I started today with high hopes. Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we went out into the woods and hunted for the perfect Christmas tree. We always do this the day after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. We hadn’t had time to put it up and decorate it until today, so today was the day we would dig out our Christmas boxes and put up our meager supply of decorations. We would drink Starbucks, listen to the Christmas classics on Pandora, and decorate our tree as a family. We would end our day with Glitter the Elf making her first appearance of the season, and read our Elf on the Shelf book while eating our leftover Thanksgiving dinner casserole.
But things didn’t go quite as planned. You see, I’m a recovering addict. I know, you had no idea, right? I keep it well hidden these days. Ok, so maybe that statement is a little bit melodramatic, but for me this is a big deal.
I am a recovering perfectionist.
There, I said it. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking that this is a ridiculous statement. But the thing is, perfectionism has been a real, life-long struggle for me. I have always been one of those people that tend to shy away from things. If I can’t do it the very best, I don’t do it at all. I have never been very crafty for this very reason. I get literally overwhelmed, crabby, and seriously bummed out when things don’t turn out the way I hope they will. Most of the arguments Carl and I had in our early years of marriage were due to my perfectionistic ideals. I wanted things a certain way, and whomever got in my way had better watch out if they didn’t go the way I wanted them to go.
After the twins were born, I had a really, really hard time adjusting. I chalked it up to being a new mom, not to mention one with two preemies. But then after CeCe was born, all of my old habits had to go right out the window. Having two 15 month old toddlers plus a newborn forced me to rethink my expectations for myself and my life. I had to allow other people to help me. I had to allow those other people to do things their way, which was usually really different than my way. And as silly as this sounds to some people, this was so, so hard for me.
I decided when the twins were about 2 and CeCe about 9 months old that I was going to be a laid-back, chill, come-what-may kinda girl. And ever since that day, I have worked on it every. single. day. I have forced myself to see the positive, to ignore the negative. I have chosen to drastically simplify my life. I simplify because it reduces mental and physical clutter, which allows me to feel less stressed. I try to say no when I need to, and I strive to keep a balance in my life. I work hard to let things roll off my back. I know by definition people who are easy-going and laid back don’t have to work at it, but for me? Well for me, it’s work. But most of the time the work it takes to be calm, cool, and collected is worth it. I don’t want to be that mental case mom who flips out over little things being out of place, or the wife who yells at her husband because he doesn’t pick up the bathmat, but I have been there. And I don’t want to go back.
So back to today. My high expectations were pretty wonderful in my head. Everything looked really pretty and perfect and well, wonderful. But as most of us know, life isn’t always pretty and it’s pretty much never perfect. Today started with my husband and I fighting over something really stupid, and even after we made up, I just couldn’t shake my frustration over things not going my way. I wanted things to be fun and special. I wanted to make memories with the kids. But instead of just doing it, I wallowed over what could have been. I let my perfectionist self slide right back into her old place like she was meant to be here, like she owned the place, and she just took over. By evening, I was hanging Christmas lights on the tree, trying my darndest to enjoy the music and the chaos that is inevitable when decorating with four little ones underfoot and suddenly I looked up to see that I had strung the entire top half of the tree with the wrong end of the lights coming down. At that point, I lost it. I ended up on the floor of the bathroom bawling my eyes out and swearing off Christmas decorations for good.
Thankfully, that was the low point of our night. I sat there for a while, feeling angry and frustrated. I texted the girls and told them I was done with Christmas for this year. And at that moment, I meant it. But then I got up, I walked out into the living room (angrily, I should add) to see that Carl had figured out a way to string the rest of the lights without starting over. I took a few deep breaths, chose to be calm and we started to hang our ornaments. It took two adults to control the kids, but we did it. We decorated the whole darn tree, put up some greenery and hung a few extra lights. Xza assured me after my self-pitying texts that I’m not alone, and it made me think that I want to let others know that they’re not alone, either. It’s hard to be a control freak, but it’s really hard to be a recovering control freak.
Ultimately, I want to enjoy life. I want to make memories my kids will look back on forever, perfect or not. So if you struggle with being a perfectionist, choose to work on letting go. Choose to be content when things are less-than-perfect, when they don’t go your way. Recognize your limits and set boundaries so you can achieve balance. But when things don’t go your way, and you feel out of control, frustrated and angry, know that you are not alone. And that tomorrow is a new day.