Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cracks in Perfection

I have a secret. It's a dirty little one, not a funny side note about me. I am a closet perfectionist. Early on, I was the opposite. As a teenager, I chose chaos over organization . Nothing felt homey like a floor carpeted with dirty laundry. Much to my mother's lament and screaming, nothing could change me. I was happy in the mess, content with the pig pen. Later, when I launched my journey into self-help and healing, I started to take better care of things. I sought to wean myself of the clutter and into neatness. I grew to become very distracted and uneasy with a mess. I couldn't focus. The more I worked on myself with therapy and my relationship with God, the more I sought to clean up and put things away, literally and figuratively. I became more at peace. When I was younger, my outward display of my room became the picture of how I felt on the inside. I was in disarray emotionally. On the mend, my environment took on a look to match my new self. Over the years, neatness counted and cleanliness was next to godliness as far as I was concerned.

One could have said, 'all better' and that I closed the book on my dysfunction. No such luck. My take on my living situation became something else, an obsession with clean. I don't know when it started. It was slow enough not to notice. It seemed like a good habit not a bad obsession. The more I cleaned up the more I wanted it to stay that way. When I got married and moved in with my husband it got worse. I liked our tidy condo and he was the opposite. Where things were put is where they stayed until he needed them. I was constantly picking things up and putting them back in their rightful places. My feelings of being inconvenienced became a moderate annoyance. I saw things left out of sorts by my hubby and became inflamed that my cleaning efforts were, in my mind, not respected. Sure, I brought it up to him. He either laughed it off or dismissed my position on him conscientiously putting his things away. My annoyance progressed to a full on silent rage, complete with cold shoulder if he, once again, regarded my housekeeping as trivial.

Once we purchased our first home, cleaning became a Saturday morning event. I arose early with the sole intent of gleaming, picture-perfect rooms. I scrubbed and wiped until their was no sign of a speck of lint or a streak anywhere. Everything had to be perfectly groomed and decor had to be centered and symmetrical. My obsession with my home had now become almost a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For the sake of non-exaggeration, my husband and I were watching the opening scenes for the popular show Monk. We saw the character leave his apartment only to immediately return to his coat rack to make sure all of his umbrellas were facing the same direction before he finally closed the door, Greg said "That's you". I tried to relax. We had a baby and I had to learn to live with things a little out of sorts but it always bothered me. I was frustrated that I couldn't see magazine staging in every corner of my house. I existed in it but I didn't like it.

Things in my life now reflect my home once again. Now, my life is drastically different than my life as a mom and wife with a spacious home with a white post and rail fence. I am now a self-employed widow and single mother of one. Things are not perfect. They never were and they are never going to be and I am at peace with that, finally. I have learned to accept what is and even be grateful instead of putting up with my surroundings, wishing for something else.

I am renovating an old house. It is coming along well. Things are getting into place after weeks of destruction and construction. There is color on the walls, the worn hardwood floors now gleam like new. It is pretty to look at. When we started, my plastering needed a lot of work. We put much time and effort into filling in holes and skimming over patches. We sanded and plastered again. It dried and we finally painted. As the roller went on, I noticed small bumps where the patches were in my bedroom. I started to fret, not happy with what I saw. Perfectionism was bubbling up in me. I started to think of how I could reach a glass smoothness. I looked over walls that were already done in the living room and noticed that there also were some remnants, however slight, of my work. I went home and thought about it. Was it important? It still looks good. I know they are there. We aren't going to have a solid sheen unless I take down every wall and refit it with sheetrock. I am not willing to do that and I don't need to. My blemishes in the house will remain. They will stay to remind me that I have to live in a world with bumps. Just because they are there, doesn't mean it isn't beautiful. From now on when I notice one, I won't furrow my brow. I'll smile and pat it.

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