Confessions of an Unfulfilled Perfectionist

I want to feel like a good person.

The problem is, I’m not sure what that feels like. Like, if I were a good person, what would that feel like?

I’m told all the time that I do good things, that I do things well. The mirror says I manage to look good doing it, too, and other people say so. But inside my body, I just…don’t feel like anything special.

I used to be in electrical engineering. I used to design projects, all kinds of projects. They were designed for construction, and they ranged pretty widely. I was good at it, but I don’t do that anymore. My interests shifted to the arts, and I excelled at that in turn.

It’s not that I miss it…. I guess it’s more that I miss having someone to approve my work, sign off on it, decide that it’s good enough to build. I guess that I miss some sense of accomplishment when it’s finished.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing things now. I’m working as a server at Red Lobster. I’m working as an artist. I’m fostering a child. I’m raising my three children. Heck, I just harvested a good 10 giant squash from my garden, each 5 pounds or more. And that’s just the squash – the garden is full and plenty. I’m also writing, obviously. 🙂

I used to be a preschool assistant. I was teaching art lessons. I haven’t had enough time for that lately. I’m still working as a priestess, a religious leader of sorts, although I’ve been too busy to do it completely lately. I missed the last holiday, for instance. And now… I’m waiting for…

And that’s why I’m writing. What am I waiting for?

I’ve been writing music. My friend taught me how to make a leather collar for my dog today. It’s beautiful. I’m hoping to put together sketches to get into a mural project locally. I’m working on getting a car that will seat my whole family, which is quite a feat considering how big of a family it is. And I think we can afford it finally. I’m working on fixing the other car we already have. All my children are so happy in school, my extended family is only upset that I don’t talk to them more, my friends love me and value me, I’m just…

I want to feel like a good person. I want to feel like I’m doing things right. Serving is not the industry to feel like you do things right, by the way. It’s an industry where the customer decides your worth, and you literally don’t get paid if they don’t feel like you’ve earned it. It’s a hard business, especially when you do everything right and no one cares enough to reward it.

So does that mean I don’t like serving? Heck no. I love it. It’s a great gig. It’s a skill that, if you can excel at it, brings great rewards. It runs you hard, and you can feel a sense of accomplishment, of work really done, at the end of the day.

But at the same time I want to have some energy left. I want to feel like I’ve done something of value. And lately… I just don’t have that. The whole point of taking that specific job was so that when I came home, I could focus on my family and still have time for things like…this. With the kids home from school over the summer, that wasn’t feasible.

So now that they’re back in school, I’m back to writing. But I’m also in a crisis of conscience. Is my work of worth, in general? Am I doing good things?

I know I’m helping my new daughter by fostering her. I know that I’m working hard to support my family, and that I’m treating them well, taking good care them. I know that I’m building a house, a home, that’s better than it was. I know that I’m making things fall into place so that this life is easier to live well.

But I also hunger for something, like so many people do. And like so many, I don’t know what it is. I’m good at gleaning things like that, figuring out the answer to such a riddle. But I currently feel out of my depth.

I want to write a song. I want to want to paint a mural. I want to finish the series of paintings I’m doing, to write my book I’m working on, to keep posting things like this online… I want to eat life up.

I just haven’t had the energy.

I guess I just want to know that I’m doing something right. And none of us get a certification that, by the way, you’re a wonderful human being. People say it all the time, or they don’t, and you just have to…decide what you choose to believe.

I’m reading this unbelievable book on writing, Bird by Bird. At one point it talks about how when you write you have to have a moral system that you’re coming from, a compass by which to guide the reader, and yourself. That without the moral, the goal, the underlying, ethical drive, your story can simply wander off. That the reader can become bored, disillusioned, unsatisfied.

It talks about the struggle between good and evil, the endless battles that humans like to use as fuel for such stories. And in reading that, I wrote in the margin, “I rail against the struggle against evil.” We like to decide that something is evil; unquestionably, undoubtedly bad. That decision is what drives so much of the “us against them” mentality that has driven humanity for generations. It’s what’s causes us to build up fortresses against nature, to force it out of our boundaries, to mow our lawns and not use them. It has pushed us to push others away, to kill the wolves, the tigers, the lions… It has built us into the modern parragon humanity now represents, the unassailable top species of the planet.

But what we’ve lost along the way, though, is an understanding that there are no bad guys. We are all trying to do our best. From Aryans, yes, to “black” people that riot in the streets, we are all just doing our best to fight for what we think will help our children, will help our lot in life. It’s a struggle, and it’s one with no end in sight because life continues to be a struggle.

Knowing that, in my gut, how do I manage to find the point where I know that I am doing my best? How does anyone? I try, everyday. But who doesn’t? I think it might just be a matter of continuing to try. Every day.

Those who know me know that this is old hat, that I have always struggled with this. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t. But that’s beside the point. I guess, the question for me is more – how does anyone know the answer to that? Is there ever a point where we can look in the mirror, and see that we have really done a good job?

Tonight, I am up at 1:30 in the morning trying to answer this question, yet again. Tomorrow, I will pack four lunches, drop off four children and a husband, drop off the car for repairs, come home… And then I will do sketches for a mural contest. I will write. I will clean my house. And I will do my best to realize that this is enough for me to do in one day. That no one can fit much more than that into one day. That feeding my family, being a good mother and good wife, that being a struggling artist and still successfully paying my bills, is going to have to be enough for right now.

And if I find it all unsettling still, maybe I’ll come back for more therapy typing. Or maybe I’ll be there for my friends a little bit more. Or maybe I’ll finally finish one of the books I have out from the blasted library. Hahaha.

In the meantime, know that as much as I’m struggling right now, I know I’m doing good everyday. People tell me all the time. So I assure you, whoever you are reading this, that you have probably changed someone’s life in the last week. And you don’t even know it. You have probably done something amazing recently. So forgive yourself for that extra bite of chocolate, that little splurge in your day. Because…chances are you’ve earned it and aren’t giving yourself any credit. People do it all the time. Especially me.

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