A long time ago, in a (not so) far away land, there was a young princess who lived a charmed existence. She was loved and celebrated, and the king and queen were always careful to assure her that she could be anything she dreamed. The princess was bright, kind, and capable. The princess was also quite slender. And though all her traits were admired and noticed, this last trait seemed to garner the most attention. The princess grew and grew and eventually left home to pursue her dreams. Alone in a foreign land, and without the supportive embrace of her kingdom, the princess encountered the challenges that princesses will: battles were fought, loves were lost. The princess sought to control the chaos by doubling down to be the best princess she could be. Remembering that one trait had always seemed particularly important, and understanding that it might possibly be the most important of her valued qualities, the princess began to say “no thank you” a little more often than she should at the banquet hall.
Eventually, the princess found a prince and married. The chaos of her youth subsided, and she soon found herself expecting a child of her own. So with another life to sustain, she got her proverbial *stuff* together.
But what happens when the girl with a bent towards perfectionism grows into a woman with a bent towards perfectionism? Perfect looks different at 35 than it does at 25. Size two jeans and washboard abs aren’t quite as trendy anymore. There’s a place for those, no doubt. But a clean house, a thriving career, well adjusted children, and a happy marriage are suddenly the goal. So that girl, teetering for too long on the edge of an eating disorder, becomes a woman teetering on the edge of anxiety.
I no longer obsessively count calories, but I cannot seem to shake the notion that I can somehow reign in and control any chaos I encounter. And of course, life with young children is nothing if not chaotic. I continue to relentlessly strive for perfection even though I know it is unattainable. I organize and reorganize, I rework systems, I go and go and go. The to-do list is a hamster wheel in my head, and at night I lay awake cataloging the ways I am not measuring up. The ways I am failing as a mother, a wife, a friend, a person. When one area of my life is going well, I worry that it is at the expense of another. Too often, I feel I am fundamentally lacking.
But it has to change. I pulled my proverbial stuff together once, and it’s time to do it again because the children are watching. My oldest is like me, with a proclivity towards perfectionism and a need to please those around him. And I have a daughter, who will be carefully taking in messages that I don’t even realize I am giving her. For their sake, I need to throw notions of perfect out the window. They need to know that chaos cannot always, maybe should not always, be controlled. And to teach them this, I need to live it. I need to slow down, ditch the systems, let some clutter pile up. I need to learn to believe that my worth is inherent, not measured in piles of folded laundry.
After all, what good is Happily Ever After without a little mayhem?