“Tell me a time when you feel you failed as a parent.”
I shift awkwardly on my therapist’s couch, resisting the urge to grab the cuddly throw, neatly folded over the arm of the couch and curl up into a fetal position wailing “It all started when I was two….”. It’s late, I don’t usually come at this time. The day has left me tired and I feel fragile. I don’t want to go there.
I reply: “Once when Owen was really frustrating me, I asked him “What is wrong with you?” It is something that was said to me as a child.” My voice shakes “My husband later, gently reminded me that is not a question we want to leave our Owen to answer for himself.”
I feel tears threatening, I leave unsaid, that these very words, were spoken to me, that long ago, planted seed deep in my soul. A seed that birthed an emptiness, doubt and shame in me. I squeeze my emotions into check. I am not going there, I have watched people leave this office in tears, I am not going to be one of them. I am only here to get some help dealing with my post partum depression.
My therapist is a sharp one though, he gently tells me that my perfectionism is key factor to my depression. That I need to realize mistakes are okay. I looked at him like he was an alien with horns.
I left his office, chewing on this thought. Truthfully, it was a few days prior God awakened me to this word. Perfectionism. It is chiming true in my spirit. I begin to allow my self to think about the standards I have placed in my life.
I see Her now. It is an image I have created of a woman who is perfect. She is who I have measured everything against, having seldom reached the bar she set. She sits in her house, with perfectly manicured lawn and nails. She is thin and beautiful. Her house is pictured in magazines, it is perfect, every niche organized. She is the mother others admire and aspire to be. She always cooks the best meals, and her marriage is a fairytale. Everything she sets her hand to is gold. It’s perfect.
She entered my life like a cancer. Her tentacles weaving their way through every fiber of my being, strangling out joy, making my marriage hell at times, she squeezed the passion from my life, and I have hated myself for the failures she produced.
I am not sure when I gave this women the reigns, when she became the one I measure my worth against. I suspect it crept in somewhere amongst the emptiness that cruel words left in my childhood. I am aware of her now and I see the ridiculous attempts I have made to live up to her expectations.
I could not put on clothes without immediately assessing every flaw in my physic. She stood right beside me in the mirror, all thin and perfect, taunting me with her perfect curves, her belly, free of mommy pooch, despite the children.
When I yelled at my kids, she stood there shaking her head at my lost of control.
As I run around my house preparing for last minute company, stuffing clothes into drawers, and praying the boys have not left pee on the toilet seat, she shook her head and tutted her tongue. Her house is perfect, always ready for company, with a coffee cake baking in the oven, not store bought. She even managed to teach the toddler and nine year old to clean up after themselves.
Perfectionism is a disease. There is never enough when you live with her standards. Nothing you do is good enough, you are never enough. The only cure is put your eyes back to the One who is truly perfect. The One who came to fill in our imperfections. God never expected me to be perfect, he expected to me to be, well me.
I am awakened. I know she is there, and I have thought of ways of killing her, a pitch fork in the eye would be fitting. I created an alter for her in my mind that replaced God or maybe a part of me believed God put her there to make me a better person. It was a lie, and I was deceived. The truth set me free.
I am beautifully broken by this revelation and awakened to what my life should be like. Not measured by perfection, but instead knowing that I am enough, just I am. Trusting that God will bring out the best in me.
The unfolded laundry and run in with my stubborn nine year old does not make me bad, it makes me human.
Perfect is putting aside the laundry when your one year old crawls onto your lap with a book.
Perfect is the moment after the battle with your nine year old, when you sit and ask each other for forgiveness. When you tell him how much you love him, and all the good things you see in him. When you tell him there is nothing wrong with him, and how sorry you are.
Perfect is sitting down to dinner that you completely over cooked. Pork chops that taste like dust, but your family eats on, sharing the meal and laughter. Even though hubby is on his third glass of water and the boy keeps asking for more sauce.
I thank God that I can lay my burdens down to Him. He is not going to come fold my laundry, but He will deliver the divine peace I need in those moments. The whisper of “You are enough and I adore you”.
Photo Credit: jronaldlee @ flickr.com