Friday, February 3, 2012

Confessions of an exhausted perfectionist

Last night, while driving home from my daughter's dance class, that song came on the radio with the repeating lyric, "I don't wanna be anything other that what I've been trying to be lately."  I've never really listened to the song before, and it's not even my taste in music, but I did listen this time.  And a huge wave of realization hit me that I have spent my life holding myself up to standards that are a bit overwhelming.

And one part of it is this commitment to living sustainably in a world that makes it increasingly difficult.  After several weeks of attempting to make my own shampoo, dish soap, and automatic dish detergent, I became very frustrated with the results.  I broke down and bought factory-made products without phosphates, and now my hair and dishes are clean.

I have this sense of personal responsibility for all of the problems in the world.  I listed to NPR compulsively, and feel a desire to publicly apologize for all of the crap my country does to and says about the rest of the world.  I collect piles of plastic and styrofoam packaging in my studio with the intention of embedding it in concrete sculpture or finding some other use for it, effectively keeping it out of the waste stream.  I wash all of my plastic food storage bags and reuse them until they have holes.  I make every effort to incorporate homegrown vegetables into my meals, and to make things from scratch, soaking dried beans, extracting honey, and - even in February - harvesting broccoli from the greenhouse.

Beyond that, I have psychoses up the wazoo.  There's the drive to become a highly skilled artist in my medium and to make my business successful.  There's the need to stay fit and healthy and stylish on almost no budget.  There's my quiet complex over never having achieved a graduate degree, which eats away at my self-esteem, and ties in with the urge to be intelligent and well-informed.  And then there's my constant fear that I'm not as great at parenting as I thought I would be, I can't keep up with housecleaning and bookeeping, and I am just not a very good cook.  And all of that is just the tip of it.

So, here's my confession:  I hate cooking and cleaning.  (Especially cooking.)  That's why I'm not good at it.  I sometimes buy turkey burger that is probably from a factory farm and comes in a styrofoam tray.  I rarely shop at the co-op because it is not at all conveniently located for me.  When I'm in town and need to get cheap food in a hurry, I go to Taco Bell.  That's right, Taco Bell!  Now and then I get a hankering for a latte when I don't have my disposable cup, and you know what?  I buy it anyway.  Plastic lid and all!  (Thank you to Batdorf & Bronson, by the way, for the compostable coffee lids.)  While I provide my chickens with lots of good table scraps, I do not buy organic feed.  It's expensive and not locally available (though I've been fretting about that lately.)  We don't have curbside glass recycling, so I sometimes throw glass bottles RIGHT IN THE TRASH.  (Usually, I keep them in various piles in and out of my house, which I plan to use as building material this summer.)  And, to top it all off, I sometimes just wish I could go back to making cute, crafty mosaic that doesn't belong in any self-respecting exhibit, but is fun and easy.

So there.  It's time to give myself some well-deserved breaks.  I'm 42 and yes, I now wear a size 8.  I also ate an entire pint of Chubby Hubby in one sitting two weeks ago.  I'm getting wrinkles.  There are tufts of dog fur floating around my house and the windows are all covered in dog nose smudges that have been building up for years.  And I've been reconciling my entire year's bank statements over the past week to prepare for doing taxes.  Oh, and one more thing: I hardly ever floss.

I'm not saying it isn't worthwhile to have convictions and to live according to them.  But I'm ready to let up on myself a bit and not to feel guilty about every little transgression.  Here's another confession:
We are getting ready to take a Caribbean Cruise.  I don't want to think about what cruise ships may or may not do to the environment or how shallow it is to visit the tourist area of Jamaica for only 6 hours.  I am excited to take my first ever relaxation vacation, to soak up some sun, eat indulgently, and play on water slides to my heart's desire.

Maybe after that, I'll be ready to come home and continue to singlehandedly save the Earth.