The Ugly, Ugly Face of Perfectionism

We all have our struggles. One of my biggest struggles is with perfectionism. I used to be proud of being a perfectionist. If you want something done well, I’m your girl. I have pulled many an all-nighter to produce a killer paper or a costume or some special food. Over the last few years however, I have become increasingly aware that perfectionism is a crippling handicap.

Perfectionism means that I don’t have people over as often as I like because my house is so, uh, cluttered. Perfectionism means that some things that should get done do not get done because I don’t have time to do them the way I believe they should be done.

I thought that I was making some headway in my fight against perfectionism. My method, as you know, has been playing my autoharp in church every week. There is absolutely no way that I can live my life and still somehow learn two new songs every week and learn them well enough to play them flawlessly. I’ve been forcing myself to just keep at it, because we need an accompanist and because I need to learn to do what needs to be done even if I can’t do it perfectly.

But. . . . I had a severe backsliding experience the past couple of weeks. I had committed myself to doing a project that was a gift for someone I dearly love. This project has literally been a year in the making. It took months to find the right materials. Weeks to make various components. I had a general design in mind. So, it was time to start putting it all together.

That was when everything started going wrong. Everything. Stuff that was basted in place still came out crooked. Stuff that was pinned to within an inch of its life still ended up puckered. The harder I tried to make something exquisite, the uglier it became. Every step of the project took three or four times as long as I had estimated, and still nothing seemed to be turning out the way I wanted. I wept and redid several things, but nothing seemed to help.

I had set today as the deadline–the day by which I absolutely had to finish and get the thing in the mail. I had also committed to going to a homeschool Christmas party today. I took my project to the party and grimly continued to work on it. I hated everything about it. I felt like a complete and total failure. There were so many things wrong with it. I had to leave the party early so I could sew on the very last thing at home–only to find that it was missing due to circumstances beyond my control. Eventually it was found, the project was finished, I packed it up, and made it to the post office before closing time.

I didn’t feel particularly relieved after mailing it because I was so upset about the way it turned out. There just isn’t any more time left to redo anything. The recipient will now know that even when I try really, really hard I still sometimes fail. I hate to fail. There were tears. Quite a lot of tears.

I had to face an ugly fact. How do you spell “perfectionism?” P-R-I-D-E. That’s the root of it, isn’t it? Why do I hate to make mistakes, even if they’re unavoidable? Because I’m proud of being the one who always delivers a quality product, whether it’s a meal or a garment or an essay. Pride, that kind of pride, is a sin, and I so hate to admit that I’m guilty of it.

I wish I could say that acknowledging my pride for what it is helped me feel better about the whole experience, but it didn’t. It did make me think that maybe I need to be a lot more realistic about what I can realistically hope to accomplish, and accept the fact that sometimes I will make mistakes and other people are unlikely to judge me as harshly as I judge myself.

In other news, Lina got her car window replaced today, and I made my annual triple batch of corn pudding for my husband to share at his work Christmas potluck. Also, the holiday cleaning contracts started tonight. Tomorrow: so much to do! I still have some sewing and knitting projects to finish.

Smash!

Last night, we went to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Lina flew into Dallas in the afternoon and drove from there to meet us at the theater. We wore cloaks. And Lina wore her awesome reversible Hobbit scarf that she made with her own two hands.

12-17-14 kids at Hobbit

We had a good time. I confess we made fun of parts of the movie, but other parts we really enjoyed. Afterwards, Lina and I stayed up too late talking and then I couldn’t get to sleep!

This morning when Spencer was on his way to work, he noticed that someone had smashed in the driver’s side window on Lina’s (leased) car. Can you believe it? There was nothing in the car to steal, and they didn’t even unlock the door. Apparently it was just an act of senseless vandalism. A policeman came out to file a report, and tomorrow Lina has an appointment to get the window replaced. It’s so irritating though!

