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Trying to be perfect in an imperfect world

I am a perfectionist.

 

Many people may believe that perfectionism is a good quality to have. Yet those who live with unrealistic standards and crippling anxiety understand the plight of someone who sets standards they cannot possibly reach, and the sorrow of the continuous failure and disappointment they must deal with when they believe everything must always be perfect. This is what it feels like to be a perfectionist…

When I was a little girl, I had so many ideas about what my life was supposed to be like. I thought everything had to be perfect; especially me. I had a carefully arranged and thoroughly thought out plan of what perfect was. When things deviated from that, I fell apart.
As I got older, it became harder and harder to live up to the expectations I had created for myself. People rarely lived up to my ideals. Slowly, this began to break me.
It was strange, the way I fell apart; in many ways, my demise was self-created. Yet, even with a sense of recognition, I could not stop myself. It was a cycle that I had made with my own two hands, stepped in willingly, but could not find the strength to jump out of. My brain had begun to betray me at a young age and has not stopped since.

I remember being in Elementary school, and deciding quite concretely what it took to be ‘successful’, which was synonymous with being ‘good enough’.

I had to get good grades, which meant I had to get all A’s because being good enough wasn’t good enough and in order to succeed, I had to be the best. When I graduated High School with my perfect grades, I had to go to college. But not just college; I had to go to Harvard. I had to follow the expectations I had set, and thrive within the pressure cooker I had built around myself. If I faltered in even small ways, it was a massive, unforgivable failure on my part. And worse than failure was being a disappointment, which was, by all means, the absolute worst thing I could do.

Unfortunately, the world did not follow the standards I expected it to, and I felt powerless to change it. I could not stop my mom from dropping me off to school late every single day, yet I still cried like a baby and yelled that I would never go to college if I couldn’t get to second grade on time. People would put things back in the ‘wrong’ place, and I would crumble. I, like everyone in the world, would lose control constantly. Yet, unlike the rest of my peers, I seemed unable to swallow this and move forward without first falling to the floor in a puddle of tears, or hitting my head against a wall, or screaming and screaming until my little lungs cracked and burned.
As I got older, I began to reason that if things were imperfect, out of my control, or lower than my standards, that rather than accepting the loss of control and disappointment, I would willingly fail. Willingly handing over my power was easier than having it fall from my grip, despite my efforts.

Now, I am no longer a little girl.

I still struggle with the expectation of perfection I unconsciously set for myself. Yet, consciously I fight the notion and try to set new standards.
If I ever spoke to Willow the way I used to speak to myself, my heart would shatter into a million pieces. If she ever spoke to or thought of herself in the way I used to think of myself, I don’t believe I could carry the sadness that would veil my heart. So instead of teaching her to love herself, I will learn how to love myself. She will watch her mom be kind and forgiving to herself, see how she accepts the ebbs and flows of life, and witness her open her palms to the universe to receive what is handed to her. And with time, she too will do the same.

perfectionist

My mom and me in my Great Aunts’ house in Jacksonville, FL.

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Me, in my favorite hat

perfectionist

My anxiety due to the high standards I constantly set for myself peaked in my freshman year of High School

perfectionist

My beautiful daughter, who is and will always be perfect simply for being herself

Guilt, Anxiety, and Fear: Motherhood

When I wake up it starts.

I probably didn’t sleep very well- or maybe I did and I wanted to sleep longer.
I probably got woken up a few times last night to nurse you back to sleep. There were probably a few times you were restless and tossed and turned while you tried to get comfortable.

Guilt;
I remember being woken up over and over again, exhaustion, panic because I know I’m tired and need so much more sleep than I will get. Frustrated because I so desperately want to sleep as peacefully as I imagine you do. Anger because I cannot and anticipation of how exhausted I will feel in the morning.

Fear of never being able to sleep again.

Dread;
I dread waking up in this place, putting you in daycare, being alive and monotonously going through the day.

Collapsing into a puddle, I break, I lose my patience. I’m not fully awake and not fully human. Maybe I harshly say,
“stop.”
Or angrily beg you to go back to sleep. Or worse, maybe I just lay there, don’t look at you or talk to you, just sit in a heaping puddle of uncomfortable emotions.

When I wake up, probably a little while before you did, a realization comes to me as I see how beautiful and peaceful you are. I realize the impatience that took over me hours earlier.

I’m a terrible mother- a terrible person, in fact.

I lost my patience. I scared you, upset you, and damaged you. An intense wave of sadness covers me and I feel desperate to go backward in time. A pit grows in my stomach as I know I cannot do that and must only go forwards. I want to hold you, I want to cry, I want to be perfect for you and I want to be happy with you always.

Regret, fear, dread, anger, exhaustion, guilt, sadness.
Over and over again, every day.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. There are many, many things I know; many mistakes. I wonder how much they are damaging you, and in what ways.
I want to fix them all- be perfect and wonderful and exactly what you need and want. But when I try to think of my wrong-doings I cannot pinpoint them all.
It’s looking for hay in a haystack- it’s all there and it’s all the same, and it’s all wrong. I can hardly do anything right for you. Maybe I do what I believe is good, but soon I will find it is, in fact, wrong. I have hurt or damaged you in some unknown, and therefore gigantic, way. Worst of all, I cannot take any of it back.

