A “Wicked” Confession, or: a reminder that I’m far from perfect

January 6, 2010

Had to share this very real story because it’s bothering me so darn much. And some of you might just understand. Maybe not. Maybe I’m just off my rocker.

My 14 yo daughter has wanted, forever, to see Wicked. I do, too. So, for our main Christmas gift to our kids this year, my husband and I decided to buy tickets for the four of us to see Wicked in SF. I was so excited that we’d given a special, memorable gift.

When I purchased the tickets (which are, of course, non-refundable) I was super, extra, magnificently careful in choosing the date. I checked my calendar THREE times to make sure that I was choosing a date that would work for all of us. I thought it through carefully, I ruminated, I checked everyone ELSE’S schedule. In short, I tried hard to get this one right.

On Christmas Day, my daughter had to tell me that, in fact, she’ll be out of town on a long-planned trip with her Youth in Government group on that day. A trip she must attend. A trip I knew about!

I screwed up. Terribly. The date of her important trip had somehow not made it onto my calendar.

Cue the tears. (Mine, not my daughter’s. She took this in stride.) Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Proverbial, thank God.)

Here’s my issue. For most people, this is just a mistake. You fix it (which I’ve done – we’re taking our daughter to the show on a later date and my sister will take her ticket this time) and you move on.

Not me. Oh, no. This has bothered me for DAYS. I can’t seem to leave it alone. I keep asking myself how could I this mistake?

I’ve thought about why this is needling me:

Is it because nothing can just be a “mistake” and has to, instead, be the first small symptoms of very, very early onset Alzheimer’s or a brain tumor? Is the next step me wandering around my neighborhood because I’ve forgotten where I live? Maybe. Probably. And I’m not being flip about this. These are very real fears I harbor.

Or is it because I want so much not to screw this stuff up for my family? That I am so “Type A” all the time and they put up with it so much and the one thing I can do for them in return is just get things like this RIGHT? Yes, that’s why. I want to be perfect. Not for me, but for them. I want them to be able to count on me.

I screwed up. And I need to move on, but can’t seem to do that yet.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda @ Serenity Now January 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I do this too…I hate messing up and I’ll give myself grief about it for ages. I’m still mad about missing the first word in the 4th grade spelling bee. ;)

Deren Monday January 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Deep down, we all know what kind of people we are.

Our kind doesn’t double-book important events. Our kind doesn’t make silly mistakes. Our kind doesn’t pay a bill late and incur finance charges, even if they are for one day of interest. Our kind doesn’t make a joke that turns out to ruin someone’s day. Our kind just doesn’t.

But then we do. And we hate it. And we are pissed at ourselves. Why? Because we expect more from our kind.

So we have to let ourselves off the hook, after a good, solid round of cursing under our breath, immediately making adjustments so it “never” happens again.

But if we don’t forgive ourselves and move on, quickly, we accumulate too much baggage. And then we can’t grow. And then our kind dies out. And then the world goes to hell…

Erin January 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I relate to this post. My husband once asked me why I so desperately want to be perfect. I responded, “Because I can be.” I feel tremendous guilt over the very privileged life I’ve always had. I know that the majority of people on this planet can hardly imagine the luxuries that the educated, white, affluent Americans (like me) have always known. And thus I feel like I owe it to everyone else (and I mean everyone on this planet) to be perfect. Because I’ve been given so much, I have no excuse not to be perfect. It is somehow letting down the planet if I leave dishes in the sink and don’t publish a hundred papers. As an almost psychologist, I surely see all of the illogical and unhealthy thinking involved in this (seriously – the planet!) and I’m working on feeling less guilt… But people don’t have floss – so how can I not floss every night since I have the luxury of floss?! It is so funny b.c. I read your post and think you are nutty (in an endearing, non-diagnosing way) and yet it is hard to take the advice I’d give others – no one in your family (or on this planet) expects you/needs you/wants you to be perfect. That should be my new mantra!
Enjoy the show – what a thoughtful gift.

Kimberly January 7, 2010 at 7:36 am

Meredith: This reminds me of the time when I overdrew our checking account. I was in my cubicle and I started to tear up. My boss happened to walk in and said, “Hey, what’s the matter?” You see, I am so not a crier. I explained. He said, “You have money in your savings to cover it, right?” I said, “That is not the issue. I am now worried about what else I might have screwed up that I don’t know about!” So you see, I can related to what you are saying.

Deren: Thank you for just saving me $100 plus is therapy bills. I really appreciated your comments. I really like the “our kind.”

Lisa January 7, 2010 at 9:17 am

Oh, I so relate to this! I recently bought a car and home in the same year, and I thought I’d done everything right. Starting with house planning first, I checked our credit score early on (top tier!), got preapproved, etc….several months after we’d closed on the home I bought thet car and was shocked to find out that my larger purchase from earlier this year had bumped my credit score to the second tier and caused a credit lender to deny my application for the car. Sure, we’d been approved by others and at a fair rate…but I didn’t care! It’s been over a month and the fact that my credit score isn’t top tier still keeps me up at night.

