On rounding up…

Five years ago I listened to a man on NPR talk about his fear of failure. Do you ever listen to something you know to resonate within your soul, but not know how to take action on?

Five years ago I listened to a man on NPR talk about his fear of failure. Do you ever listen to something you know to resonate within your soul, but not know how to take action on?

The man talked about how he felt like his entire life he never failed, and he thrived off his own perfection. However, eventually, he had a break down when he could not keep up with unrealistic standards. Of course, the problem with perfection is: it’s impossible.

My office mates have been teasing me for weeks, “Is everything you do perfect?”

My husband tells me, “You never mess up. I wish you would sometimes.”

The toll of my own perfection is exceptionally exhausting.

Never miss an email, return every call, every decimal point is rounded perfectly, every color combination matches, and no word is spoken out of turn.

My inner critic has no end to my own faults. I ask Del five times a day if I’m a bad mom. Yesterday I asked if I was a bad mom because I was washing Carly’s bottles instead of holding her. Facebook has taught me that if you don’t spend every minute of your life staring at your child, you will miss SOMETHING and regret whatever other thing you were doing in the minute.

Friends of mine came up with the term “round up.” Research shows that women consistently underestimate our abilities. We don’t apply for jobs unless we meet most criteria, and we don’t push for raises unless we’re 1,000% certain we deserve them. Instead of underestimating our internal (and numeric) value, we need to round up.

A few weeks ago, I took a day off of work because I was exhausted. One day turned into two. Then, the week-end hit, and I spent most of it sleeping. My brain finally hit the breaking point. Between being a wife, motherhood, and work, the voice telling me I was not doing enough – and I was not doing it perfectly – burned me out.

I spent a long time thinking of my inner critic. It’s that idiotic little voice telling me nothing is quite as good as it could be. My hair is straight, but there are a few strands always out of place. That report is 98% perfect, but that 2% is enough to ruin everything. After careful consideration, I know where the voice arose and how it kept growing. But honestly – that is all too much to process in one blog post.

But knowing the source, I did something different: I finally gave up.

I put a sign on my computer last week: “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”

Last week I hit send on emails with typos. Last week I stopped overthinking my answers at work and just started muttering. I had a few Facebook posts without commas, a few reports where the font in the table didn’t match the font in the body. But somehow, the world kept turning and no one died.

As it turns out, the inner critic was never keeping me safe – it was holding me back. He should have been telling me I’m beautiful, talented, and my level of detail is unparalleled. But he’s kind of an ass face, and does not like to say nice things.

Lent is upon us. One year I gave up drinking a pack of cherry cola a day. For four years I tried to give up swearing (but that shit never takes….). This year, I’m giving up on my inner critic, and my implausible quest for unattainable perfection. I’m going to think less, react from my gut, and start to tell myself “Damn girl – round up! You got this.”

 

On all the good things…

My husband and I got baptized together. Well, not in the same hot tub (our church does immersion), but we got baptized on the same day.

Right after we got baptized, one of our friends said to us, “I love you guys. I like that you both had prior relationships that didn’t go well, but you don’t let that stop you from moving forward.”

I cried a little. I thought that was one of the nicest compliments my husband and I had received about our relationship. I also thought it was especially fitting right after being baptized.

The compliment was also true. My husband and I both had some bad stuff, but we didn’t let that stop us.

Del (my husband) and I were both married previously.

Del got divorced because his ex-wife just left. One day they were together and married, and the next day she decided she could no longer handle being his wife.

I never really knew Del’s ex-wife. I had met her before. When I met her, I thought she was nice and funny. I know she can/could bake well, and that she can/could sing well. Beyond that, I know very little about her. I couldn’t tell you what makes her tick.

Whenever I think of Del’s ex-wife, I feel disappointment. I’ve spent a long time contemplating why I feel so disappointed with her.  She has never done anything to me, and frankly, her decision to leave was my gain. I think I feel disappointed because Del will never tell anyone (except me) what it was like to be married to his ex-wife. I have heard from other people that his ex-wife told tons of people intimate details about their relationship. Del will sometimes say ‘It was terrible’ or ‘She was not kind.’ I see the irony in my disappointment, or is it the hypocrisy? I’m divorced too. I left too, and I’m writing a blog about it. But I feel disappointment nonetheless.

I am never sure if his silence is Del being honorable, or if the pain of whatever she did is too much to discuss. Maybe it is both.

I got divorced because my ex-husband was controlling. I wasn’t allowed to: bake, spend money, decorate the house, spend time with friends, talk to certain members of my family, etc. etc.  My ex-husband also enjoyed calling me names. I think ‘bitch’ was his favorite. Any of my friends and all of my family will tell you that I had to leave my first marriage. It was, well, super bad.

Neither Del nor I were perfect spouses.

