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.
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.
I love that your wrote this post because, well, that’s my life! I think as women we generally hold ourselves to high standards that are … BIZARR-O!!!!! My husband is always telling me to relax, take a chill pill, life will still go on even though all I made for dinner was cheap-o mac’n cheese (NOT yummy Kraft brand).
I’m going to ‘think’ about joining you in your October challenge. I say ‘think’ because when I mention it to my husband he will say, “Oh babe, do it! That will be so great for you!” Ummmm what? Basically, it would definitely be a challenge in an already challenging world.
So I’ll be ‘thinking’ today. ;)
Thinking is just fine. :) And I hear you – do we really need ANOTHER challenge? Just come hang out here when you can, and we’ll tackle this one together.
Fascinating idea! I would love to try it….if I could just give up the idea of getting it all done. But, seeing as how I’m sitting here the computer instead of cleaning the bathrooms, maybe I’m halfway there?? ;)
Haha! The computer is always a bigger draw than cleaning for me!
I just love reading your blog, because it’s written about ME and all my crazy perfectionist thoughts! What you described that happened at your dad’s bday lunch is exactly what I would’ve done. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s so nice to have a virtual ‘friend’ who I can totally relate to. Thanks for being so honest.
I would love to join you on this quest for giving up on perfect. But first I have to decide whether or not I can perfectly join you every week. :)
Jessica, you don’t have to join me perfectly every week! You show up when you can, and that will be just right (or, as I like to call it, the new perfect!). :)
Wow. I can really relate to this and I am so excited to see the rest of this series. I am a perfectionist by nature and put way too much on my plate which usually just causes me a lot of stress and anxiety when I can’t do it all and/or can’t do it all well. I’ll definitely join you in this challenge!
Thanks, Brooke. Hopefully we’ll work through this together in October!
I love how real you are in your writing! I’m looking forward to reading about how to give up on perfect, because I certainly need help in that area, as well.
I decided a few days ago to participate in the 31 Days Challenge. It took me a while to figure out what to write about because I don’t know that there’s a single topic that I know well enough to write about for 31 days, so I wrote out 31 single-word journaling prompts that I will use as my topic each day. It will (hopefully) help me get into the habit of writing daily…again.
Ohhh, I’m such a perfectionist! And you are certainly right – I hold myself to a standard no one else does. I’m looking forward to the reality of this series, and the encouragement to give up my perfectionism. Here’s hoping…
Yes, Yes, Yes – I need your series!!! Can’t wait to join you daily. This will be my second year and I’m writing about 31 Days of Anonymity where I give others an opportunity to write anonymous letters to those they feel they need to. This is going to be a great 31 days. A challenge for sure . . . hmmmm giving up perfect and all.
I’m WAY ahead of you, I gave up on perfect a long time ago, before marriage and kids, and each kid (3 so far) just makes me lower my standards, which in turn, makes my life so much easier:) Just try it, the lower your expectations, the easier it is to meet them! Tonight we went to a friend’s for “dinner”. Arrived at 4:10pm (10 minutes late!), ate at 5pm, and left, with many thank you’s by 5:30pm! Thank goodness we did, because the baby needed to go to bed, and the 3 and 5 year olds needed their own house and bed by 6:30!
THAT is a lesson I think SO MANY of us need to learn. I am looking forward to reading what you have to share.
I love this….coming from a type ‘A’, stress case and frustrated perfectionist, I had to learn this lesson three or four years ago. I started to have major anxiety, always trying to be perfect, waking every morning with a giant ‘to do’ list and feeling completely defeated if I didn’t cross every last thing off it each day. My doctor gave me some advice that has stuck with me and really saved me from anxiety and panic attacks…she perscribed me the ‘don’t give a sh** pill’ and I’m telling you if taken regularly does wonders for your life! :)
I’m also participating in the 31 Days and would love for you to drop by. xo, Jessica
I am a perfectionist who realized about six months ago that it was killing me. I read something from Patricia Holland (I think), who said in a talk to women “we must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection.'” I love that she uses the word courage and have pondered on this quote often. We are our harshest judges. I believe that we are on this earth to learn and grow, we don’t demand perfection out of our kids as they develop new skIlls so why do we do it towards ourselves. This has been hard for me to let go of perfection but every day I remind myself to have the courage. In a lot of ways it has led to more meaningful talks with my teenage son and has helped my 8 year old daughter with self-esteem challenges immensely. Good luck!
I’m in! Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is just what THIS frustrated perfectionist needs.
I think this is going to be exactly what so many of us need. Thanks, Mary!
Praying for you that you have the right words. So many of us need to give up our perfectionist ways.
I can’t wait to read more
I think I love you already! How didn’t I know this blog existed before the 31 Days? Can’t wait to read.
So I’m TOTALLY into this post – can totally relate (even to mom saying something to the granddaughter – yikes!) I’m resubscribing to your blog – AND – wonder how much it would cost for you to come write your posts on my walls so they are in front of my face all. the. time…
You had me at the chips and salsa picture :-)
I’m sorry you had such a challenging day, but it does make me feel better, because that is totally my life, too. It’s like I’m channeling Clark Griswold every single day!
This is so great! I am a perfectionist by nature and I am on my own journey to giving up perfect with my series on cultivating a life of intention and grace, grace being the keyword. I look forward to reading your series!
:( sorry about the tantrums, they are never fun! So glad you are doing the 31 days…I love reading your posts, the more the better :o)
I always feel like there is so much more I should be doing. I freak out when my husband comes home from work and puts something, anything away. Litterally freak out. We”ve gotten into these crazy arguments when I see him doing laundry, and he gets so confused. See, when I see him doing the housework that has been there all day, I think he knows I should have done it because, well, I was home all day also. Most of the time, his response is something like this “I am doing this to help YOU! You’ve been home all day with 4 kids, you just need to RELAX!”…and here’s where I cry, because even if he doesn’t expect it, I do. All the time. Every day. I need to lower my expectations and get a little more realistic.
Over from the Nester. Looking forward to working on this as well as I read your post. Great topic!
Awesome topic! The name if my blog is ‘our perfekt life’ and I don’t think any one of my posts doesn’t mention in one way or another how NOT perfect we are. Funny how we strive so hard to shine without flaw for one another when God is the only one we should be shining for!
I will be needing to read this as we go through the next 31 days as I’ve chosen ’31 days of Pinspiration’ and I’m going to have to gut check often I think!
Thanks – Jennifer
Hello I am visiting via the Nester’s 31 days series. Your series is so inspirational and leaves me with such wonderful hope.
I too am participating in the series. My topic is “Decor To Adore~ finding your style”. I would like to invite you to stop by anytime.
Have a beautiful day and a wonderful fall season.