The woman on the other end of the call tried desperately to speak through anxiety and a torrent of tears. “Take a deep breath.” I said, “I want to understand what you are facing.”
“I’m overwhelmed. I’m confused. My life is falling apart. I tried to call my therapist, but her mailbox is full, so I can’t even leave a message. I don’t know what to do.” The tears and anxiety returned.
“Why are you feeling so overwhelmed?” I asked. Trying to hold back tears, she replied, “This virus has turned my world upside down. I have two young children and I have to be everything: mom, teacher, cook, housekeeper. I’m drowning. I try to do it all, but I can’t. I feel like a total failure. There isn’t even any time during the day to care for myself.”
I continued, “First, I am in awe of your herculean efforts to try to do everything.” “Thank you,” she replied, “That’s really nice to hear.”
“In addition to attempting everything, are you expecting perfection?” I asked, suspecting the answer. “Of course. I take pride in doing things well, and right now, I’m failing at everything,” she said through a renewed wave of tears. “So, in addition to not checking everything off your list, you’re piling on guilt for not being perfect.” “Yes,” she responded quietly.
“Can we agree that these are extraordinary times, and that nothing is what it was a few weeks ago? These times demand that each of us discover new ways to be in the world. What would it take for you to accept you can no longer be perfect in everything, and be gentle with yourself for the imperfections?” She said it would be difficult.
“I understand, but here’s a thought. It’s the end of March. What would happen if you picked a date, say June 1, and decided to quarantine your judgements and guilt until then? What if, for the next two months, you decided, since life is crazy, imperfection is what is needed. You can go back to being perfect after June 1, if you so choose. But for now, can it be okay to be imperfect? If there are dishes in the sink, it’s fine…clothes to be washed, oh well…beds aren’t made, so be it…every school assignment isn’t finished, pick it up again tomorrow. Could you quarantine the judgements for 60 days and be kind and gentle with yourself?” After a short pause, she said “I think I could, but it would be hard.” I reminded her everything is difficult right now.
I asked, of all the things not getting done, what hurts the most. “With all the other things I feel I have to do, I’m forgetting to be Mom. My children need that more than anything and it’s last on the list.” “So,” I pressed, “if you let other things be imperfect, do you think you might find time each day to play with your children? Just have fun?” In a truly joyful voice, she said it sounded wonderful.
In the end, she told me she marked June 1 on her calendar and was putting everything aside that afternoon to spend time being the Mom her children need. Then she said, “Can it be okay to be imperfect in other things so I can be a good Mom? Absolutely!” Suddenly, it was me in tears.
8 thoughts on “Can It Be Okay?”
Never in my 76 years have I been confined; never even as a child did I have measles, mumps , or chicken pox! My freedom of movement never questioned . This confinement is necessary, and I do it willingly,and I do miss close contact with friends and family, but certainly have no stress or difficultly at this age. My heart aches for those younger with all those worries you just shared with us . My moms favorite advice was “ this too, shall pass” June 1st sounds like a hopeful date ! If not then, well, July 1st will work!
Thanks Roger …
I just put a big X on June 1st !
Thank you sir ❤️
You are amazing!
Perfectionism is a rampant form of self-abuse in our society. Admitting that we can’t do it all and require support and help is what makes us human, flaws and all.
Strictly speaking, I have been stress eating more than I would prefer, but I am trying mightily to reserve judgement. I’m also cooking nutritious meals, too! Like the pot of navy bean and ham soup simmering away. Sharing my “bad” habit in case anyone else is feeling unnecessary guilt. Be well, all.
Be kind to yourself. That sounds like a good thought to have at the start of each and every day.
Thanks for doing this important work, both listening and telling stories.
Wise words! Perfection is a trap (period).