La Pascua, Part I: The Perfectionist

Continued from last week’s Nothing Will Ever Be Good Enough

Some Tuesdays I wake up having no idea what the day’s blog post will be. Though I’ve spent the previous week making mental notes of that news clip or this funny story or a lesson learned that I’d like to share, I don’t usually write my entry until the day I post. Perhaps this is a bad habit. If so, I have had it my entire life. I wrote my college application essay on New Year’s Eve 1989, perfected the print and run method for turning in my undergraduate assignments minutes before my TA was scheduled to pick them up from the box outside his or her office door, completed my Fulbright application a few hours before driving it to the post office on the day it was due. I don’t write this to brag. For years I was ashamed that I worked this way. I envied my organized classmates who completed their work ahead of time, the ones who didn’t need deadlines to motivate them, who were able to chip away at assignments little by little. (Jerks.)

Back then, it wasn’t laziness, but fear. The reality of my work could never measure up to the vision of perfection in my head. More than a vision, I believed that perfection was a mandate. If my work wasn’t perfect, it didn’t count, so I might as well not bother. And I wouldn’t, that is until the fear of turning in nothing overtook the fear of turning in something, and the only thing louder than the voice screaming, “IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH,” was the ticking of the clock.

I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. My mother said that my kindergarten teacher once expressed concern that I was too hard on myself and didn’t seem to enjoy activities unless I was good at them (loved reading and kickball, hated word problems). It would take many blog posts to delve into how I got to be a perfectionist. Those of you who have read my work know that much of it is devoted to digging around inside my head and heart and trying to make sense of it all, or if I can’t make sense of it, to at least accept it. So that is where I am now. Trying to accept and deal with this perfectionist inside me. It doesn’t make sense to hate her or try to kill her. She is a part of me, as much a part of me as my sense of humor, my compassion, and my capacity for love. Perhaps she no longer serves me as she once did, but I believe she still has a place in my life. She knows how to step up and say, “Michelle, we need to knock this one out of the park so give it your best.” But I would like her to learn to sit quietly in meetings of my “inner community”* and observe the kinder, gentler parts of myself as they sort their way through a situation that doesn’t require a grand slam.

I realize that this seems to contradict last week’s blog post, the leap off the table, the letting go of that notion that nothing will ever be good enough. I’m sorting through it, guided by Easter’s reminder and the topic of next week’s post: No One Else Has to Die.

*I owe this phrase to my dear friend Victoria Curtis, who celebrates her birthday today. Happy, happy birthday, Victoria! I’m so glad you were born.

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Damn, you’re all up in my life. If it wasn’t for the last minute I wouldn’t get anything done.

  2. You’re probably never going to know how much your candor/ honesty helps your readers and friends accept their own burdens, Michelle. Thank you!

    Note: I think what changed me from my habit of last-minuteness was motherhood–R’s breaking out in chickenpox the night before my master’s exam began was a wake-up to the fact that I wouldn’t always have my last minute to myself and my own plans for what to accomplish in it!! Gratitude evolved for that.

  3. Wow, like what they said already w/o the motherhood part 😀 i had the same problem when i was in school, and all throughout college….thanks for eloquent and honest expression of it….it’s a big reason i’ve avoided gradual school 😉 that and not wanting to get in massive debt…..the irony is i like to write…..manana….manana…… 😀

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