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 façade 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 ;)

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