The strange this is – I am married to Del – and I cannot tell you exactly what he did as a husband that contributed to his marriage failing. My husband is not perfect, but he is SUCH a good husband. He is kind, forgiving, a hard worker, funny, at sooo cute. At any rate, why Del did to his marriage that contributed to its failure is his story. He can tell it, if he ever wants to.

I also did a lot that contributed to my first marriage failing. I was not forgiving – of anything. If my ex-husband would do something wrong, I would hold it over his head. I never told my ex-husband how I was feeling or what I was thinking, which really doesn’t make a marriage work. I mothered my ex-husband. I would try to force him to see all of the little details he was missing.

I think the greatest lie I hear people tell is that one person caused a marriage to fail. Yeah, I am sure that is true for some people (like 1%), but most of the time it is two people not doing enough to make a marriage work.

For some reason, our society excuses the three A’s as a reason for getting divorced: abuse (physical or mental), adultery, and addiction (drugs or alcohol). If one partner has a problem with those, our society gives a green light to leaving. I have always thought that was so strange. And no, I’m not supporting the three A’s, or insulting folks who chose to divorce because of them. I just think its fascinating… If you are called to love your spouse forever, why are there this weird tickets to single town? What is it about these three things that suddenly make the decision to leave a marriage so black and white?

In some ways, I am grateful for that I had a green light. It removes a lot of societal disapproval I faced after getting divorced. I’ve never heard anyone admit this, but if you say ‘My ex was abusive’ – it removes so much critique. And no one ever asks the spouse that was cheated on ‘What did you do to contribute to your spouse cheating?’

Don’t worry though, while society may remove that critique, I still give plenty of it to myself. My first marriage failed. I contributed to that failure.

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: I forgive my ex-husband. I forgive Del’s ex-wife. I forgive Del for whatever he did to contribute to his first marriage failing. And – I forgive myself for whatever I did to contribute to my first marriage failing.

With this grace, we move on.

Del, my husband, is the best husband in the entire world. When I think of him, my stomach still gets butterflies. When he kisses me, my knees get weak. Just writing about him right now makes my heart beat faster. Just writing his name makes me miss him.

Del and I came together at a time in our lives when everything was falling apart. I’m guessing that most shrinks would say we bonded over a traumatic event, and then they would tell us that our bond is unhealthy. Meh. I disagree.

Del and I work because we have four important things: 1) a ton of common interests, 2) a healthy respect for individual growth, 3) Jesus, and 4) good sex (my parents read this, so I’ll just bullet this one for the sake of my father).

Together, Del and I both love: food, tv, drinks, friends, games, Jesus, reading, learning new things, visiting new places, exercise, bad jokes, good jokes, being kind to people, and more. If Del starts liking something I don’t care about, 90% of the time I will try to become interested in that too. For example, Del just started listening to tons of weird pod casts, so I’ve started listening to pod casts as well. I guess I could just poo poo that new interest and move on. But if something is important to my husband, it is important to me.

Despite caring about 90% of my husband’s interests, there is that 10% I just can’t seem to care about. I try to support and nurture that 10% as much as I can. For instance, my husband likes bourbon. I think bourbon tastes like how I imagine cat piss would taste, so I don’t drink it. But for Christmas, I bought him a nice bottle I thought he would like – and some mixers. My husband is also exceptionally good at finding weird stuff on the internet. I can’t keep up with him on that, so I just try to tell him as often as possible that I love that he is learning new and weird things.

We are into Jesus. We attend church together. We serve in church together. We pray together. We read the Bible together. However, we also encourage each other to grow however Jesus is calling us to grow. My husband might be called to do one thing, and I another. When the day is done, we crawl into bed and talk about where we are at. What happened today? What do you need? How is God working in your life? How is God working in our marriage?

I am not sure what most people think you are supposed to do after a failed marriage.

When I was in my teens I had a teacher (Ms. T) whose husband left her and her children for another woman. Ms. T was the most miserable bitch I ever did meet. In the south, I think they’d call her ‘awnry.’

After Ms. T’s class, I made a silent vow to myself. I vowed that, no matter what happens to me in life – I don’t want to become an angry, bitter old woman that all the kids loathe.

When I got divorced, I guess I could have sat alone in my house crying myself to sleep about the crappy things that were happening. But I just don’t fucking have the time or energy to be miserable.

So I cried a bit. I dusted myself off. And I just kept on trucking.

I am so thankful I kept going. If I hadn’t, I would’ve missed all of the good things that life has given me with Del.

I would’ve missed Disney World, and drinking at Epcot. I would’ve missed Del teaching kids how to beat box. I would’ve missed playing board games with friends. I would’ve missed trolling around Grand Rapids, sleep-all-day Saturday, watching too much Netflix, napping in the backyard, bonfires, cuddling, smoking cloves, listening to pod casts, and enjoying music.

I’ve taken some punches, but so has every other person on the earth. At some point, you just have to realize that life is unfair, but you still get to choose whether or not to be happy – and whether you want to miss all of the good things.