Logically I know it makes no sense for me to freak out over a fraction of an interest rate percentage…but…it still does.

Shannon January 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

I just found your blog a week ago or so. Wanted to say how much I enjoy it, including the wonderfully written comments your followers give. I admittedly am not ‘your kind’ but oh how joyful it is to see how ‘your kind’ works. I had tears in my eyes because I thought you were going to say in all this that you realized that your daughter was growing up (I have no idea how old she is). We moved a few months ago and in the new house my son has been sleeping on a hammock and couch (his choosing) whereas before he had a double bed. In the old house I laid down beside him each night for reading and talking. I turned his couch into the bed yesterday excited to lay down beside him again. But he told he he’d rather I sit up now. He’s almost 13. He’s growing up. We had a nice long talk still but I couldn’t help but feel (quite) sad about that. And project that onto what you were writing even though it has nothing to do with what you were writing about!

Jennifer Ahearn jennifer January 7, 2010 at 10:01 am

Oy. I totally get this. Yes, let yourself off the hook.

All memory lapses do not mean you are on the downhill spiral to Alzheimer’s. (Though I have the same fears.)

And letting yourself have a pass on constant perfection does not mean you are on the slippery slope to chaos, incompetence and general crappiness. Your family’s trust won’t be irreparably broken over a mistake like this–or probably even over a much more significant one. I know that’s easier for me to say, because it wasn’t me, but you would tell me the same thing if I were in your place, wouldn’t you?

Sharon January 7, 2010 at 12:52 pm

As a non-Penelope, I must satisfy myself with working toward perfection. But my husband is another story. If something like this happens to him, it does bother him. I asked him why once, and he said, “I’m used to being amazing.” It’s true, every time I think to remind him of something, I find he’s already considered it, and has whatever is needed with him. I guess that means I married a Penelope. I am constantly in awe. If he slips up, I certainly don’t think less of him, I actually feel closer to him. Like maybe there is still hope for me.

Jolene January 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

OY! With me, my Penelope Obsession is with savings. If I forget to notice a grocery clerk overcharge me, I stew on it for days, and will often embarrass everyone by bringing back the receipt and pointing out the overcharge. Or coupons–angry that my husband ignored the $5 Lowe’s discount coupon I’d given him, I still have the receipt and coup in my wallet and yes, will make a special trip back to get a retro-discount. Because it just bothers me that we coulda shoulda saved it. I can’t stop thinking about the 2-for-1 breakfast coupon that was at home when we went for an unexpected breakfast at the local coffee shop this weekend. Yes, my friends, we coulda saved $3.99! Yup, still bothered by it. Sometimes I do hardcore therapy on myself and throw out the old receipt just to prove nothing will happen if I don’t get the $1.59 back that Von’s ripped me off for. Then THAT bothers me!!! (Truly, a little nuts. But comforting to know I’m not the only one!)

Meredith Meredith January 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

Thank you all so much for your comments here AND for all the emails sent to me privately.

It makes me feel so much better, or, so much less insane, to know how many of you fully understand my angst over this mistake.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what all of you have said and had a major, incredible “a ha” moment when Erin said that she wanted to be perfect bc she felt she’d been given so much that she HAD to be bc she owed it to the world.

I never really realized it, but that’s a huge part of my feeling that I must have all my sh*t together all the time, I’ve been given great luck and family and friends and opportunities and I feel guilty bc so many people haven’t as much.

But, as many said, it simply isn’t productive to keep stewing on this. Per Deren, I’m going to be rational about it: look at my systems, fix whatever caused the error, redouble my efforts, put my Big Girl panties on and move on.

Again, thank you so much for the response to this post.

Jennifer Tankersley January 8, 2010 at 10:27 am

How have I never been to your blog before? We have a lot in common: our love for lists! This is beautiful and I am going to subscribe. Very nice to “meet” you!


Chele January 9, 2010 at 4:53 am

Hi Meredith, I stopped by from Overcoming Busy. I loved your list of goals there! :) I have been beating myself up for mistakes made this week that have caused me not to get some things done that needed to be done. I feel your pain. It is hard to deal with! Although, none of us is or ever will be perfect! It’s a hard pill to swallow but true! Hope this passes for you!

Marci@OvercomingBusy January 9, 2010 at 7:55 am

Ahhh…perfectionism rears its ugly head again! We are programmed by media and society that we have to be these perfect little beings. Here is the good news….its all a bunch of lies and fables meant to sell stuff and false ideas! Don’t get caught up perfectionism. Get caught up in what’s really important…your husband, your children, your family, your friends. You are not perfect. No one cares, but you :)

Kristi @ Life at the Chateau Whitman January 9, 2010 at 7:55 am

Aww, please don’t beat yourself up about it. Think of how you react to mistakes that others make. You no doubt let it go because you know people aren’t perfect, right? Everyone makes mistakes, and that is the gracious way to handle it. Why not treat yourself as nicely as you would treat others?