This afternoon I got to spend some time having tea with my friend Joan. It was so nice to catch up with her a bit, but I couldn’t linger because we were having company for supper, and in fact he was here before I was! Our guest was our friend Lee whom we normally only see in the summer. He brought some remote controlled aircraft to show Jasper and then he did a couple of cool experiments, including one involving static electricity, tinsel, and pvc pipe. If we can get it to work tomorrow, I’ll take a video.

I am up late again working on a project that is not going well. I feel like no matter how hard I try and how carefully I do things, the results are about what I’d expect from a five year old. It is too late to redo anything. I’m kind of weepy about it, to be honest. *sigh* I suppose the world will keep spinning despite my personal failures!

A House Guest With Too Many Legs

I keep forgetting to mention to you all that we have a tarantula in our house. This arrangement was made without my knowledge or consent. Mercy agreed to spider-sit Shelob for a friend’s sister’s friend’s husband. Yeah. So it’s in a cage in Mercy’s room.

12-17-14 Shelob

I’m not a big fan of spiders, unless they’re the flat kind that live on the walls in Africa and eat mosquitoes. My least favorite kind of spiders are the jumping kind. You can imagine how much I enjoyed an experience I had as a teenager, when I was awakened in the morning by the sound of something landing on the pillow beside me. It was a tarantula. Three inches from my face. Fastest exit from my bed ever. The good thing about tarantulas, from an arachnophobic point of view, is that (at least in my experience) they are easy to kill. One good tap with a fly swatter, and they’re goners.

This was not the case with another kind of jumping spider we had in Zambia. These hunter spiders could jump several feet in the air and would keep jumping back at you after multiple hits from a fly swatter that would have obliterated a tarantula. These critters were my nemesis. Normally, when I encountered one, I called for backup (one of my brothers). There was one occasion, though, when I was alone in the house and I discovered a hunter in the kitchen. Pathetic sissy that I am, I didn’t want to get close enough to it to hit it with a fly swatter, so I edged past it and got a can of bug spray from the pantry.

My dad walked in to find me emptying an entire can of insecticide at a spider that kept jumping toward me. He killed it in short order and then gave me a lecture about wasting bug spray on a spider. I had no regrets.

Lesson Day

Today was all about my autoharp lesson. Well, at least for me. This morning I had to tune my autoharp, and I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Up until now, every time I have to tune it, the strings that need adjustment have typically been a little flat. Today, all the strings that needed adjustment were sharp rather than flat. I wonder if it has something to do with the change in season?

I also was working on that carol to share with my teacher. It was a bit of a chore because I had the sheet music as a PDF but the chords on it weren’t good for autoharp so I had to print it out, put white-out over the wrong chords, and write in the right ones before I could run a copy. I was pretty proud of myself for getting it done so quickly!

I took off at lunchtime and reveled in the beautiful drive up to Quitman. Even at this time of year I find it lovely. I had some gifts to take to my teacher, also. I made her a couple of pick bags like mine, because she had commented on how much she liked mine. I also knitted her a pair of gauntlets from baby alpaca that is soft as a cloud. She liked them! And she gave me a bag of shelled pecans from their pecan orchard. I love pecans.

We spent more time talking than playing, I think, but it was so enjoyable. I taught her “Thou Who Was Rich Beyond All Splendour” and both she and her husband really liked it. Then I commented that people had been unfamiliar with one of the carols I played on Sunday–As With Gladness Men of Old. Turns out she didn’t know it either, but she liked that too and copied it.

She gave me a bunch of new carols to work on and I am hoping to actually find time to do so. The nice thing about Christmas songs is that once you learn them, you just have to refresh your memory every year when December rolls around. We played “Silver Bells” together and that was a lot of fun. I’ve always believed that it would be so much fun to play music with someone else–and it really is. I love it.

I drove home as the sun sank toward the horizon, making one Christmas-related stop on the way. I’ve spent the evening working on clandestine craft projects which really need to get finished and in the mail tomorrow. I am running out of time–like I always do!

Finally!

My Monday classes could have ended two weeks ago–if Lina hadn’t arrived on a Monday, and if we didn’t have 4-H the following Monday. I know my students and I were all ready to be DONE with this semester!

