The Perfectionism Predicament

It’s me! On a ski slope in Utah.

The other day during a Peloton ride, the instructor said something that I have been turning over in my head since then. He was talking about how often we will do something, like say a Peloton workout, and be upset with ourselves if we don’t meet the challenge placed in front of us. He was encouraging riders to do their best for that day, but to know that some days you won’t achieve the goals and that is okay. Every day is different. Some days are harder. It’s okay to meet yourself where you are. Then he said, “Perfectionism is a disguise for insecurity.”

Whoa. I have struggled with the ugly beast of perfectionism most of my life. I’ve also battled insecurity. But it never occurred to me that the two might be linked, or at least I’ve never heard it expressed quite that way. It’s accurate, though. When you are feeling insecure about something, be it person or circumstance or item, you may feel a need to control it. Like my parents before me, I was raised to believe if you can’t do something well, you shouldn’t do it at all. I can’t attribute a number to the times I’ve walked away from opportunities because those opportunities meant I would have to be new to some place or some task or some one. Appearing “stupid” (a stand-in term for any number of different negative adjectives, like incompetent or pathetic) became my biggest fear.

Around the time my husband and I were first married, we went skiing with some friends for the day at a mountain known for more difficult terrain. Of the people in our group, I knew I was the least experienced skier. I was nervous about it. After our first run, I knew my fears were valid. If skiing expertise ranked from 1 (never tried) to 10 (world’s best), my husband and our friends were solid 8 skiers and I was maybe a 4. I struggled to keep up. At one point, we were at the top of an expert run and there was a tow rope to the top of the ridge. The group decided we would take it and ski a nearby bowl. I had never ridden a tow rope. I was terrified of them. I’d seen countless videos of people being dragged up the slope by one of those contraptions. I was not about to take one now for the first time in front of 7 other people I knew. No way. No how. I told them I’d meet them down in the lodge. The rest of the story got ugly for me. My friends tried to convince me. I rejected their arguments. Back and forth, we went. Until finally, completely exasperated, I had a meltdown on the slope. Raised voice, flailing arms, animated speech. The whole nine yards. The only thing I didn’t do was throw myself down and bang my clenched fists in the snow. It was a toddler tantrum. I basically told them, “You can’t boss me,” and took off down the slope in a big old drama queen flourish. You know what? That was when I realized that my fear of appearing stupid might be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I traded the potential to appear foolish if I didn’t navigate the tow rope correctly to the reality of appearing foolish by having a hissy fit on a mountain about a tow rope. Oy.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen times when my insecurity about something drove me to embarrassing extremes and, sadly, some of them weren’t that long ago. So, I’m still working on this. I’m working not to worry so much about what other people think of me. I’m working to accept that good enough actually is good enough most of the time. I’m working to remember that even Michael Jordan probably missed his first shot. We’re human, and we do all have to start somewhere. And because there is no objectively perfect anything, no final destination, we really are pretty stupid for wasting our time trying to get there.

GET THE BUBBLE WRAP FOR BETTY WHITE!

I saw this post on Twitter and had only one thought: as a country, we need to get some bubble wrap, lots of bubble wrap. It’s imperative. Betty White is a national treasure. We have had a slate of shitty years recently. We’re all overwrought and stressed out. We need something good. Wait. Hold that. We deserve something good. We deserve to celebrate Betty White at 100. We must get bubble wrap and make her a fetching pantsuit out of it, put her in a protected room with the puppies and kittens she adores, and then light candles and pray for her safe deliverance to her 100th birthday party on January 17th. We. Deserve. Something. Good. And. This. Is. That. Thing.

Lord, hear our prayers.

You Don’t Know Him

Photo by Sergio Rota on Unsplash

As I was driving home after school drop off this morning, a guy in a lifted Ford pickup was tailgating me. Because of the vehicle he was driving, I’ll admit I had some preconceived ideas about him and what kind of person he must be, especially because he was tailgating. But, I have been working on not being quite as judgmental and giving people the benefit of the doubt. In situations like the one this morning, I try to remind myself that I have no idea who this person is or what might be going on his life. I remind myself his aggressive driving behavior is not my business. I take a deep breath in, wish him well on his journey, and try not to stare at him with daggers through the rear view (which I am sure he could see since he was that close).

