There is a church near my house with a sign that lures drivers to turn their heads and read it. Every Monday, someone (seemingly the church’s pastor) creates a poignant message related to that week’s sermon. Last week it read, “Giving Up Your Possessions?”
But this is not a post about church.
I immediately recognized the idea of “giving up” anything this time of year as a nod to Lenten practice of sacrificing a vice for the 40 days before Easter. I also understood the author’s play on the word possession. She or he was not referencing giving up material possessions, but rather unloading the negative things that take over or “possess” our head space.
Possess (pəˈzes/) verb:
- Have as belonging to one; own.
- Have complete power over
What are your ‘possessions’? What owns your head space?
Work? Money? Relationship? Kids? Body Image?
It did not take long for me to realize what possesses my thoughts.
My failure to be a perfect parent possesses my head space.
I spend hours each day thinking about how I could have handled a parenting situation differently. My thoughts go like this,
My kids say they want to run away. They fight constantly. All three are picky eaters and lousy sleepers. My sons tell me they hate me at least once a day. I’m totally screwing up.
My husband says the above facts are evidence that I am a good parent, but my thoughts repeatedly tell me that I must be doing something wrong. Forget perfect. Most days I feel like I’m failing or at least floundering. I have been a perfectionist for 34 years, and have been striving toward perfect parenting for 7 years. That is a long time to live with the same message in your head every single day of your life.
I recently wrote a post about living with anxiety, and the amount of energy this takes up in my life. Much of this anxiety involves my fears that I am messing up as a parent. When I cannot sleep at night I tackle my BIG anxieties, but I also face the terrible feeling that I am completely messing up my kids. The guilt that accompanies this is hard to push away, and for a recovering perfectionist it often feels impossible.
It is possible to be mindful of my anxiety and mindful that perfectionist thoughts are irrational, but it sure ain’t easy.
Mom (still) Seeking Balance
I have always written this blog from the viewpoint of a recovering perfectionist looking for middle ground in the throes of parenthood. As such, I doubt that it is a surprise that perfectionism and my inability to achieve it dominate my mind. But lately those thoughts have included a worry that I am too far from perfection to share this journey. Often I question if the troubles I encounter while navigating parenthood’s rough seas mean I have no business recounting the details on the internet. Then I realize the thing I need to give up is the lingering idea that in order to be helpful I need to be perfect.
I am moving forward with this at the forefront of my mind.
I’m purchasing (not renting) head space from my perfectionism and transforming it into a well mortgaged property called Balance.
This blog is not an advice column that tells readers how to find balance. It is an account of how I’m trying to find it. How I am stumbling and succeeding, and giving up my ‘possessions’ along the way. It is a house built on honesty, vulnerability, authenticity, and empathy. Everyone-possessed and imperfect-is welcome. Because I think what we need more than advice is the truth that we are all struggling, and we are all ok nonetheless.