Finding a New Perfect:

by admin on December 3, 2012

Perfectionism. My favorite arch-nemesis.  My obsessive addiction.

I have been pondering about this for a few weeks, feeling it was my next blog subject – yet afraid to share this not-so-flattering side of my personality.  However.  I think it’s important enough to get past the fear and share something that could potentially help some reader out there or, more likely, receive comments from readers that will help ME!

In my case, this is without a doubt genetic.  It is deep to my core. (Thanks a lot Dad.)  I shamefully admit that, with everything I do, I fight a burning need to be the best at it.  Yep – not just to be good at everything, to excel at everything, but to somehow be the BEST.  I need to be the best mom.  Raise the best kids.  Have the cleanest house.  Make the best meals.  Be the best teacher.  Have the most creative choreography.  And when I inevitably fall short, I automatically feel like I have utterly failed and that everyone around me is just as disappointed. I know – I sound pretty messed up don’t I?  But, I have to believe I am not alone.  (And if I am, do me a favor and just don’t say anything.  It will be better that way…)

This insane drive and determination to be perfect was not much of a problem when I was young.  I was able to use it to motivate myself.  When many teens had too much time and curiosity – I was either dancing, studying, goal-setting or goal-achieving.  I rarely got an A-.  I rarely misspelled a word.  I NEVER missed dance class.  And, I have to admit, it served me well in many ways.  I don’t think my issues had a negative impact on others for that matter. (Oh, except for the time I divided my shared room with a cardboard wall and threw all my sister’s junk over the wall as I made vacuum lines on my side.  She wasn’t so happy about that. But I digress–)

I made the auditions I went for, I got the scholarships I went for, I got the teaching job I went for, and I felt confident that I could be perfect at all these things.

Then I met this super-cool-and-ruggedly-handsome guy and I decided I would get married and continue along my perfect way.  Of COURSE he would have the same standards for perfection that I did! Doi.

Then, one fateful day after we had been married about 27 hours, I noticed that my new hunny had left his dirty socks on the floor by the bed.  In my honeymoon-tainted vision I thought to myself- “huh, well, that was surely a random mistake!”

It took me about two full weeks of marriage to recognize that, gasp, maybe he actually didn’t need all the labels in the pantry to face forward!  And, I knew that if I was going to be a PERFECT wife, I couldn’t be nagging my new groom all day!  I was going to have to change my standards in his presence, then secretly do whatever I could when he wasn’t looking.  (And, don’t get me wrong, he is not a slob by any stretch…)

This was no easy process as I felt I had to dig down to my DNA and reroute all those little double-helices. I still controlled what I could.  I scoured the place every Friday morning.  I vacuumed and swept daily.  I kept the Windex within reach at all times in case of emergency. I even made little obnoxious signs reading “DIRTY DISHES LOVE THE DISHWASHER” and “CLOTHES LIKE THE DRAWER, NOT THE FLOOR” and hung them in their appropriate places.  I’m seriously not making this up.  Thank heavens he stayed with me through those first few years.

It didn’t take me much longer to learn that I couldn’t spend as much time making sure I was reaching perfection in all the “outside” areas of my life.  I now had this other person that I had to share my life with! My husband knew I was a go-getter, but I wasn’t prepared to give up some of the time I had always been able to selfishly devote to all my own accomplishments.  I started to feel like I was letting my dance students down if I had to miss one of their school talent shows because I had to attend Dan’s best friend’s wedding. (I’m not making this up – with my Utah dance students as my witness, I stopped at nothing to be what I defined as the “perfect dance teacher”.)

Then, along came baby #1.  And as he grew, more things began to slip from my grip.  I was dead-set on teaching him, by 6-months-old, that he could play with one, and only one, toy – then promptly put it away before getting a new one out.  (Honestly I just snorted out loud recalling that sincere expectation.) And, teaching dance?  I was lucky if I had new combos for the classes I had to teach!  This little thing needed so much time and attention – how can I possibly be a perfect mom AND a perfect dance teacher simultaneously?

Then baby #2.  And, I’m sure you know where this is going…..

It just wasn’t working.  I needed perfection REHAB!  There was just no feasible way to be a perfect wife, mom, housekeeper, teacher, choreographer; the size 2 woman with perfectly dressed kids, freshly curled hair and shaved armpits.  It was impossible.  You have no idea how hard it was (is) for me to admit it.  BUT, accepting this as an impossibility opened a very important door for me – the opportunity to choose those things in which I was going to continue to strive for perfection, and (kicking and screaming) release my hold on the things that weren’t important.

Ultimately, (and this is key,) over the past three or four years, my mantra has been “Is it REALLY important?”

The first thing that had to go was the obsessive housework.  My wise mom always told me that a house should be clean enough to be healthy, but dirty enough to be happy.  It took me having two kids to really understand what that meant.  I had to let it go.  I still have the dying urge to “Tasmanian Devil” (as my husband lovingly calls my crazy-cleaning-tornado-frenzies) almost daily.  But, I have to remember – “Is it REALLY important?”  To me, no.  Not more important than playing with my kids, making a home-cooked meal or spending time choreographing something great.

Also, I had to re-define what a perfect wife, mother and teacher meant to me.  And that meant – understanding what is “REALLY important” to my husband, kids, and students.

To my husband – he mostly just wants my time.  He likes to have a good family dinner the nights I am home, and the occasional shoulder massage while he works on the computer.  Does he care if I’m a size 2? Luckily, no.  Does he expect me to shower, blow-dry and put on make-up each-and-every day? Well, he might not mind that but let’s be realistic here.  And though I still forget this – he doesn’t assume a slightly messy house reflects on my capabilities as a wife.

To my kids – they need love, consistency, and to know that they are more important than work, emails or Facebook. They don’t need to be designer-dressed with their hair perfectly coifed. They don’t need amazing homemade Halloween costumes (even though when I see the other kids with those homemade costumes I still have to fight my jealousy.) They don’t need Pinterest-inspired amazing Valentines to hand out at school. (Even though when I see the other kids with their amazing Pinterest Valentines I still have to fight my jealousy.)   That little cardboard box of Spiderman Valentines complete with Dum Dum suckers is actually what Luke would PREFER to hand out!  I had to decide that those things did not have to be contained within my new definition of being a perfect mom.  And for those moms who can fit all that in – I will probably always be a little jealous.  Rock on sister.

And finally, to my students – they need engaged teaching, my best choreography, and to know that I SINCERELY care about helping them become the best gosh-darn dancers that I can.  I no longer have time to make perfect homemade, personalized and monogrammed gifts for every competition.  I can’t justify spending family time planning studio sleepovers, playing counselor for students personal lives, or attending dozens of talent shows.  And again, this too is still a battle.  I still feel like to be truly perfect, I would be able to do all those things for my students.  But as life changes – I think everyone needs to accept their new normal, and try to feel peace within it.

SO.  I am nowhere near recovered.  This is still a daily struggle in my life.  But, when Stella walks out the door wearing one floral platform sandal and one metallic silver boot, I just have to take a deep breath and repeat my mantra: “Is it REALLY important?”

(But, if you are coming over, please do my nerves a favor and call 15 minutes ahead so I can quickly Tasmanian Devil the place.  Cool?)

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