Perfectly Imperfect

I woke up relatively early this morning with weird dreams, but then fell back asleep. During my dream, I was at some kind of work-related conference. I can’t tell if I was drinking or not, but most people were definitely drunk around me and I just remember this feeling of chaos and trying to ‘right’ everything around me. Trying to ‘fix’ it all.

That’s pretty much my childhood, come to think of it. And it continued on into my adulthood. This idea that it’s my responsibility to fix everything….to make everything ‘right’ so no one else gets hurt. I’m not sure how that became my role, except that I can’t stand it when there is tension or fighting or yelling. It makes me feel so uncomfortable and I try to avoid it at all costs.

When I was a child, that meant walking on eggshells to make sure that no one got in trouble. That doesn’t mean there weren’t times where I myself got in trouble, or my sister did, or my parents fought. But I seem to remember expelling an inordinate amount of energy trying to avoid those things. To absorb it all myself so that there would be peace in the house. It’s a role I took on myself…it wasn’t forced on me. I’m learning though that it’s a role many children of alcoholics take on.

I was a very stressed child in some ways. In and out of the hospital with what they always thought was appendicitis but what ended up being ulcers. At twelve. I’ve been reading a lot about addiction and the link to perfectionism. I’m definitely not perfect, but I know that I have perfectionist tendencies and immense expectations of myself. So does my Mum….and so does my sister. The apple does not fall far. I’ve known my Mum to cry and be furious with herself for messing up something she was cooking for guests…and I’ve watched my normally calm sister throw out an entire cake in anger as the decorating wasn’t going well – when in fact it was lovely. When those things happen, my invisible ‘fix everything’ cape goes on and I try to make everything okay. Because for some reason I’m not okay with them going through whatever it is they need to go through. It makes me uncomfortable and I can’t handle it. I need to try to make everything calm again.

A few years ago I had a fight with my Mum and I finally broke and told her I was sorry I’m not perfect. She immediately went in to ‘comforting Mum’ mode and said that she didn’t expect me to be perfect and that I am perfect the way I am. But when she expects perfectionism from herself – that’s a double-sided message. I see how hard she is on herself when the slightest thing goes wrong. And as a child, that’s what I learned. Take it all on…make everyone else okay.

And that’s not okay. I need to put my own oxygen mask on first.

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