It frustrates me that I can’t be perfect — or even a version of perfect — even for a few days at a time. I’m so good at trying, too: I make lists, I fill out my calendar just so, I create budgets and goals. I do all of that. And then something happens to loosen up the tight plans, to dull the shiny dreams, that I’ve made.
Two weekends ago it was a snow day, which you might think would make the weekend easier and more productive. But no — snow days, especially now as a homeowner — mean that you’re out there, spending time and energy moving snow around, off the sidewalks and out of parking spaces. And then sitting by the window dreading another round of white flakes floating down.
Last weekend it was a work trip, where I wrongly assumed that I’d get all kinds of work done after my eight-hour — that’s right! — eight-hour sessions ended. Of course, there was time interspersed for eating and bathroom breaks, but by the time I’m done with eight hours of work talk and work thinking, I’m not exactly in the mood to sit down with a stack of papers and grade them, or to curl up in an armchair to write detailed lesson plans. It was all I could do to get through dinner and watch some Olympics on TV and not act like the tired grouch that I was.
And what does this have to do with anything? Well, when one brick in the wall of perfection is removed or shifted, even a little, everything shifts. And the expectations I have for myself are raised even higher for the next day to “catch up” and to keep pushing to get to the land of perfection, often to the point of being totally unrealistic about the limitations of the space-time continuum. I mean, it’s just not possible to do laundry, clean the house, grocery shop, meal prep for the week, grade a stack of papers, lesson plan for the week and watch an episode of Fixer Upper in four hours. That’s hardly possible in four days!
So I’m trying to lessen the pressure on myself to do all and be all. Because trying so hard is not making me happy and it hasn’t been making me happy for as long as I’ve been trying.
The way that I’ve been programmed — through overt modeling or internal tendencies — is to see life and goal-setting and goal-reaching as a linear feat, something predictable and easily controlled. And that’s just not how life really works. We live on a planet that is organized around cycles: the seasons, weather patterns, the tides, migration cycles, the cycle of life, for goodness’ sake! So I’m moving towards reframing my approach to “achieving things.” I’m starting to view it as part of a cycle, or as part of many varied and interacting cycles, lots of messy, unpredictable curlicues and loops and not in a straight line at all. And sometimes the “achieving” and the growth spurts will be quick and strong, or sometimes they may level off or stagnate, but I cannot assume that one, small portion of my life — a day, a week, even a month or a year — is the way that things will be forever.
After all, there is no such thing as a straight line on earth, so I am willing to trust in the ebb and flow of cycles.