Someone once told me I go from hot to cold very quickly–that I can put up my walls and shut someone out in the blink of an eye. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week because I think he was right, and I don’t know what causes it. I feel like a rubber band that gets stretched and stretched until it eventually snaps. Now, my friends who I’m around everyday say they don’t experience a coldness, but that I become quieter and pull away. I don’t know what that’s about. I do know that right now I feel overwhelmed; “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” as Bilbo Baggins would say :). I feel awful for complaining because everything that’s going on right now is fabulous. There is change happening in every venue of my life, and while a little scary, it excites me. But I feel like there is not enough of me. I can’t do all the things I want to do, but somehow I still feel like too much.
This is a lie straight from the devil, that we’re too much, and it has plagued women for centuries. I feel like my emotions are too much for my husband, my friends, my coworkers. My dreams are too big and my past is too scary. I’ve had people bail out of my life because I was too much for them, and let me tell you, it hurts. It makes me scared to be expressive; to feel passionately and desire fiercely. There are so many directions my mind and heart are taking me right now, and yet, I’m just me. I can only take one day at a time. In an odd way I feel like a failure because my tired, weak body can’t keep up with my mind. I’m not moving at the rate I want to be moving at, I’m going half-speed. At work I do many different jobs, and since my energy is spread out I feel like all my different projects are suffering. I don’t feel like I’m living up to my potential or performing as well as I could if I focused on one thing.
And there’s that word, performing.
I think this is what has been stealing my energy, what has been making me feel like a failure and stretched too thin. I want my performance to be perfect. I should know all my lines and remember all my cues and bring the audience to their feet at the end of the show. I want to be the perfect wife, the perfect friend, the perfect employee and Christian. I want to be the perfect home-buyer and blogger and decorator and cook and artist. I want perfection. And while I don’t express that to myself openly, because let’s face it, it sounds crazy, I constantly feel it. The weight of perfection. And when I fail, when I respond sharply to someone and hurt their feelings, or I let the dishes pile up for days at home, I retreat, like failures do. I go inside myself to try to avoid more failure. I realize all my energy has been eaten up in the pursuit of perfection and I have nothing left to give.
Where the hell did this insane ideal come from? I mean, really? It makes me angry. I don’t know if everyone feels this way. I didn’t think I did. I always prided myself on my low standards–on letting the house be a little filthy and getting B’s instead of the A’s I knew I could get. I would tell myself to go easy, be gentle with myself because life is hard and we all need a break. But now, somehow, my mind has become this cruel taskmaster and the expectation of perfection has trickled down throughout my being. It feels ingrained, like my default mode.
My intentions are good. The reason I strive for perfection is to help other people. I want to be the best friend I can be, to make the people in my life feel loved and appreciated. I want to excel at my job so I can help my coworkers do their jobs better. I want to be at every church event and social gathering. I want to help my family with their problems and be a listening ear on the phone. I just want to be this person that can be what every other person needs. I’m crying as I type this, because the depth of my desire to be there for those around me is immense. I stay awake at night thinking of how I’ve hurt others and let them down. If only they knew how much I cared. But the thing is, I’m not meant the be a ball of clay that can be molded into whatever shape someone wants. I’m meant to be a beautiful piece of art, unique and strong, built in the shape that God designed, that He crafted with His own hands.
So I’m sorry to those I love, that I’ve let you down at times. I’m sorry you had to see me when I didn’t know who I was and when I didn’t know how to love you. But I hope you know that I think about you every day, and the best thing I can do for you is to be myself. And I want that from you too.
Now you’ve all seen me process yet another deep quandary of the soul, and I hope it helps. You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to perform to make others love you. Failure is a big scary word and we rarely actually do it. Every “failure” is an opportunity to grow and learn; to realize how dependent on God we are.
I want to take time to love the people in my life in real, intentional ways. I have so much love for my friends and family, but my perfection is not what will make them see it. It’s choosing to love through the imperfection. It’s reaching out a hand to a friend who’s struggling. It’s seeing the beauty in a person how doesn’t look that beautiful to the rest of the world. It’s realizing that the imperfection in myself and others is beautiful.