Problem with perfection

Hi. My name is Emily, and I’m a perfectionist.  Or maybe a perfectionaholic (because I certainly seem to be addicted to it, and I think there ought to be some kind of program for it).  I’m working really hard on being a reformed perfectionaholic.  I’ve made fantastic progress, and I see and love the results in my life.

It’s always right there, though, sneaking back in.  I think it is just such an embedded part of my world view, and of my self-image, that it can be sitting there, completely obvious, and I don’t see it.  It creeps into my way of thinking about what I can do, what I ought to do and how I ought to do things.

When I moved to Austria, I made a committment (to myself and my family) that I would document (in sometimes obnoxious detail) our day-to-day lives while on this big adventure.  Partly, I want to keep my family and friends at home apprised of what we’re up to, but also, I want to record the ups and downs of our journey and evolution here — for ourselves, and, perchance, for anyone else who might be curious about what this kind of move, and this kind of life, is really like.  I decided to do this EVERY day.  I know myself, and if I gave myself any leeway, I would end up recording way more ups than downs — it’s always easier (and more fun) to write and send pictures when we’re doing fabulous things like sledding in the Alps and touring palaces than it is to write about how frustrating it is to not be able to get the correct order at McDonald’s.  And I didn’t want that.  I didn’t want to make an overly rosy chronicle, I want it to be real.  So, I promised myself that I would write, and send pictures home to my family, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

And I have.  I think, since we arrived, I missed two days (due to illness) and a handful more when we were travelling in France and didn’t have internet access.  And the days I missed, I made up for the next day.  So, I’m doing it.  100%.  Every day.

And when I say it that way, it sounds pretty reasonable.  But the truth is, the only way to do something like this, with perfect consistency (see, there it is — the perfection is back!) is to prioritize the pictures and the writing much more highly than I should.  There are nights — many nights — that I go to bed and midnight, or 1:00, or later, to get the blog entry written and the pictures sorted through and sent out.  In fact, I can only remember 1 night in the past 6 months that I got to bed before midnight.  And that’s a problem, because I have two little kids and a very busy life and we get up at 6:00 every day.  I’ve been doing this whole adventure on less than 6 hours of sleep a night, every, single night.

And THAT is the problem with perfectionism.  I’ve kept my committment.  I’m documenting what we’re doing here, in excruciating detail, but I’ve lost the big picture.  Most days, things go great, but there is no doubt that the times I snap at the kids, lose my temper, get overwhelmed or just drag myself, exhausted, through an afternoon, that I’m putting my focus in the wrong place.  I’ve kept the small promises and broken some of the big ones — the ones that are about putting my family first, being the best mom I can be, and choosing to be happy over trying to get it “right”.  I’ve been trying to get it right, trying to get 100%, trying to be perfect, which is SO NOT THE POINT.  (I need to put that all in caps because I’m hoping it’ll help me remember.)

So, now that I see it, there’s nothing to do but change it.  I’m still going to write, and record what we’re doing in this grand adventure, and I’m still going to drown my family with pictures of the kids . . . but I might not get to it every day.  I’m going to change my promises to myself.  First, I will make sure I’m in the best possible state to be the best possible mom to my kids.  Second, I will record as much of this journey and adventure as I can while keeping that first point in mind — and I will make sure that entries that get missed get made up, or if they are skipped, it’s because of time and not because I had a bad day.  The bad days are as important to record as the rest, but I don’t want to cause more of them by insisting on a perfect record of blog posts.  If all goes well, the record of our time WILL get rosier — but only because I’m putting my energy where it belongs.

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