We had a busy day. Church meeting in the morning, birthday lunch for my dad and early picnic dinner at the park with friends. As soon as my alarm beeped, I was off.

I got up early, tossed a granola bar at my daughter, showered and dressed us both in under 15 minutes – and ran out the door. For three hours, I stayed present. I helped set up the meeting space, worshiped with my co-workers and friends, and spent time polishing my skills as a small group leader. But as the clock neared 11 o’clock, my anxiety ratcheted up about 14 levels.

  • I wondered if my husband was awake yet. He was taking a nap after working overnight, but our day’s plan relied on him waking up in time for me to pick him up immediately following my meeting.
  • I calculated how long it would take to swing by Walmart to pick up the photo book I’d made for my dad and debated the value of being on time versus the value of arriving to a birthday lunch with a birthday present.
  • I flipped through my mental collection of recipes, trying to decide what to make for the picnic. Based on the available ingredients in my house and my limited time, I landed on watermelon.

With one eye on the clock (literally, I’m sad to say), I prayed with a few other small group leaders and [finally] stood to leave. Before I got far, I heard, “Mary, do you have a minute?”

I’d like to inform you that I did not scream, “No! I do not have a minute!” I didn’t. But I really wanted to.

Finally, I picked up my kiddo – who had been in a great mood earlier that morning – and we jumped in the car. Where she proceeded to melt down. Loudly. I’m talking about screaming and kicking and spitting. Ohhhhh, I hate the spitting.

In a confusing turn of events, she proceeded to throw a rip-roaring tantrum for the next forty minutes. All the way home, she screamed. All the way to the restaurant, she cried and hollered.

By the time we got to the restaurant to meet my family, we were late, frazzled and – since I’m sure you’re wondering – empty-handed. Dealing with The Fit took precedence over a quick trip to pick up the gift I’d ordered.

After we stood in line to order our food, filled our drinks and scooped a tower of chips into a plastic bowl, we sat at the end of a long table of family. I apologized for being late, told my now-quiet child to eat her food, and dug into my burrito.

That’s when I heard my mom say to my daughter: “Grandpa sure was sad he didn’t hear from you on his birthday. He waited all day for you to call . . .”

She didn’t mean anything by it, I’m sure. Nobody was actually thinking, “Wow. Could Mary be a worse daughter? No call, no gift, and seriously late, to boot? Worst Daughter Ever.” I’m pretty sure nobody was thinking that.

That didn’t stop me from immediately bursting into tears and speed walking to the bathroom to hide in a stall until I could get myself under control.

Outstanding.

Yes, I was tired and stressed and worn down from what was just one more tantrum in a summer of fighting with my formally well-behaved child. Yes, I was frustrated that I was late and still showed up without a gift for my dad. But more than that, I was angry that everyone expects me to be perfect.

Except . . . nobody does expect me to be perfect. I’m the only one holding myself to impossibly high standards. I think I’m even the only one upset about that birthday call I didn’t make. And I’m definitely the only one demanding perfection from myself.

Moral of the story? I’m still learning how to give up on perfect. But I really want to. I do. I know it will be worth it. I know that, as my tagline says, I can only get on with life once I truly give up on perfect. So for the entire month of October, I’ll be writing about this very thing. Every day.

October is a really long month (31! Days!), so I’m going to focus on different aspects of giving up on perfect each week. Here’s my basic plan:

Week 1: Giving up on perfect starts with me
Week 2: Giving up on perfect in our relationships
Week 3: Giving up on perfect in our homes
Week 4: Giving up on perfect in our lives
Week 4 1/2: I don’t know yet. (I’m not perfect! Ahh!)

I know. It’s a vague, generic plan. My hope was to have more specifics for you today, but, well, I’m really not perfect this week. Look at that. I gave up on a perfect plan and just got on with life. (And it only hurt a little bit!)

Will you join me in spending the 31 days of October giving up on perfect? (I’m linking up with Nester for this writing project. Visit her to find TONS of other great 31 Days series!)

To read all my 31 Days posts this month, click here.

Photo credit: Joshua Heller

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