He did eventually pull around me and, due to traffic, landed directly in front of me instead. This provided an opportunity to see his myriad bumper stickers. He had a Marine Corps license plate, so I thanked him mentally for his service. Then I noticed his Blue Lives Matter sticker, an automatic rifle sticker, and a Let’s Go, Brandon sticker. I took another deep breath. These things for sure told me that this guy and I would not see eye-to-eye in a political conversation.

In these situations, when I am even further inclined to judge someone I don’t know a thing about other than what their bumper stickers say, I like to play a little game with myself. I imagine something about them that would make me change my mind about my negative thoughts. So, today I imagined this gentleman owns three rescue pups and visits his grandmother in the Memory Care Center every Sunday. For good measure, I imagined the reason he was tailgating me was because he was late on his way to a parent-teacher conference for a daughter he adopted out of foster care. I don’t know him. This could legitimately be his story. Who am I to say? I don’t know him from Adam. Hell. His name could be Adam.

I mean, it’s probably not. And he probably does hate Joe Biden and think masks and vaccines are for sheeple, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a decent person with many redeeming qualities.

My point here is that we’ve put a plethora of superficial determiners in place that allow us to dehumanize each other and make each other perceived enemies, which is a lot to do to people we don’t know at all. We can try to be better. We can at least give each other the benefit of the doubt. We’ll be wrong part of the time. Sometimes, the jerk tailing you will be exactly who you think he is, but sometimes he won’t. Sometimes he will be more complicated and not just a caricature that can be conjured up based on some bumper stickers, a lifted truck, and poor driving habits.

The Spiders Are Still Here, Dammit!

Photo of our cute puppy in the shade because it’s over 70 degrees and he has black fur

It has been warm in Denver. Record-breaking warm. National news coverage level of warm. I was in Target this morning and I saw two women wearing sandals. SANDALS. In December. In Denver. This is nuts. The latest I am usually able to wear flip flops is October. We’re not exactly south Florida. We’re literally a mile high. When other people are getting rain, we are getting snow. But, here we are at December 2nd and we still have not had our first snow of the fall. We have not made it to December without a measurable snowfall since record keeping began here in 1882. It has been 224 consecutive days since we last had snowfall. This is not good for many reasons. The first of which is two-thirds of Colorado’s water supply comes from snowpack. The second is the dry conditions put us at serious risk for forest and brush fires. And the third of which is this:

This not-so-little wolf spider (can’t tell from the photo but he is about the size of my palm when his legs are extended) was waiting for me in my garage this morning. I rarely see these fellows after September. Sometimes I see them through October if it is a warm October. But I have not once seen them in November or beyond. Until this morning. As I came around the corner to my car door at 7:10 am so I could drive my son to school, he was right there. After I dropped a juicy expletive, I judged that he was at a safe distance for me to access my car door. I rushed in and slammed the door, checking to make sure he hadn’t made a leap for it (they do jump). I was safe. As much as I wanted to back out and run it over, he was a little too close to the wall. Damn. When I returned home and opened the garage door, I noticed he had moved. He was now positioned about right where I would need to exit. So, I did the only logical thing. I crawled over the center console, popped open the passenger side car door, and exited that way. When I later went to leave for an appointment, I noticed he was still there, so I entered my car from the passenger side because that is what any sane arachnophobe would do.

I like warm weather. I like sunshine. I’ve enjoyed not having to wear hats and gloves and snow boots yet. But with this latest spider development, I’ve decided to start praying for snow. I barely tolerate those hunting spiders in the late summer and fall, when I expect to see them. I certainly won’t stand for this now. They should be hiding underground at this very moment. They need to go and, for that to happen, it needs to get a lot colder and snowier here ASAP.

