Monday, April 28, 2014

Ooohhhhh, So THAT'S What You Were Talking About...

I have a question: Does everyone strive for their own idea of perfection, or is it just me?  I mean, the idea of striving for perfection has got to be exhausting to some, so perhaps just striving for mediocrity is the top of the line for them.  I'd be envious of this, but it's probably just as draining a process.  

The great irony in my attempt at achieving perfection, is that I’m a colossal failure at it - an imperfect perfectionist, if you will.  In fact, I tend to think that I may be the best imperfect perfectionist out there. See?  Talk around something long enough, people, and you'll find where you excel, too. (just let me enjoy this - no need to point out the obvious...)

And let me be real honest here.  It's not even actual perfection I'm striving for.  It's the appearance of perfection that's most important to me.  I grew up in the house where words like bankruptcy and divorce were whispered.  “Oh, we don’t talk about those things, sweetie,” my mom would say.  It was as if we whispered the words quietly enough, we reduced their power so they'd never find their way into our lives.  Or better yet - didn’t exist at all.

This is where the strive for the brass ring of perfection was conceived.  It wasn't consciously taught to me by my parents, it was simply a learned practice.  Put on a pretty face, don't talk about the bad stuff, people don't need to know our business.  But if you must speak of it around the house, please, nothing above 20 decibels. 

Did I question this hush-toned practice?  Of course not, why would I?  I didn't want to invite bankruptcy and divorce into my life (oh, you tickle me)  I just went on with the understanding that when there was a word worthy of a whisper, we didn't discuss it.  With anyone.  Not our friends, not our family members.  To a therapist?  Bitch, please.  If you have a therapist, that's actually admitting you have a problem.  We handle problems by ourselves.  If you have a problem with something, stop doing that something.  It’s as easy as that.  Divorce yourself from the problem  (just not from a spouse - what would the neighbors say?)

Sidenote - My parents have been married for 55 years this year.  They have 3 children – all of us divorced. I’m sure they’re super proud of us. 
Keep in mind this appearance of perfection not only lies in the dismissal of dirty laundry, but also - and more frequently - in not admitting when I don't know something.  Heaven forbid I ask questions or simply say, "You know, I'm not familiar enough with that." Fear of embarrassment or appearing stupid...?  THIS is where my strive for perfection kicks into high gear and results in magnanimous anecdotes such as this:

You're welcome in advance.

A few years ago I went to dinner with some friends I hadn't seen since college.  They were bringing their spouses along and because I was **hushed tone** divorced, I was attending alone.  To make matters worse, we were going to a swanky Dallas restaurant.  Two things: First, alone and divorced.  Second, we were going to a swanky Dallas joint.  I don't do swanky.  I'm not swanky - I live in Denton.  We don't do swank in Denton.  Further, with all this swank and marital bliss in the air, would I be able to contribute anything meaningful to the table talk?  Don't be an idiot, don't say anything stupid.  I could tell by my mirror conversations that I was feeling migh-ty inferior before even leaving the house.

Me talking into the mirror (shut up, you do it, too) - "Oh, it's so good to see you!  Me? Well, I'm divorced and living it up.  It's so much fun to be single in your 40's.  Dating is a blast, you actually have money to spend on whatever you want and if you wake up one Saturday and want to take a trip to Bora Bora, you do.  As often as you want.  Without asking anyone's permission.  It's really everything I ever wanted and more."

Like most things in my life, the inferiority complex I was suffering from was for naught. I met up with the group and no one cast any aspersions upon my person reducing me to a swankless, pitiful divorcee.  They were absolutely lovely people.  We shared a great meal, great conversation, a lot of laughs and stories about our kiddos.  It was perfect.  
Nearing the end of the night several conversations were taking place around the table.  I was not included in one at the time and was feeling a little uncomfortable silencey.  It was about that time that I overheard someone say, "Cramer," from the other end of the table.  I knew "Cramer."  I could contribute to that conversation and make a meaningful connection with someone at the other end of the table through our shared knowledge of "Cramer."

Karen - I watch that show - I love it! 

Bill - You do?  Rob here (pointing to the guy next to him) hasn't even heard of it!  Some think he's too loud or over-the-top, but he's a genius!

Karen - He really is - he's so animated and hilarious! (Bill was smiling and nodding emphatically)

So many exclamation marks, so much excitement in our voices.  He was truly excited I watched a show he watched, and even better, his buddy Rob didn't even know what it was.  This was so great, I was going to go out on a high note!  I was so excited, I moved closer to the boys so we could continue our electric dialogue.

Bill - And the way he got started - leaving stock picks on his answering machine and earning Peretz $150,000 in 2 years!?  You gotta respect that.

Karen - **a very delayed and totally unsure**  Uh-huh (with a glazed look I would liken to a Kindergartener in an advanced physics class)

You see, friends, when I heard "Cramer" I mistakenly thought he was referring to Kramer from Seinfeld.  Hilarious, check.  Genius, check.  Animated, check.  Leaving stock picks on his answering machine in college - I must've missed that episode...  Bill was talking about Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money.  A touch more highbrow and thoughty than Seinfeld, apparently.

But did I stop there? No, I sure didn't. In my frantic attempt at perfection, I mumbled something about how I thought it was someone else who he invested for initially. But then Bill had the nerve to ask a follow-up question, everyone looked confused, I got feverish, and then I just ended the whole thing by making a fart noise with my mouth.

Truly, the look of....disorientation on Bill's face was unprecedented.

After overcoming the urge to throw up, I picked up my toys and slowly walked back to my chair, tail between my very lowbrow legs.  Why couldn't I just say, "Oh, how funny, I thought you were talking about the very relevant - and current - Seinfeld show.  I'm not familiar with Jim Cramer, he sounds great!"