Paralyzed with fear but continuously pushed forward by the current of life.
I’m stuck in a riptide.

But my love for you grows each day. It’s a painful love that fills me simultaneously with joy, and a deep despair and fear.
I wonder about all the things I must prevent. All the possibilities. So much can go wrong. So many scary, seemingly unpreventable things swirling around us in this world. I want to protect you but fear I cannot.

I feel out of control.

But then a beautiful day happens.
You grab my checks with two soft, warm hands and look into my eyes.
Or you crawl to me, laugh, kiss me.
You let me hold you and hug you and you hold me back.
And for a moment, my fears melt away, so that I’m standing in a deep puddle, soaking wet but dripping dry. We stand alone in the dark for a moment, and my brain gives me time to love you in peace.

I realize that these moments can grow. That if I make myself a farmer and equip myself with fertilizer and pesticides and gain the knowledge to grow a garden that we can be happy. I can rake out sadness and anxiety to make room for big, bright, beautiful happiness.

I will call myself a farmer and you will be my seeds, my water, and my sun.

RIPPLE Open Mic Night – Sept 8th, 6:30 pm

MENTAL HEALTH & ADDICTION OPEN MIC NIGHT

Come share your POETRY, SPOKEN WORD, SHORT PROSE & ART!

Open to those who may have experienced or have used services for mental/behavioral health, addiction, substance use/ substance abuse
Up to 3 minutes per performer
Providers, loved ones & others encouraged to come listen

WHERE:
At the Westport Barnes & Noble.

1076 Post Rd E, Westport, CT 06880

WHEN:
Thursday September 8th, starting at 6:30 pm

Join the discussion and share your thoughts about the event HERE!

And learn more about RIPPLE:

We Must Be DEAFENING (https://www.facebook.com/WeMustBeDeafening/)
Recovery Innovations for Pursuing Peer Leadership and Empowerment (https://www.facebook.com/RIPPLERecoveryInnovations/)

@WeMstBDeafening (https://twitter.com/WeMstBDeafening)
@RIPPLE_Recovery (https://twitter.com/RIPPLE_Recovery)

 

Super Advocate Open Mic Night at Toivo “July 29th”

Super Advocate Open Mic Night at Toivo

Come share your POETRY, SPOKEN WORD, SHORT PROSE & ART!

Come to experience the power of spoken word, and other expressive arts, performed by emerging adults from across the state.

WHERE:
399 Franklin Avenue
Hartford, Connecticut

WHEN:
Friday, July 29, 2016

4:00PM-7:00PM

 

Get your Flyer HERE!!!

Visible but Invulnerable!

At the very least, a part of being ‘out’ is giving people very sensitive information about yourself that they can use in whatever way they want.

Being ‘out’ implies vulnerability but that’s not the end and be-all. What makes you vulnerable could be your strength, and I have grasped the idea that this is something that you have to nurture over time – as you learn and grow.

Since being out, as naive as this might sound, one of the hardest things that I have had to acknowledge is that not everyone will accept me for who I am. “Why not?” … The rainbow socks that I wear under my pants are been frowned upon by someone sitting next to me on a train. It instills a feeling that smothers my heart, tightens my lungs and diffuses emotions of anxiety and fear throughout my body.

It serves no justice that I have to feel guilty or wrong because of who I am. And I do feel at times that I may have betrayed myself by not embracing my truth or standing up to my demon.

There is that perfect place that I want to get to, where ‘normal’ is within the realm of being gay, being OK with it and not caring too much about what others think.

But until then, I am still sorting out this very sensitive aspect of my life everyday… ‘euphemism for a kind of misery that is still true about society and being LGBT’.

Orlando Tragic

Vigil in Minneapolis for victims of Pulse nightclub shooting

Sunday – June 12, 2016

I woke up this morning, a little after 9, and as I ordinarily do – to try and help me choose getting out of bed to start my day rather than choosing to roll over and avoid the day by oversleeping – I reached for my phone and began the daily check of my social media and e-mails.

There wasn’t much of importance on my Facebook other than a few irrelevant notifications, so I decided to check out Twitter. I checked my couple of notifications and then began scrolling through the home screen to see if there was anything that would catch my eye. I’d only gone to bed a little after 1, so I wasn’t expecting much as there’s usually not much that happens during the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Usually the weekdays have the bigger events and updates, or at least it seems to me.

I noticed someone making a comment about guns and mental health which I liked since it was at least discussing mental health. That being said, I still hesitated a moment because I also don’t like when gun violence is chalked up to being a problem caused by mental illness, especially since the mentally ill are much more apt to be victims as opposed to perpetrators of violence. While some people with mental illness have used guns to harm others, I don’t believe that’s a direct result of their illness. I believe we have a culture which often values violence, only selectively proscribing and condemning it. Mental illness or not, people learn (incorrectly) that violence is a way to solve problems and feel better. Unfortunately this is a lie which is perpetuated time and again whenever violence is publicly applauded rather than condemned or regretted.

