The first half of my life was spent striving for perfection in all that I did. And let me tell you, chasing that goal is exhausting and deflating because I found perfection to be illusive and unattainable. To paraphrase Voltaire, perfect is the enemy of good. And is also the enemy of done. The second half of my life has been spent taming that urge and ignoring the little voice that says I should refuse to accept any standard short of perfection. Sometimes good is enough and done feels wonderful!
The desire for perfection started to over take me again as my mother began to fail physically and mentally. Undaunted by circumstances I slogged away at pursuing a well-ordered life and an organized calendar an aspiration that was divorced from the reality of my existence. What did I think a perfect life looked like? Well, I would be in control emotionally, my home and business would be running super smoothly and I would quickly and with perfect logic make all decisions pertaining to my mother with love and wisdom. And oh, my hair and fingernails would be nicely done at all times.
The reality, though, was much different. My life was mess. My mother's strokes, falls and mental lapses ruled my calendar. I was torn between being in Jacksonville with Mom and being at home in New York. Doctors were unable to give black and white answers to my questions so I was forced to make decisions in the world of grey. Home Health Aides helped with Mom's care but I continued to stress about "outsourcing" that part of Mom's life to strangers. My company was on autopilot and I was unable to dedicate the time necessary to grow the business. Stress was causing me to forget things so I lived in fear that something would fall through the cracks at home or in my business. Perfection was nowhere on my radar, only fatigue and the fear of failure.
As I said in the beginning the goal of this series is to share the lessons I learned during my parent's end of life journey so that others might not feel so alone. One lesson might be difficult to do and the second one might be difficult to read. First, give yourself a break. You are watching your parent's exit this world. These are the people who gave you life, raised you and loved you no matter how imperfectly. It is not easy to say goodbye. If you anguish over making the correct medical or financial decisions on their behalf, so be it. If you forget a birthday, a doctor's appointment or to pick-up the dry cleaning as you move from being the child of your parent to caregiver of your parent then forgive yourself. Perfectionism steals the joy from life in the good times and the hard times.
Second, hard times don't last forever. I learned early in life that the good times don't last forever but neither do the hard times. Life is much like the coming in and going out of the tides; there are high tides and low tides to life. While you are in the middle of this journey, you may feel it is going to last forever but it won't. One day this part of your life will come to a close and the fatigue will subside and your memory will improve. If you embrace it then joy will be part of your life again.
Week 3: Déjà Vu All Over Again