And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate… ~ Taylor Swift
A few minutes ago, I walked into my kitchen and imploded a bit. My shoulders hunched, I cupped my hands over my face, and I let out a hefty sigh.
I just cleaned this shit!
(In all honesty, a friend just helped me clean this shit which makes the vile reality of my messiness even more difficult to bear.)
I am exhausted. After a day at a job that is stressful yet no longer fulfilling, between an hour of driving, an hour of my son’s martial arts class, and an hour of homework, I fixed dinner tonight. I have a small galley kitchen that looks “lived in” with even a few dirty dishes strewn about. And, by “lived in,” I mean lived in by trolls who can’t seem to distinguish the difference between a corner and a toilet.
Cue the familiar paralyzing overwhelm and that ever-ready inner critic who is always eager to dub me a complete loser.
I am terribly hard on myself. I’ve tried that whole talk-to-the-little-girl-that-still-lives-inside-you song and dance, but I have never completely bought in. Logically, I know that a few dirty dishes don’t make me a failure, but the go-to track on my cerebral turntable shrieks about inadequacy. Somehow, my sense of self is all tied up in this keeping up, and lately I feel that I absolutely cannot keep up. Hence the friend doing my dishes. Hence the head in hands. Hence the return to this blog to spit out a healing post.
I suppose the reality is that I could keep up if I truly wanted to keep up. If living in an immaculate abode was really that important to me, then I would make the time or exert the energy to clean up after myself. Because it is clearly not a priority, I should be able to let it go. But, I don’t clean up and I don’t let it go. Instead, I berate myself because berating myself is as much a deep-ingrained habit as leaving laundry on the floor.
But, this track has improved. Or, at least my ability to lift the needle out of the record’s harsh groove has increased. Generally the bouts of “I am not worth it” don’t last nearly as long.
Recently, for example, I came home to find that someone had been in my apartment. That meant either a burglar or the quarterly inspection. I wasn’t sure which seemed more frightening. There were dirty undies on the floor. I hadn’t put all of my groceries away. There was a pan of congealed hamburger grease on the stove. And, I feel like I am minimizing. Yes, someone had seen my mess at its worst, and it was, indeed, the maintenance man.
A year ago, this raw exposure would have sent me into a week-long depression with more than a twinge of paranoia. Yes, it is true that I have yet to invite him back in to fix the broken handle on the upstairs toilet, but I am able to lift the blinds. I only occasionally wait for him to turn the corner out of sight before I make a dash for the apartment door. I am able, little by little, to accept that I am a both a worthwhile individual and, at times, a complete slob.
Still, I have been imposing a tremendous amount of pressure on myself. I feel like I have been, as of late, walking barefoot on the slippery rocks of comparing my insides to other people’s outsides. This is particularly true when it comes to my ability to “keep up” as a parent. I am a divorced parent with equal shared custody and, I’ll be honest, the transition between all out freedom to single momming is tough on me. I have never dealt well with drastic change and the week on, week off cycle often leaves me spinning.
And, lately, there have been voices—both external and internal—that have challenged me to up my game. With these voices preaching at me, perhaps even picking at me, I have also been challenged to stand in my power. I’ve had to convince myself that I am doing the best I can with the tools I have at hand. I am not a perfect parent, and the mirage of perfect parenting—though it sometimes tempts the dry mouth of my self-deprecation—is only that, a mirage. When asked why I can’t teach myself to be neat now that I am an adult, or why I don’t socialize my only child more, I must, perhaps, take heed but also need to be gentle with myself. There is always room for growth, but I don’t believe that the flowers of growth are likely to bud when I am wallowing in self-pity.
In the past, the lessons learned from challenging experiences in my life have come in hindsight. I was so engulfed in my suffering that I could rarely feel my personal and spiritual bones stretching. Lately, however, my eyes seem to be open, at least in part, to the lessons as I am learning them. It seems, in my sobriety, that I am beginning to see life through my new bifocal lenses and am able to ask myself about what I might glean from even a backward compliment let alone a difficult decision or problematic situation. Like tending to my apartment, I need to step back and reevaluate my priorities as a woman and a parent. But, I also need to silence the critical babble, especially when I feel like I am, indeed, doing what is right by me or by my child.
So, ample opportunities for positive expansion prevail! I will schedule time to toss dirty undies into the washer. (I should say, because I am embarrassed that I even admitted to the congealed grease, that it was only from the night before, and the undies were tossed in a mad rush to get out the door.) I will schedule time to take my son on more playdates. But, I will also foster an inner dialogue that promotes both change and serenity. I will love myself, deeply and completely. I am, as you are, an amazing human being, despite my daily bouts of imperfection.