raise our kids, and work on our fixer upper, which never truly got fixed up. I encouraged him to follow his dreams and we built our life together.  He needed me.

We all have these types of stories in our lives.  Sure there are different relationships, different circumstances but when all that is stripped away, we as women need to feel needed.

Why?

Being needed fulfills a part of us which craves acknowledgement, appreciation, success.  Maybe this is more common in women who are not climbing the corporate ladder. I will have to let you tell me. But the women I see are working outside the home, taking the kids to dance recitals, arranging sleepovers and planning the church fundraiser.

We push ourselves to do it all; mom, wife, taxi service, employee, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, organizer…the list goes on. But why do we do it?

We fear REJECTION,
                 want ATTENTION,
                              crave AFFECTION,
                                          dream of PERFECTION. 

I am taking some online courses to challenge myself and pad my resume which lacks formal education and I find myself challenged by the desire to get perfect scores.

My daughter is getting married in a few short weeks and I am stressing over the details wanting everything to be perfect; for her and the guests.

I have dogs and therefore I have hair on my floors, my couch, everywhere! Everyone who knows me, knows this. Yet I rush to vacuum when I know someone is coming over and try to make my house look like a magazine. 

I really fail here. 

Worst yet is when I do host events I am always apologizing for the way things look or taste, all while people are giving me compliments. Even when I do succeed I have trouble accepting it.

All of this doing for others, keeping up appearances, trying to make everyone else happy; it takes its toll on me emotionally and physically.

Why am I so afraid of not being perfect?

The wandering mind…

The wandering mind of a middle aged woman can be a very scary place. Believe me, I should know. I live in there every single moment of every single day. After fifty years you would think I would have mastered it by now, bent it to my will and molded it to perfection. But inside, the fifty year old brain is still in infancy. Battered by emotions, fueled by undisciplined passion, and lacking in the knowledge one would come to expect by this age.

But how did I get to this age? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was riding my bike with my friends in front of my family’s bungalow? Where did the time go? And why do I feel less qualified to be an adult now than when I turned eighteen?

They say wisdom comes with age but I have discovered that more often than not, the more I know the less I really know. Take for instance technology and science. I can run a computer or research things on my phone but I still have no idea why the light bulb comes on when I flip a switch.

So what have I really learned in all these years? That is a very difficult question to answer. So many thoughts race to my brain but as I ponder and really look at them I realize I only know the surface of so many things but yet a few certain truths stand out.

First and foremost, gravity and greasy foods are vile, evil culprits which should be eradicated from this earth before all hope is lost. They plague the body in a myriad of ways causing once lean, toned bodies to become lumpy, thick mounds of rebellious flesh. This does not even begin to mention what happens to our inner workings through years of silent onslaught.

Secondly, the reality of the world’s view of us is quickly realized with the selfie leaving us to ponder who the person looking back at us is, and why do they have so much grey hair and lines around their faces? The image locked in our mind carries us back in time to a fairy tale land where complexions are smooth and glowing, hair is flowing about us in waves of beauty and our eyes and smiles radiate like sparklers on a dark summer night. Now our image stares back at us in an instant and I see the truth.

When I was young I thought by age fifty I would have conquered the world. I would have an exciting job with many career accomplishments, planning retirement, living in a beautiful spacious home, kids off to college,  traveling…enjoying the good life. Well things didn’t quite go as planned. I am fifty years old. I have a daughter getting married in two months and another one in college along with myself, but as for the rest of it, the reality is quite different from the dream. Life at fifty means divorce, starting my career over after raising kids, home is modest but nice. I went to a weekend getaway last year to Michigan. Does that count as traveling?  And retirement…what is that?

When we are young life seems to stretch out as far as the eye can see on a highway across the open plains. We believe life is a great adventure just beyond the horizon. But all too quickly we realize a lot of the adventure is behind us.

Did we enjoy it?

Did we make it all it could be?  

Is it too late?

 

Skinned Knees & Broken Hearts

The Heartache of Parenting

My daughter called me today crying. I had to tell her I could not come over and hold her and make everything better. All I could do was listen. It felt like I had been kicked in the gut.

As a mother we always want to be able to at least comfort our children when they are hurting if we can’t make things better. But after almost 22 years, my baby girl has now moved across the state and where once I could wrap my arms around her and hold her close to calm her fears, now I only have a cold, lifeless phone to cross the distance and soothe the pain. 

Being a Mother is learning about the strengths you didn’t know you had…and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.

When our children are young life seems so big and dangerous, skinned knees, hot stoves, falling off chairs. But then as they grow older we realize how safe that time was and how we wish so desperately to go back to that simpler place. Oh how often I would kiss the boo boos and say “OK, now it’s all better.” And away they would go to tackle their next adventure. But now when my child hurts, it is often more a pain of the heart and I cannot seem to find a band-aid to fix that.

It is true; a parent feels the pain of their child. I do not know if it is because nothing is really new and we remember how we too had our hearts broken or lost that new job or is it much more? Once you become a parent, whether by birth or adoption or however that child came into your life they become a part of you. Suddenly our needs drop down the ladder. Those new shoes you have been looking at quickly become insignificant when you are looking at new bats for your favorite softball player.

God gives us many blessing but none so sweet and yet so painful as that of being a parent. But for all the pain, the grief, the skinned knees, the calls at 3 am, the broken hearts and banged up fenders I would not change a thing. Except to be able to hold them and wipe the tears away whenever they needed me.

Image: https://goo.gl/images/cyDKDJ