So, if anyone knows how to summon snowfall, I’m all ears. I would like to be able to be fear free in my garage and I would also like to enter my car through the driver’s side door tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Feel free to leave me an ancient alchemist’s snowfall recipe or the number for a reputable shaman in the comments section. Thanks in advance.

When Life Imitates Star Wars

While many Americans spent tonight eating Thanksgiving leftovers or turkey tetrazzini or turkey sandwiches or turkey soup, we decided to get take out. We defaulted to our favorite local Italian restaurant for pizza. When we got home with the order, we immediately noticed the number on the boxes.

Any Star Wars fan worth a dime remembers Order 66 from Revenge of the Sith, the order that Chancellor Palpatine enacts to kill off the Jedi. “Execute Order 66” is burned into our sons’ brains, and therefore into ours. I can’t tell you how many times the boys have seen that movie or how many times we have seen it as a result. Star Wars runs through our blood over here. So, of course, together we looked at those pizza boxes and registered Star Wars.

The best thing about being part of a family, or a member of any social circle, big or small, lies in the connections you make and share. I’m grateful to have shared the time I have with the family I created for myself. If life is about the small things, today I am grateful for the pizza boxes that all four of us noticed and photographed and laughed about tonight. A day after Thanksgiving, I find myself with a little extra gratitude and peace.

The 21st Century Thanksgiving Catastrophe Equivalent

Thanksgiving is in a couple days. My husband just finished having a late night snack. He went to load his plate in the dishwasher and start it.

Excuse the filthy stainless, but the dishtowel should explain it

Him: “Uh oh.”

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Him: “The dishwasher isn’t working.”

In my past, at this point, I can say with all confidence I would be losing my shit. Just in time for Thanksgiving? Of course. Why not? That makes perfect sense. Even with only 7 people dining, that’s 7 dinner plates, 7 dessert plates, 7 glasses, 21 pieces of silverware, assorted serving utensils and pieces, and this would add up fast. Way too fast for this English major to figure in her head. The whole reason I unloaded the china we asked people to buy for our wedding was because I decided I would not ever want to wash all the dishes from Thanksgiving by hand.

Me: (incredulously) “It’s not working?”

Him: “No.”

He is pressing all sorts of buttons, and I can tell from his expression nothing on the display panel is lighting up.

This gives me pause, but rather than lose my mind as I would have done in the past, I simply decide that it’s fine. We can hand wash or we can use paper plates and plastic utensils (not environmentally sound, but desperate times call for lowered moral standards). Maybe we have it both ways and can use some paper and do some hand washing of other items, thereby alleviating some of my guilt for using disposable items out of sheer laziness while still managing to be somewhat lazy.

I watch him for a few more seconds as he pushes buttons. Then, I can tell from a look on his face, it is working again.

Him: “Never mind. It’s working again.”

Me: “That’s a relief.”

Him: “My hands must have been wet.”

I assumed that meant that wet hands interfered with the touch screen. I made my peace with the fact that the whole incident had been a non-starter. And just like back we were back to normal. Steve was finishing the last bite of his toast, and I was back to watching episodes of Seinfeld. Thanksgiving was saved. We could use three plates a piece instead of just two and could put saucers under the cups now if we wanted to. Oh, reckless abandon!

When Sleeping Beauty Is Your Husband

My husband, god bless him, can sleep anywhere. Anywhere. This simultaneously surprises, amuses, and, if I’m being honest, annoys me. I’ve never been a great sleeper. Wait. I take that back. For a while in my mid-20s I was a great sleeper. I could sleep for 12 hours straight. Then I learned I had thyroid disease. As soon as I was properly medicated, I was right back to not being a great sleeper. But my husband? Damn. He could win a gold medal.

It’s 10:43 pm at this moment, and this is my husband.

We call this the Friday Night Fall Aparts

The man is asleep on his belly on the floor. And we have hardwood floors and this thin rug is covering them. How is this even possible? He’s 51, not 6. Looking at this hurts my neck. I don’t understand this behavior. I mean, I’m tired. I’m tired all the time. I just don’t sleep well. But this wonderful man has the gall to sleep like this in my presence. My favorite is when he sleeps on his back with one knee bent up and his other leg crossed over his bent knee. So many questions about how you fall asleep like that.

