Perfect

I watched you today in Target as we both browsed in the same general area. Your shiny, long hair hung perfectly down your back and your swing dress fell perfectly just above the knee. Your boots were swoon-worthy. Your bag was to die for. And your children – oh! Your children! They were angels! The older one sat quietly in the cart playing with his dinosaurs and the little one gnawed thoughtfully on her pacifier. They were content to wait while you looked at shoes, and then ambled over to the clothes.

I watched as you picked up a beautiful sweater – one I’d been eyeing only minutes before (but put down because come on, Target! $37.99?! It isn’t Anthropologie!). You held it against yourself, examining it in the mirror. Your lips curled up slightly and I saw you think it:

Perfect. 

I spend a lot of time watching others, wondering how they do it. How do they stay calm when their children run away, when they choose not to listen, when they scream? How do they keep their houses clean after working all day? How do they maintain their sanity day in and day out when I feel like I’m going to lose my freaking mind if I don’t get to work out or read a book or take a shower without someone calling my name or asking me for nursery rhymes.

I spend a lot of time feeling like a failure.

I’m not a patient enough mom.

I’m not an understanding enough wife.

I’m not a sensitive enough daughter.

I’m not a present enough sister.

I’m not a thoughtful enough friend.

I’m not perfect enough.

I’m not. I’m not. I’m not.

And then I cry in Target because somehow your togetherness high-lights my mess. Somehow your quiet children and beautiful clothes and smooth hair mean I’ve failed.

I feel like I fail constantly, like I’m a giant screw-up, because I do a lot of stuff wrong. I hyper-focus on my mistakes, thinking and re-thinking about things I said and did, but wish I hadn’t, allowing them to consume me. I let them gnaw at me, until I’m convinced everything I do is wrong. Until I believe that my mistakes mean I’m a failure and I forget everything else. Until I forget everything I did that was good, everything that was right, everything that meant I was trying.

And so this season (because when’s a better time than Advent?), I’m going to practice giving myself grace. I’m going to practice joy and peace and love – for myself as well as others. It’s here, written in stone, in black and white, so everyone can hold me accountable, and remind me to be joyful and forgiving and kind.

And the next time I start to doubt or worry or stress that I’m failing, remind me of the moment when my adorable, manipulative, wonderful little toddler takes my face in her hands and says, “You make me so happy, mommy!” when I let her out of time-out.

Remind me of the moment when the house was a disaster and we were fighting, but Casey mixed up the serious phrase he wanted to say and we laughed so hard we cried and the fight was over.

Remind me of the moment when it seemed like things couldn’t possibly get any worse, when Casey was too sick, and I was too tired, and the doctor said the tumors were shrinking.

Because those moments? They were perfect.

But I don’t have to be.

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9 thoughts on “Perfect

  1. Beautifully written. I hope your book is just as great!
    It can be difficult sometimes to not measure yourself up to so-called perfection. Just as difficult as it is for those who love you to not see perfection in you.
    Thanks for this Michelle.

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  2. I feel this way constantly as well. I just try and remind myself that what you see externally does not mean perfection, most of the time it is far from it. ❤ Let's not be so hard on ourselves!

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  3. OH Michelle….You so very eloquently put into words what I have thought too many times in my life…”And then I cry in Target because somehow your togetherness high-lights my mess. Somehow your quiet children and beautiful clothes and smooth hair mean I’ve failed.” As I maneuvered myself around the grocery store with 2 carts (because that is what you need to shop with 4 preschoolers) while dressed in sweat pants and a shirt that I am sure had some kind of hero stickers on it….my hair thrown into a ponytail…and NO make up….WHATTTTT???? I used to see those same women who seem to my minds eye to “have it all together”. But one thing I learned as I’ve aged is that we never really know what goes on it peoples lives. What we are seeing is not always what is happening. Much of what we see is the story of this other well put together person that we have assembled in our own mind. Failures?! Pffft….we just like to show our true selves on the outside too!!! LLOL….Love you so much girl xo

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    1. I think you’re absolutely right – we don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives and no matter how on top of things they look, they might just be as crazy and imperfect as I am! And thanks for always understanding me!! Love you too, Sharon!!

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