the learning curve of not being perfect

The plan was to wake up, eat well and sip a coffee, work my half day, go home and go to class. But as happens at least once a week, things didn’t go to plan.

I woke up later than I intended to, and calmy rolled with that – but then found out I’d been first-hand exposed to COVID. I ended up heading to the office earlier than I needed to, donning a mask and feeling like it was 2020 all over again. Then I spent hours with back-of-the-mind stress about how to be responsible to others for their health and to myself for my sanity.

And then I found out that my class tonight was actually canceled, which is actually a beautiful bit of serendipity for my day as I was likely going to miss tonight anyway – I’m starting to have mild but real COVID symptoms, and I’m exhausted from a long drive yesterday and a broken toilet last night.

The interesting thing is, while I pondered skipping my class tonight (prior to knowing it was rescheduled anyway) I kept thinking – I could skip one class and just play around with music production software on my own. That’s sort of what I feel like doing. But if I skip the class I’m shooting myself in the foot, I’m going to lose interest, I don’t really care, I’m going to miss good information and never be any good at this…

Ah, there’s the perfectionist in me! I have such an obsession with being perfect, whether to myself or to the perspective of others. Lately it’s been to the point where a pile of clean clothes not put away makes me feel like I’m failing at life itself. As you know if you’ve read my older posts, I’ve been in treatment for OCD for about a year now – and it truly is going well. But the perfectionism that comes along with it is still being uncovered, layer by layer, inside of me as I go on recovering.

I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that perfectionism can be a good thing. I know I’ve felt myself thinking, If I work hard to be perfect, I’ll do so well no one will be able to touch me. But it’s not worked that way for me. Always there’s something unforeseen, some change, some unexpected hurdle. And because I get so obsessed with being perfect, with nothing getting in my way, if I’m not careful I can spiral very quickly into a depressed, anxious, overly-stressed mess.

A question that’s helped in my OCD recovery so far is this: Can you handle it if it DOES go wrong? I do feel like a lot of my obsessions were avoiding any potential mistakes, any potential going-wrongs, because I thought the only way I and those I love could survive is if nothing goes wrong in the first place. But of course, things go wrong all the time, even if I’ve done all the things I need to do on my end. So now I’ve started trying to ask myself: Can I handle this if it does go wrong? Can I handle things if they aren’t perfect? Can I enjoy going out on a date if the clothes aren’t put away? Can my cats be alright if we run out of wet food for one night? And months ago, I always thought the answer was no. Now, thanks to lots of exposure therapy and setting a goal of believing in myself more, it isn’t always no – in fact, it’s very often yes. I’ve proven to myself that I can be an agile thinker, that I can act in an emergency if need be, that I can go with the flow as I need to – because no one can anticipate everything. No one can be perfect.

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