I have a pretty bad memory, so I don’t remember the exact date, but it was at least by 1991 that I began lamenting how not perfect I was. I’d flirted with it in high school, but frankly track practice and pop rocks kept me from worrying too too much about anything but the moment at hand. It wasn’t until the structure of high school fell away that the full force of self-loathing came into play. Being a sensible young woman I added an older, vastly more experienced in the art of mind-games guy to the equation and voila, I was nowhere near good enough.
Fast forward through a bunch of tedious abuse and heartache to 2000.
Sean had been trying to crack away at the chip on my shoulder for a solid year. I still didn’t feel great, the weight of feeling like I needed to change to fit into something that would mean I was special sapped my strength to do much more than go through the motions of living. Every celebration was colored by the idea that if I were more graceful, skinnier, smarter or just different, than it would be better.
Then we were getting married and talking about kids. Two pink lines. And it all slipped away—there was no more worry because I was going to be perfect. I honestly went from thinking that I was defective to thinking that I was never going to make another mistake. I imagined parenting without raising my voice, living without struggling with the explosion of new details and demands. I never once panicked that I wouldn’t be a good mom or a fantastic wife, perfection was but months away.
Briar was barely 4 weeks old when it all shattered. We’d spent countless hours gazing at one another as she nursed, long nights lying nose-to-nose, and afternoons in the sun cooing. I reveled in my ability to meet her every need without feeling even a passing sensation of inadequacy. Then I decided to cut her nails. Everything was fine until it wasn’t. I snipped a tiny bit of skin behind the fingernail of her left ring finger. A smear of bright red blood sprang to the surface of her fingertip and I died.
She howled. I wept. My perfection ended. I didn’t tell Sean. Ever. He pointed out the tiny speck a week later and I flinched, smiled and shrugged my shoulders. It is something I still carry even though I am once again equipped with the certainty that I am not perfect.
No one is perfect.
We make bad decisions. We give in. We hold back. We give up. Our redemption is in our ability to forgive and to learn.
I no longer quest for perfection, I strive to be better than I have been before, to be more than people expect of me.
We can always be better.