Oh, the horror I experience when I feel stupid.  HORROR, I tell you!  So what if I'm not as smart as some of my friends?  Who cares if I'm a divorced, single mother?  Who cares if I don't watch boring shows about stocks and investing that give me tired-head.  But for some reason, it's just really hard to stand naked for fear of what others might think of me.  Being judged. 

What judgment would be cast upon me by my "perfect" friends if they found out that I was…well, just as jacked up as they are?  How about the judgment that I'm just just as jacked up as they are.  That we all share struggles.  That we're all scarred, scared, hurt and damaged and just trying to put our best foot forward.

My life has been an exhausting attempt at projecting just the right image so others would accept me.  A fake, impossible-to-live-up-to fa├žade that I finally - recently - decided was bleeding me dry; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Those are some big “-allys” people.  I was am spent.

I've recently joined a group with some incredible women on a journey to live authentically and wholeheartedly.  I know that may sound gooey to some of you, and that's okay.  It feels pretty good on this end.  Through my readings and meetings with this wonderful group, the need to hide and bury my imperfections is lessening.  More accurately, my want to share my imperfections is growing.  And since I'm kind of a white hot mess, this could work out really well for you all ;)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

And I'm Still Alive To Tell the Story

I have a really bad habit of assuming what's important to me is important to others.  Especially those close to me. (i.e., my boyfriend, Fabian.)  So when he tells me that his level of enthusiasm isn't quite to the level mine is about something, I'm genuinely shocked.  And then I proceed to tell him how wrong he is.

For instance, two years ago, Fabian and I adopted our pit bull, Clifford.  Alright, alright...  One day I went out for a sandwich and came home with a pit bull named Clifford.

**Karen's thinking - I fell in love with a sweet dog, I took him home.**

**Everyone else's thinking - You're gonna die!  You're gonna DIE!**

And, because I couldn't care less what other people think or say about me, I became totally immersed in turning Clifford into the best-behaved pit bull this side of Cesar Millan's dog, Daddy.  (For those of you who don't know, Cesar Millan is the champion of the pit bull breed; his mission is to eradicate the fear associated with the pit bull.)  I bought every book Cesar had written, turning every waking hour into the Reading with Karen show.  I recorded and watched every. single. episode. of the Dog Whisperer, forcing Fabian to take part and engage in spirited canine conversation.  I started every sentence with, "Well Cesar says...," we even went to see him live. (of course we did)  It got so bad that I was sneaking reruns of the Dog Whisperer alone and when Fabian would come through the front door a surge of shame adrenaline would shoot through my body and I would blindly shout, "Nothing! I can stop whenever I want to!"

One day, Fabian told me he was done reading and hearing about Cesar Millan.  I told him that wasn't something we joke about in this house and to go get ready for Cesar Bingo.

Turns out, he was serious.

Okay, so I can be a little - how you say - passionate about things...which is why I shouldn't have been surprised at how this last weekend panned out.

I'm a huge Dave Ramsey fan.  To put it into perspective, I'm a bigger Dave fan than I am a Cesar fan.  You'll probably hear WWDD more often in my home than you would WWJD.  So when I heard Dave was bringing his SMART Conference to Big D, I didn't think twice about ordering 2 tickets - one for me and one for Fabian.  No need to check schedules, no need to ask if he would even be interested in joining me - because, of course he would.  This conference was going to touch on financial planning, how to relate to one another in our relationship, how teach my 13 year old about being smart with money, setting boundaries and jump-starting our careers.  Who wouldn't be pumped about 9 1/2 hours of learning on a Saturday?

By 8am Fabian was already regretting his *cough* decision to join me as I couldn't make the decision to wait in line and get a snack, (this was his vote because I'm super pleasant when I'm hungry) or hop in the admission line to ensure a better seat to see Dave.

Karen:   **ravenous, but eyeing the ever-growing seating line**   Let's just go get in line for seating  - I don't need to eat.

Fabian:   Let's just get you something to eat now - that will keep us both out of prison - and then we can hop in line to get seated.  Plenty of time, plenty of seats.

Karen:   No, I want a good seat for Dave!  Look at all of the people already in line.  All the good seats will be taken if we stay in this line!

Fabian:  Okay, let's go get in line, then.

Karen:   But I'm hungry.

I know, I know. I wanna punch me, too.

Famously, Fabian suggested we go ahead and jump in line to get seated, then he would return to get some food for me.  We got through the door in no time and easily found 2 seats.  These seats were in a single row against the railing on the upper level, with the upper deck theater seating about 15 feet behind them. Because it was a single row, we just hopped over the back of the seat and plopped right down.  While Fabian was gone ensuring my blood sugar didn't dip to a dangerous break-up-with-you-and-never-look-back level, I looked around and decided perhaps I could see Dave better from a different seat.  The venue hadn't filled in quite as quickly as I'd anticipated (weird), so I wanted to change seats. (of course I did)

Fun fact - While moving from our shoddy, original seats to our new and improved seats, I threw one leg over the back of my chair and, while steadying myself to throw the other leg over, my supporting foot slammed through the back of the folding arena chair, not quite touching the floor below, causing me to teeter on my crotch for a good 3 seconds.   This was to the great enjoyment of the hundreds of people surrounding me - Fabian among them.

As I walked gingerly to our new seats with my bruised ego (and crotch), my embarrassment quickly dissipated as the lights dimmed signaling the conference was about to begin.
Karen:   I'm SO excited!  Are you SO excited!?  This is going to be LIFE CHANGING!  I'm SO excited!  Are you, SO, SO excited!?

Fabian:  Stop it - YOU'RE "so" excited, I'm just excited.  Isn't that enough?

I just don't think this relationship is going to work out.