Thursday, May 29, 2014

Getting Unstuck: A Year of Expanding Possibility

I created this picture with the Sketch Club app for iPhone.
The day before yesterday, Memorial Day 2014, I had one of my regular tantrums about the house. More specifically, a tantrum about my own housekeeping (or dire lack thereof).

I've always been challenged in this area, and consider it one of my greatest failings. It isn't that I don't know how to clean; I used to have a housecleaning business and am a very meticulous person. But this meticulousness for me has been magnified into a paralyzing perfectionism. A perfectionism which keeps me stuck deep in a mire of spiritual self immolation on an almost daily basis.

The image that came to mind earlier today was one of a car stuck in the mud, tires spinning but not gaining traction. Every so often, the tires of my life gain a bit of traction - just enough to skid haphazardly out of the deep hole they've made and land on solid ground. But then that pesky perfectionism spurs me to put my foot on the accelerator, shoving the car into a higher and higher gear until once again I've dug myself into a hole. A hole inches, perhaps feet, ahead of the last.

Somewhere in there is the place where I have my regularly occurring tantrums. Sometimes I yell at Brent, sometimes at the girls, sometimes at everybody. It always ends in tears (hopefully but not always just my own). I think now that those tantrums come right as I've landed on solid ground. One might think they come right before the tires gain traction, but what I think happens is that I get situated, begin to see the horizon, and panic. It's just all too big and too overwhelming to contain, and I get more and more frustrated that I can't move faster and make it all happen now, perfectly, exactly the way I'm imagining it.

As I type this I see how childish this is. It isn't that I didn't know it before, but I'm seeing it now, in this very moment, in a different way. Not in a chiding way, but in a matter of fact way. A sort of detached "wow.".

So, Memorial Day night, after the girls had gone to bed, Brent and I resolved to get a bunch of chores done and make some progress digging ourselves out of the giant mess that had been festering for days. Piles of laundry (both dirty and clean), dirty dishes, toys, the works. As I was putting some laundry in the washer he made some innocuous joke about my lack of attention to my surroundings. My feelings were very hurt, and I proceeded to tear into him. I didn't practice mindfulness, I didn't take a breath, I didn't do all the things I know to do in those moments. Fast foward to an hour or so later, after the yelling and the tears (all mine, by the way). We were talking about the idea of creating a goal for me to have the house "perfect" 90% of the time. He asked me how long I thought that could take. My answer? "I don't know. When I'm 80?" I was only being partially facetious. I figured, hey, I've been struggling with this all my 44 years, so it could easily take that long for me to get out of it, right?

He chuckled slightly as he said "I don't think it could be tomorrow. Maybe a year from now? What do you think is realistic?"

I balked. My eyes welled up. I sat in pained silence, realizing that tomorrow is exactly what I wanted, and I knew damn well that wasn't even close to realistic. Even a year... well, maybe. But so long??? "I don't know," I said. "I definitely want tomorrow, but I know that's not happening. Maybe fall? By the time school starts up again."

"Not realistic", he said flatly. Of course deep down I knew this. So after a bit more balking, I agreed to a goal of a year, with a slight revision. Memorial Day 2015, my goal is to have the house "perfect" at some time during any given day 80% of the time. "Perfect" doesn't need to be defined, we both know what it is. And maybe I'll get there, and maybe I won't, but two days later I can already feel the ground shifting. And, I'm getting out of my car. I added a task today to my Atracker app, called "reassess". It's categorized under "self care", and I chose an icon of a person hiking. Hiking is a much steadier way of climbing a difficult, muddy hill than driving.

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