The only problem was that when I woke up this morning I felt pretty bad. This sinus infection is just dragging on and dragging me down. I’m back to taking meds around the clock and today I was so miserable that I did a breathing treatment which actually resulted in some relief. I know I should probably be more consistent with doing them, but I’m just so stingy and the solution is expensive!

My students were less than thrilled with having to take a spelling test and a vocabulary test, but once that “fun” was out of the way, we watched a video and the kids enjoyed all the treats they had brought to share. Now all I have left to do is finish all the grading and send out reports to the parents.

My paragraph class got off lightly today. Because I knew they wanted to have a few minutes to party–I didn’t have them write a full paragraph–just a thesis sentence since we were talking about introductory paragraphs. I do not understand why so many students struggle with writing a clear thesis sentence. Over the years, I have gone to greater and greater effort to explain this simple skill, yet I often have students leave it out entirely or write a thesis sentence that has no bearing on the content which follows. It remains to be seen if my efforts today were successful!

Now all I have to do is a jillion other things including knitting and sewing and baking and cramming for my autoharp lesson tomorrow. I haven’t got very far on the songs I was supposed to learn because I keep having to learn two new hymns for church every week! However, I did spend some time the last few days working out the chords for one of my favorite Christmas carols so I can show it to my teacher tomorrow. I guarantee she has never heard it and I’m hoping she likes to hear new songs.

Well, I have just finished another breathing treatment so I’m hoping I’ll have a good night tonight and wake up feeling less sick in the morning. Two more days till Lina comes back!

Third Sunday of Advent

This is one of the carols we sang in church this morning.

As With Gladness, Men of Old

William C. Dix

As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom Heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

Another Day In Which Goals Are Not Met

Mind you, the day wasn’t wasted. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. because I knew my husband had to get up at 5:30 and I was so afraid I might not have set the alarm clock correctly. The alarm went off on schedule but even then I couldn’t get back to sleep because I knew that I had to get up at 6:15! So I just got up and got ready to go to Walmart.

Jasper came with me and I braced myself mentally before going into the store because at this time of year it’s always crowded even early on Saturday morning. I bought more medicine because my sinus infection is not going away.
I did get a bit of a nap in after returning home. Walter was working graduation at the university, so he was gone all morning. I got some crafting done, and had a little meltdown when I discovered that something I put a lot of time into had been mysteriously stained and there was no time to remake it. After a trip to the store for a cleaning product and some judicious soaking, I think I got most of the stain out. It set me back in my timetable though.

I did some sewing and some knitting and I got my three items wrapped. I am wrapping at least three gifts a day until I get them all done. So far I’ve been pretty consistent.

I got no baking done at all. Tomorrow’s not looking too good either.

Lina, who has been staying with her friend Jennifer in Ohio, flew to Atlanta today to spend a few days with Walter’s mom and sister. She is busy!

Spencer’s car is still sitting where he left it–we hope. Tomorrow he and Walter will go to rescue it.

Plan B

I had a plan for today. My plan was to sleep for as much of the day as possible. Yes, I have a ton of stuff to do–but I am still really struggling with my cold/sinus infection and I am tired of being sick. I thought sleep might help, since I don’t normally get enough of it.

I did sleep in till after 9:00, which is rather horrifying for me, but I figured I needed it. Then I saw I had a text from Spencer. He never made it home from Dallas last night. His car broke down and he spent the night in a town about an hour’s drive from here. He wondered if I could come get him.

I started trying to figure out when would be the best time to drive over there, and then I checked my email and found out there was a teen event this afternoon that Lucy and Jasper wanted to go to. Suddenly my stay-at-home day had turned into something completely different!

I dropped Lucy and Jasper off at their event and used the time to run some errands. One person in a shop (a young man) referred to me repeatedly as “miss” and it cracked me up.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go get Spencer. He was willing to wait until Kat got off work and she brought him back. There is still the matter of his car, which is parked at a gas station.

