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In search of Perfection. Wednesday March 9, 2016

Hey – who died and made me the Agony Aunt Supreme?

Because I'm not qualified; honestly!

It may surprise you to know that I don't actually have the perfect life, so I'm totally not qualified to advise you on yours.

I know, I know – I've shocked you haven't I? Because yes – I had you totally fooled.

We all have this tendency to think that other people have got it all sorted. In fact, we seem to have a vested interest in keeping that fallacy alive.

Unless it's to read about celebrities in the tabloids, we don't want to know that other people have problems. We'd like to think that it's possible for other people to have everything just so – even if we resent them like crazy for living in and with that perfection.

When I read of women who bring up well-adjusted families while writing a series of best-selling novels, I think "How Does She Do it?" and when that same woman blogs honestly that she did it only because she never does any housework and her home resembles a toxic waste site, I feel cheated. She wasn't supposed to be like me, with guinea-pig bedding trailed up the stairs and the bed sheets not changed for a month. She wasn't supposed to have an ironing basket where the lower levels contain the fossilised remains of small velociraptors, and grease on her kitchen surfaces likely create a hazard to wildlife if dumped in the North Sea.

And then there's that well-adjusted family. Because her daughters would never stand at either end of the landing screaming at each other, would they? Her husband doesn't need a garden shed in which to hide away.

I bet she never snaps at her children and yells at them to leave her alone for just five (deleted) minutes!

And – you know what? I bet she does.

I bet she's just like me.

So when a day like yesterday happens and I get three emotional phone calls from friends wanting support and advice, such that I get no writing done and end up snapping at my family and in tears on the phone to my own therapist, I'm going to take comfort in the fact that actually, it's pretty much the same for everyone.

Nobody's perfect and nobody has the perfect life.

And – I owe my husband and children a huge apology for being so grumpy yesterday.

And the day before.

And the day before that...

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Ann Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 12:43am

I owe hubby and son a hug apology for y'day, too. (Hug or Huge...;-) And the day before... And....
The <getting in a state cos I've heard everyone else's problems and I'm exhausted> rings true too.
Not that getting to bed after midnight and then choosing to check Moodscope has anything to do with why I'm tired and grump...
Thanks Mary for keeping it real! Xx

Mary Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 9:34am

My pleasure Ann. I need to keep it real for me too!

Arvind Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 5:38am

Hi Mary,

I have a problem with this perfection thing being dished out by bosses. I have been forced to increase my standards in some areas which is positive in one way to a degree but there is systemic problem and we are at its mercy. The standards preached and expectations seem to be bonkers and harasses people to high levels of stress. I am not sure if I am making sense to you

Mary Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 9:42am

Hello Arvind. Hmmm. A tricky one. My husband used to work for a big bank. His team was responsible for a very large portion of the software infrastructure necessary for the smooth running of the bank. They had a very simple philosophy: they delivered at 100%, no matter what that took. They were proud of their record. And yes - there were times when my husband worked until three in the morning, came back home for a couple of hours sleep and then went back again. Eventually the bank took the decision to remove his department's responsibilities to India, and disbanded his team (he took voluntary redundancy). Well - the story did not end well, seriously inconvenienced many customers, hit headline news and the already faltering profits. So sometimes - only perfection is good enough. But in order to achieve perfection, one must have sufficient resources and support. We can never do it alone and we can never do it without support. I am a fan of high standards. But I am also a fan of team and good management. Asking for more while giving less is not good management.

Arvind Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 10:26am

I am not satisfied with your answer. I feel many times the standards are superfically cast and people's notion of high standards is quite vague. Also if a standard expects someone to work like that, pride seems to basically drop into silliness. How can you implement a standard that says 100% delivery no matter what. The notion seems absurd. Quite frankly management is a joke and people's perception of high standards seems to be a bit of BS mostly.

Brum Mum Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 6:34am

Mary, how you make me is the biggest delusion out there that everyone else is fine and we're the only ones struggling. Knowing about guinea pig bedding and unmade beds will keep me grounded today when my kids sound off or I find I do not have infinite patience with them. Have a good, creative day!! Xx

Mary Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 9:42am

Thank you Brum Mum!

Helen Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 7:27am

My only thought on this blog was ......why are all those household duties only the woman's responsibility. .?

Mary Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 9:53am

Hello Helen. Well, actually, in my house, it is my husband who wields the hoover like a pro. And he does laundry too (properly sorted). But - with my ankle propped up in front of me and unable to do anything, standards have inevitably slipped. He's working, and feeding us, and shopping for food, and trying to do everything himself when I have suggested getting some help to do the cleaning and ironing at least. The children are helping with the cooking but with sporting activities and homework levels, they have limited time. When I wrote the blog I wasn't particularly thinking merely of household duties - more of what I perceive as not being perfect in my life. Because I would love to live in house beautiful, I would love the ironing to be washed, ironed and put away by Sunday evening every weekend. I would love my children to be unfailingly courteous and helpful. And of course I would love my husband to romance me with red roses and wild passion every evening (or maybe not..) But this sort of thing just doesn't happen for most of us and if we expect it to then we're going to be very disappointed.