He used to take the light rail to work every day. One evening, he was late coming home. Turns out he fell asleep on the train and no one woke him up when they reached the last stop, which was his. The train went back into its siding to wait for its next run, and that is where he finally woke up, when the train was out of service and he had to press the button to open the doors and walk an extra distance back to the boarding platform to exit. Two things about this baffle me. First, how did he not realize the train had stopped and everyone else was getting off? How did he sleep through that? Second, what kind of trust do you have to have in humanity to fall asleep on a public train? I have never been able to sleep in public. I don’t trust people enough to be that vulnerable around them on purpose. I’m stuck in an airport overnight? I will sleep when I get home. No way am I leaving my bag unattended. People are sketchy.

Lest you think I am over exaggerating or being unkind about these sleep habits, I will share this selection of photos. This is not an isolated incident. And he’s got our kids sleeping like this. Our dogs too. Whatever strange magic this is, I am so sorry I missed out on it because everyone in my house is asleep, except for me.

I do sleep, but there are a number of things that have to be in place. It’s got to be cold in the room, so cold my nose needs a warmer. I have to be covered up with layers, preferably weighted. There must be no part of me outside of the covers, except my face, and my feet have to be warm. A sleep mask helps because I wake up at the slightest bit of light. And there must be noise. I can’t sleep in a silent room, so I need ambient noise, a fan, ocean sounds, something like that. Oh, and I need something soft. A stuffed animal works. Yet, even with all this in place, I still don’t sleep as well as the rest of my family. And if my doctor tells me one more damn time to wear my blue light glasses, I may lose it. I wear the glasses. They haven’t turned me into Sleeping Beauty yet.

Come to think of it, though, in my next life, I would like to come back as Sleeping Beauty. And if some stupid prince comes along, he’d best keep on walking and look for the girl who is missing her shoe or the one who lives with seven small men. This girl needs her rest.

A Missing Letter Can Change Everything

All consonants are important, even if they’re voiceless.

Tonight Thing One sent me a paper to edit. He does this on occasion. One of the only benefits of having a mom who writes is that she might be willing to do some editing for you in a pinch. The paper tonight was for his history class and covered the Reformation. As I was reading through it and checking the grammar and spelling, I noticed that my darling son’s dyslexia reared its head. He had “peasant” written as “pheasant.” This took me back to a post I wrote almost 10 years ago when I was proofreading a 4th grade book report for him.

Joe had written a book report on Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. As I was reading his paper, I was having a hard time understanding what he was saying because he kept referring to the main characters “poaching peasants.” The story involves a father and son who put sleeping pills in raisins and use them to poach pheasants off a neighbor’s land. But in the book report, Joe kept referring to the pheasants as “peasants.” Imagine my consternation when I’m reading along and thinking my 4th grade son is reading a book about a father and son who kill people and eat them.

I know that at 20 Joe knows the difference between a peasant and a pheasant. He actually knew the difference 10 years ago too. It’s just that his brain doesn’t always make the spelling distinction. As a person for whom English and writing came a bit more easily, I admit I used to judge potential boyfriends on their ability to spell and use correct grammar. It was snobby, but it was a pet peeve of mine when a person wrote “your so cool” rather than “you’re so cool.” Then, the universe gave me sons with dyslexia and ADHD, which forced me to see that poor grammar and spelling aren’t always due to ignorance or a lack of intelligence or education. Sometimes poor grammar and spelling are the result of a learning disability. So, I’ve learned to relax a little bit when I see “your” instead of “you’re” or “pheasant” instead of “peasant.” Or at least I’ve learned not to judge the grammar over what is being said.

I hate to think that someone might not be able to see beyond our sons’ dyslexic spelling errors. I prefer to think that anyone who talked to them would understand they were intelligent people with grammar and spelling issues on occasion. Maybe those people will come to learn what I have. You might have to put up with some spelling confusion when dealing with a person who has dyslexia, but you might get some funny stories out of it too.