In any event, after I liked that tweet, I continued to scroll and then saw another tweet about gun violence. I was beginning to sense a pattern. Then I saw more and they were mentioning “Orlando”. And then more and they were saying “LGBT” … “gay” … “gay club” … “night club shooting” … and I started to feel numb.

I honestly haven’t responded emotionally yet. I am writing this a little after 6pm on Sunday. I don’t feel anything, other than a sense of anxiety and perhaps tension. I’ve been thinking about it throughout the day. Thinking about those people in that nightclub. Thinking about what must’ve happened. Thinking about my own experience coming out during Pride 7 years ago. About the sheer ecstasy which I felt when I was celebrating with all these people who were like me, but also so diverse, and yet all partying and playing together. How happy I felt. How I wished everyone in the world could come and join us. Spend time with us. Dress up and feel good about themselves. Not worry about having to act “normal” or conform to certain societal norms. Just to have fun and play authentically. I was thinking about experiencing that amazing sense of jubilation, only to have it interrupted by intense horror.

And the timing is so sickening. It’s Pride. Pride is like Christmas for many in the LGBT community. Traditionally its when we all gather together to celebrate our community, our culture, our history, one another. We see people we may not have seen throughout the year due to where we live, or our schedules, or whatever the case may be. It’s a time to be “gay” in both the old and contemporary sense of the word.

For many who may not celebrate Christmas or other traditional holidays with their families, because they’ve either been cast out or other rifts exist because of their queer identity, Pride is a time to celebrate with your gay “family”. You are not related by blood, but there is an authenticity, understanding and affection which is felt because of your shared identity. “I don’t know you that well, but I know that you’ve most likely suffered for just being who you are and that is painful so I respect you and care about you” – this is my inner monologue, so to speak, when I meet another LGBT person.

So if you can imagine the sense of warmth and comfort that you experience around close friends or family (assuming you have a positive experience of family life) – that’s what it is like, for me at least, to be around gays. And at Pride this feeling is enhanced even more so because it is our holiday season.

I have a family member who is familiar with the club because they were living in Orlando when they first came out, so this event must impact them in a way that I can’t understand. For him this isn’t just an other news story about a homophobic hate crime, this place relates to his personal history – his memories and experiences. Whatever visions, smells, etc. he retains from this space, it has now been interrupted and polluted by this tragedy. Those memories have been altered and poisoned, or so I would imagine.

I have no answers and nothing profound to share. I don’t have any place to lay blame. This event has brought up many issues: homophobia, gun violence, hate, islamophobia, xenophobia. There is so much that is tragic and nauseating about this event.

I am still processing what has happened and just feel heavy and upset that it happened. It’s so shameful. I believe in God and I believe God’s Heart bleeds today and all of Heaven mourns, as they do whenever we humans do such cruel and unloving things. People say when the world got revolting enough, the Great Flood of the Hebrew Bible was a sign of God’s Anger. I wonder if it might not have been a sign of God’s sorrow.

As we all cope with the pain, sadness, anger, horror and whatever other thoughts, feelings and emotions we may be experiencing, I encourage everyone to take time to care for themselves and support those around them who are hurting. I also encourage you to seek support from a trained professional if you find yourself particularly disturbed and unsettled – I’ve found this particularly helpful myself in the past when feeling overwhelmed. Regardless of how you cope, please take care.

Thursday – June 16, 2016

It’s been 4 days since the attack. While I am feeling less anxious at this point (no doubt due to some separation from the event itself and adequate distraction in the meantime) I am still quite disturbed at what happened, and now too by some of the reaction which I’ve seen in response to the event.

Some have used this attack to scapegoat Muslim immigrants, blaming an entire people for the actions of one deeply disturbed individual. An attack on minorities (LGBT latinos) has led to a counter-attack, again on minorities (Muslim immigrants). I think this demonstrates what they call the contagious nature of violence and conflict – when one event happens it can spur other events in reaction.

Islam is not to blame for the massacre on Sunday. Nor is immigration. I’m Catholic and of Irish descent – throughout the last century, some of the highest profile cases of terrorism were perpetrated by deranged Irish Catholics in Ireland and UK who, via the Irish Republican Army, were killing “in the name of their people”. And they were funded in part by American sympathizers of Irish Catholic descent. Violence knows no race, religion, ethnicity or nationality.

Something both LGBT people and Muslims in the United States share in common (despite the effort of some to paint them as diametrically opposed groups) is the experience of minority stress. Due to our difference (from the dominant culture) and our status as marginalized populations, both groups are subject to systemic stressors which can negatively impact our physical an mental health.

That being said, the appropriate response to Sunday’s tragedy is not to “Ban Muslims” but rather to create a more just and equal society where people are less apt to experience minority stress and where issues such as homophobia and islamophobia are far less common. And of course there’s also the whole issue of access to methods of deadly force – a.k.a. guns – but I’ll save that for another post.