One day last week, just after the boys went to bed for the night, a friend of ours stopped by with his daughter and a bag of books.
An overflowing bag of books.
An overflowing bag of books full of all the kinds of books the boys find interesting right now: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (as in, the whole ding-dang series! score!), all kinds of mysteries (Jigsaw Jones Mysteries being a new favorite), books about science, books, books, and more books.
LittleBrother felt especially excited as he now has his own copies of Captain Underpants books. BigBrother has them as well, but now they can sit together and read all about fart jokes and poop jokes and other things that make them laugh. There’s something to be said about owning your own favorite book, not just having to share it with your brother. When one finishes a book we hadn’t previously owned or borrowed from the library, he passes it to the other. After they’ve both read the book, they talk about it, the characters, the plot. They’re back to writing their own books again too.
As an aside, they also want to start their own band as of this week. I don’t know where this came from and I’m not sure it’s book related, but it’s worth mentioning. Because we could use some ear plugs for Christmas.
They’ve been reading non-stop since the bag of books arrived. In fact, on two of their technology days over the weekend, they took time out in the middle of the afternoon to sit down and read. While we have “assigned” reading time every day (two to three chapters or two to three story books), they’re choosing to read above and beyond that time limit.
LittleBrother came to me today. “Mommy, I finished my three chapters, but can I read some more?”
Uh, yeah kid. Yes, you sure can.
They spent time this evening after dinner playing with a neighbor’s grandson. When the little boy left to go home, my two boys came inside, picked up their books where they left off, and continued reading. They’ve both already finished their Summer Reading Program for the school, earning a pool party when school starts back up. They raided the library today for chapter books, Pokemon books, The Puppy Place series, and a number of other books that looked interesting.
I can’t keep them in books right now.
It’s a good summer.
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
-Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be an Embrace Who You Are
I wrote about this book a long time ago, likely on Chronicles. For awhile, I felt strongly that I could let go of my “tendency” toward perfectionism and relax into a version of me that was less stressed, less anxious, and somehow more me. Then I said, “Forget that,” and went about my business of working myself to the bone to be the most perfect version of whatever it was I was trying at the moment.
The perfect mom.
The perfect wife.
The perfect birth mother.
The perfect friend.
The perfect writer.
The perfect editor.
The perfect blogger.
The perfect employee.
The perfect photographer.
The perfect daughter.
The perfect lover.
The perfect Christian.
The perfect listener, giver, doer.
And that’s how I ended back on meds, still overwhelmed with everything and everyone and wondering why I didn’t just let go of the perfectionism in the first place while simultaneously wondering if I could even let go of perfectionism, if it wasn’t just a part of me as much as my eye color. Or, I didn’t wonder that until my therapist asked me, “What would life look like if you weren’t a perfectionist?”
Because that’s what I do when things are uncomfortable: I laugh.
She sent me off on a homework assignment, to photograph what life would like if I wasn’t striving so hard to be perfect. I did my homework, and then appointments got postponed because people are humans, even therapists. I’ve been left thinking about some of these images: what they mean, why I took them, what I see of myself in these images, and how I could potentially look at these images with different eyes.
Without my obsessive need to make sure that everything is perfect, that I am perfect, everything ends up broken. The shards of what could have been beautiful crumble beneath my feet. Instead of whole pieces of something, anything, I am left with remnants of what could have been. Messy. Incomplete. Wasted potential.
I see everything that could have been, should have been, would have been if I had only gotten my act together and been who I needed to be when I needed to be that person. I see the past, present, and future in slivers under my feet.
Instead of seeing a beautiful mix of colors, of shapes and sizes and pieces of a life, of leaps of faith. At the edge of the tiny pieces, the larger chunks, the bits of evidence that something was worth trying for, my feet stop. Wait. Wiggle forward. Stepping into the mashed up mess of everything that wasn’t quite, everything that couldn’t be means accepting that there will be more brokenness, more messy, incomplete, shards of what could have been.
But at least—at least—it’s a step. Forward.