Besides, mistakes are what allow us to constantly improve. Without mistakes, things would be boring. :)

Melissa Monday January 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

As I read some posts, I landed on what Sharon said above about being married to a Penelope and when he makes a mistake, she actually feels closer to him. As I pondered this thought, I thought about how I (a Penelope) feesl about being married to a Penelope. When he makes a mistake, I feel the same as Sharon…like I’ve connected with the human side.

Then, I think that he (and others) probably feel the same about me. No one wants to be around Little Miss Perfect all the time, I know I don’t. I want to be around people who are realistic about themselves (not that we Penelopes aren’t!) and who don’t have to be perfect to be happy with who they are. When I make a mistake, I’m going to try to remember that how I handle it (like a stressed out Penelope or like a human) will affect my closeness with those around me.

Kristin January 9, 2010 at 11:11 pm

It just means you’re a good mama!

jec January 10, 2010 at 8:34 pm

The fact that your daughter took this in stride means you are doing an amazing job as a parent. It’s actually good for kids to know that their parents can make mistakes–because no one can live up to perfection. Forgive yourself. In 20 years this will be a funny family story. Age brings perspective.

Susan January 11, 2010 at 8:31 am

What??? YOU don’t have a FAMILY calendar where everybody is responsible for writing out their own uber important (as well as just regular old important) events???

I’m just kidding, of course. But to think that an idea as simple as that would have totally (if used properly by all family members) eliminated this problem. Which, of course, is what you are continually jabbing yourself in the side for. How could I have forgotten this??? How, in all of my super focused trying was I able to fail at this simple choosing of the appropriate date for a show???

The thing that I both love and hate about life is that we can’t go back in time and fix any mistakes we’ve made in the past. I hate this for obvious reasons, but I love it for less obvious reasons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a mistake that has ultimately ended up making me a better person.

A diamond can’t be formed without a ton of crushing pressure. A beautiful smooth stone can’t ever roll up onto the bank or beach if it hasn’t been tossed over and over and over again. A pearl has to hide in so much darkness before it can show it’s pretty face. If we hope to see a rainbow, ultimately a storm has to pass by first.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Chin up, my dear! Allow yourself a little tossing and crushing from time to time. It’s humbling, patience growing, and just darn right good for you. Good for all of us.

Love, Susan

Meredith Meredith January 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

Thanks, Susan, I love this part of your comment:

“Chin up, my dear! Allow yourself a little tossing and crushing from time to time. It’s humbling, patience growing, and just darn right good for you. Good for all of us.”

So incredibly true!

Jessica January 15, 2010 at 10:13 am

Yuck–there’s nothing quite like bullying yourself long after the mistake should be forgotten. I learned a great technique for this from Michael Neill. I make appointments for that voice to have its way with me. So, for instance, I said something a little silly at the grocery store the other day and felt *really* guilty about it when I realized that someone might have misunderstood what I meant (I was apologizing for *me* being slow–but what if the checker thought I was apologizing for *her* being slow?!) and spent the next half hour telling myself that I am a horrible, careless, unthinking person. So, as soon as I realized that it was my inner bully (instead of just that voice reminding me to be more careful next time), I told the bully that I would be happy to make time for it, but that we needed an official appointment. Then, Bully and I get together at the pre-appointed time (with a definite end time, too).

This helps me in two ways–one, it lets me just gently remind myself that *now* is not the time for bullying/worrying/whatever else I might be letting myself get caught up in; and, more importantly for my Inner Perfectionist, it helps me know for sure that I am not going to fall down a slippery slope of bad behavior. Because, I’m going to listen to my inner bully, just not non-stop, so clearly I am still responsible and careful.

For me this works any time I notice my thoughts are turning unkind and semi-obsessive, and having that time when I get to feel really, horribly guilty for all my screw ups that week… Actually makes me feel better later, though that may sound a little weird.

I’m so glad that you’re all going to get to enjoy Wicked, and hope that you’ve been able to let yourself off the hook by now! And thank you for posting this–it was really encouraging to get to read everyone’s comments about how we handle the mistakes we make.

frauheuberg February 12, 2010 at 7:09 am

thanks for sharing this with us, too…yes this is from the life out…so good to read it…and it brings me to consider about situations in my life that were very similar…but we are human being…just that…and sometimes not perfect and we must allow to be ourselves…with all parts…so difficult, but so worth…thanks…and a lovley weekend…cheers…ines….

Sasha February 14, 2010 at 10:19 pm

What a great post, as someone who over worries, it’s a relief to know that others are going through the same thing. If you’re aware of what you’re doing, you can always manage the problem, right?

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