Post title with apologies to Madonna and “Material Girl.” 😉
I used to be a terrible housekeeper. That wasn’t a bad thing in and of itself – some people really don’t mind dirt, but I really hate dirt and messiness. So I’d wait until my house was a pig sty, and then spend all day cleaning it until I was tired and cranky and NEVER WANTED TO CLEAN AGAIN. And then as the house got dirtier, I’d start to feel overwhelmed, because I KNEW what was coming – I KNEW that another one of those all-day, marathon cleaning sessions that I HATED SO MUCH was waiting in the wings. And so I’d get anxious about it. I’d think about how it would take FOREVER to clean the bathroom for 2 or 3 days before I actually CLEANED it. And then I would think, “What’s the point of doing half a job?” and I would CLEAN IT. I’d clean the grout in the tub with a toothbrush and bleach, and scrub the shower walls until my arms ached and use the toothbrush on the faucet and the shower-head where there were calcium buildups. And it really WOULD take FOR-FREAKIN-EVER. And at the end of the day my hosue was beautiful, but I was tired and cranky and NEVER WANTED TO CLEAN AGAIN.
Lather, rinse, repeat. BUT NOT IN MY CLEAN SHOWER, I JUST CLEANED THAT!!!!
Then I found the FlyLady site (over there in the sidebar, under “Not Blogs, but Cool”). And it was all about how to break up my housework into little pieces, so that it wasn’t ever overwhelming, and it wasn’t a big deal, and *cue the singing angels* I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO SPEND ALL DAY SATURDAY CLEANING ANYMORE! And I learned that something done imperfectly is still good. She calls it a blessing: “Housework done imperfectly still blesses your family.” And I learned that it was silly to save the “good” dishes and the cloth napkins for the guests, because if my family and I aren’t worth the nice things, than who is? I learned to let go of things that have served their purpose, and not hang on to them because “I might need them again someday.” I learned (and am still learning) not to be so much of a perfectionist.
But somehow, it’s harder to apply it to my eating and exercising. I don’t know if that’s because of my disordered history, or because eating and exercising are more personal than housecleaning, or just because I’ve been a nutcase about eating and exercising for longer, and so it’s harder to change. I. Don’t. Know.
But with my weird stomach, and this FABULOUS diet (/sarcasm), I’ve noticed (again) my tendency toward that all-or-nothing mentality. I did ok with the food the other day, until I ate some chocolate and peanut butter, and promptly declared the day an EPIC FAILURE. I also declared myself a BAD PERSON, to go along with the EPIC FAILURE. But really. It was just some chocolate and PB, and I didn’t have a horrible stomachache afterward, and the ceiling didn’t fall down, and the world kept spinning on its axis, and the Bad Food Police did not show up to drag me off to Cupcake Prison in chains made of red licorice.
(Mmmmm, cupcakes and red licorice. Wait, what? Oh! Posting! Right. Back on track, now.)
And I emailed my accountability partner (thanks, MIzFit!) (I don’t know if s/he wishes to remain anonymous, so I shan’t say his/her name here – and I will use second-person-plural bad grammar because I can), and told them what a Bad Person I was, and bless their heart, they emailed me and said (basically), “Um, whatever happened to that 75% goal?” Because see, I had set this goal-within-a-goal to prevent EXACTLY this sort of nutcase freak-out. I decided that if I met 75% of any given goal, I would consider that I succeeded. But then I forgot about that part. Or rather, I didn’t forget it exactly, but I applied it to specific things, and didn’t even think about broadening it out to other areas of my life. Except that I’m equally neurotic in ALL AREAS of my life. (Well, in all areas related to food, anyway.) So in my head, missing a day of yoga was ok, because hey, 75%, right? But that chocolate and PB was not on the 75% list, so THAT was an all-or-nothing proposition in my head. No siree, no 75% there. Perfect Scores and Epic Fails were the only grades accepted.
And here’s the funny thing (well, not really funny, but YOU know): if I hadn’t declared the day an Epic Failure, I would have been ok. As it was, I felt like, screw it, I’m already a Bad Person Who Fails Epically (sp?) and proceeded to throw the WHOLE DAY in the trash. I ate crap. I ate chocolate that I didn’t really want (I KNOW – who doesn’t want chocolate? Me, apparently), and pasta when I wasn’t hungry, and more chocolate and a sandwich when I got home.
And guess what? I GOT THAT STOMACHACHE AFTER ALL. Shocking, I know, even if I HADN’T had a compromised digestive system at the moment. Oh, I was sick. The kind of sick that makes you leap out of bed several times during the night and race for the bathroom. (Yeah, I went there.) The kind of sick that makes you seriously contemplate bringing your pillow into the bathroom and sleeping on the bathroom floor. (What? It’s clean. FlyLady. Remember the top of the post?) And the worst part was, I DID IT TO MYSELF.
I did it to myself, with my inability to recognize that sometimes “pretty good” is “good enough.” I did it to myself, with the neurotic, compulsive belief that *I* am NOT “pretty good” or “good enough.” I AM EXCELLENT. PERFECT, EVEN. Except . . . I’m not. And that discovery of non-perfection was more than my deluded brain could bear, so it splintered off into some weird neurosis. To be honest, even as I sit here, typing this, even though I recognize the truth of that imperfection intellectually, there is a part of me, deep down inside my gut that DOESN’T BELIEVE IT. That STILL thinks I’m ALWAYS EXCELLENT – PERFECT, EVEN. I JUST HAVE TO TRY A LITTLE HARDER. (I wonder sometimes if some of this comes from being an exceptional child. Truly. Super-smart, spontaneous reader, off-the-charts IQ and test scores. But all that stuff that seems so great to the adults around the kid? Kind of fucks up the kid. Because THAT’S the experience, reinforced over and over, that leads me to believe that I really AM EXCELLENT and PERFECT and BETTER THAN THAT – whatever “that” may be. Because see, I always WAS all those things as a kid. Hm. There might be a whole separate post in there somewhere.)
So. When your only options are black and white, and you’re striving for white, but fall into grey, what are you? You’re not in the white. And if there are only two options, you’re in the black. Good or bad. Excellent or below average. PERFECT or EPIC FAIL.
No wonder my brain is crazy. (And thanks again to my MizFit match for pointing out the 75%. I needed to be reminded in a BIG WAY. Obviously.)