After returning home and doing some knitting and paperwork, I finally lay down, thinking I’d at least get a much-needed nap before supper. Alas, it was not to be. Jasper thoughtfully invited several neighbors in to meet me with no advance notice. I had been wanting to meet the mom, but I fear I was not at my best. After a nice chat with her, I figured I could still get in a little rest before making supper, but five minutes later we had more visitors! This time it was our “adopted” college student Jonny (not to be confused with our other adopted student Jonnie) who was stopping by with his parents to say goodbye before leaving town. We have enjoyed having Jonny here on Sunday nights, and will miss him next semester. He is going to have to stay out and work to make more money before returning next August.

Tomorrow, sick or not, I’ve got to get a ton of crafting done, and probably some baking too.

A Class Party and a Recital

Well, I seem to have skipped another day of posting. I did warn you that I would be busy! I had my last high school English class of the semester today. It wasn’t a terribly serious class, but it did involve a lot of preparation. We had a novel to finish reading, and I had given a writing assignment which involved writing a Christmas story. The story had to contain the following elements: a main character who is no older than 18; a stranger; fireplace; parrot; pumpkin pie; a Christmas tree; a bright red hat; a special gift; snow; someone getting angry; and someone getting surprised.

My mistake was that I rashly assured the kids I would do the assignment too. I know that whipping out a 3000 word story might be easy for some people, but it isn’t for me. I was behind on reading the book as well, but at least I had read it multiple times before. So I was up very late last night reading and writing, and right back at it this morning.

The house needed a lot of work too, and we had snacks to make for the party. Fairly early in the morning I opened the front door to see what the temperature was like, and I saw a beautiful sight. It had rained in the night, and there were gleaming raindrops on one of our poinsettia plants.

12-11-14 raindrops on red

I grabbed my camera and walked a little farther down the sidewalk. We still have roses blooming, you see. They were covered with raindrops too.

12-11-14 pink rose with raindrops

It’s kind of nice to start the day off with beauty when you know it’s going to be long hours before you can relax.

Our class consisted of a vocabulary quiz, a book quiz, recitation of memory poems, and reading all the Christmas stories out loud. I am always fascinated by what the kids come up with! We finished by having snacks while watching the first part of the movie that was based on the book we read (The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins).

Then, shortly after class ended, Lucy and Jasper and I headed to the church to get ready for the piano recital. Years ago, we bought a bunch of Christmas decorations for the church, and I thought they were stored somewhere there, so we wanted to put them up before the recital. Alas, they were not at the church at all. I had grabbed three strands of battery-powered LED lights on the way out the door, but that’s all we had. We didn’t even have a tablecloth to cover the very unattractive table we set up for snacks.

Fortunately, there is a Dollar General store right across the street from the church, so I went over there and bought some lights, candles, a tablecloth and a mini Christmas tree. By the time Liz arrived with the rest of the stuff, we had some decorations up.

It was a very short recital–about 10 minutes and 7 students! Jasper and Lucy both did well. Lucy did an especially good job, which was kind of bittersweet for me as it might be her last recital. She is thinking of dropping piano.

Afterwards we helped clean up and put everything back before turning off the lights and locking up the church. Our church is very small and is nice for this kind of event where there is not a big crowd and the kids are not intimidated by the space.

I took a photo of Lucy and Jasper with their teacher, Liz:

12-11-14 kids with Liz

Liz is my dear friend Robin’s daughter and is so sweet and patient. We all adore her.

Temporarily Bereft

Today Lina left to drive to Dallas, where she will spend the night with Flynn before flying to Columbus, Ohio tomorrow to visit her friend Jennifer. Then on the weekend she will continue to Atlanta, Georgia to visit her paternal grandmother and aunt, and then return to us next week.

Before she left today she organized the front hall closet and put up the stocking tree. She has been such a help!
I am still fighting a cold so I find I need to rest quite often, but I am making headway on my projects, and I even got our Christmas dishes out. After Lina left this afternoon, Lucy and I ran some errands and I was able to talk to my mom on the phone while I was waiting for Lucy in a parking lot.

In between working on projects, I have been reading and writing to prepare for my class on Thursday. The next few days are going to be very busy!