Hopeful One Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 7:28am

Hi Mary- thanks for reminding me to remind myself that one of the causes of a low mood is comparing ourselves to others. Has one noticed that we always compare ourselves to someone or somebody who is perceived to be better than oneself.? That sends our Inner Critical Voice into overdrive and we end up berating or beating up ourselves. If I appear to go into comparison mode I remind myself of Oscar Wile's admonition." Comparisons are odious" It appears to have a gender aspect: One feels women do that far more often than men.Could that explain their higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to men?

The fact is nobody goes through life scot free. They have problems just like us. Only they don't dwell on them.

And as for perfection? It does not exist. So we need to change that saying 'practice makes perfect' to practice makes permanent'

Here is the Joke Squadron having made that special sortie for you yesterday.

A hunter called Bob went on camping trip with his wife, kids, and mother-in-law. One evening, while still deep in the forest, the Mrs awoke to find her mother gone. Rushing to her husband, she insisted on them both trying to find her mother. Bob picked up his rifle, took a swig of whiskey, and started to look for her. In a clearing, not far from the camp, they came upon a chilling sight the mother-in-law was backed up against a thick, impenetrable bush, and a large bear stood facing her. The wife cried, "What are we going to do?" "Nothing," said the hunter husband. "The bear got himself into this mess, let him get himself out of it."

Mary Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 9:33am

Oh, this did make me chuckle! I must send this one to my Canadian friends!

Norman Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 10:15am

Hi Ho! (sorry, couldn't resist!) I think it is a children thing. when I was a working lone parent I felt that I wasn't as good a provider as my dad and wasn't as good a mother as my mam. I was trying to be two people, my rational side knew this, my emotional side refused to listen! I was also terrified that if I wasn't perfect social services would take my son away from me.

Holly Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 9:45am

I can really relate to this. I often feel like my life is a mess, and even though I know what I want to do, I often feel like I'm kidding myself and don't have a clue. It's a complete mystery to me how people have actually told me that I had the perfect life and everything goes well for me.

At the same time, I've got angry at others for not trying hard enough, thinking that if they would put more effort in, life would be so much better. Only to realise that they too, have suffered huge traumas and they are just doing the best they can.

Then, I've really looked up to some people in my life. Thought they were perfect. They had a talent for somehow being happy 24/7, and their life just seemed to be perfect. They had everything they wanted. Or so I thought. Something happened, and I got spectacularly let down. It was then that I realised, they were just human. Just like me.

Life is funny like that, the deceptions and everything lol.

Mary Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 9:54am

Indeed Holly. Indeed.

Susannah Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 5:53pm

I'm relating to you, Holly. I've had an old friend recently ask me for relationship advice, as me and my partner seem to have "got it nailed". Given that I only see this friend every few years, he has absolutely no idea what goes on in my house - but we are evidently his notion of perfection. It's rather flattering, and I am in a happy 30 years and counting relationship,but, for example, he knows nothing about how my partner helps me through the serious downers. Similarly, a friend has asked me for career advice again (writing her cv and coaching her through interview questions). She wants a better job, but doesn't seem willing to do the training required to learn the skills she needs. I get frustrated with her lack of action, but her situation is difficult too, and I forget that. Thank you for reminding me not to be hard on her.

danielle Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 10:26am

Mary, I can relate to this! I remember talking to my mum when I was younger and struggling and she said the same to me, that all the ducks who look in control are secretly paddling like crazy under water to keep their heads above the water. It is so true. We do forget it at times though, easily done - I often feel I am the only one feeling like this, why I love moodscope as i know I am not alone. I must remember this, I get everso jealous of sister in law to be - I don't know why as I have a lovely life but they like to publish their oh so successful life to the family - many occasions it is talked about a lot. They both have great jobs, bought a house near london last year, brand new expensive car, just on holiday to NZ where they got engaged, holiday again later in the year, will buy second house soon. All this and mid 20s! we are similar age and have done very well for ourselves - I am not complaining, but we dont publish and brag and often get 'why are you not doing that' or 'why dont you ask them how you should do it'. I need to remember that whilst they paint a sunny picture I am sure they still have wobbles and be content with my life without comparing xxx

Norman Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 10:50am

Danielle hi! next time you are asked "why are you not doing that" say you are quite contented with your life and not trying to over-compensate for your emotional emptiness. Then smile enigmatically...

Norman Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 10:26am

Mary, you are totally qualified to comment on our lives, you walk in our shoes. Your daily battles are the same as ours. Your mind works like ours.

Study after study shows that organisations which recruit "the best person for the job" (read "best" as "white, male, middle-class heterosexual, conservative") are outperformed by organisations which are more diverse. You can't beat shared experience for developing understanding and awareness, which translates to business success.

You have a husband and children? So they would rather have you in their lives, warts and all, than be without you? Feel the love...

the room above the garage Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 2:59pm

I nose dived. Not perfect here either. But woke up and showed up so I'm claiming a victory. Onwards soldiers...thank you Mary, love ratg X.

Susannah Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 5:57pm

But there is probably somebody who looks at your life as perfection! Keep on winning ratg

Mary Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 6:05pm

Dear Ratty, If you got out of bed, showered and put on clothes that's seriously a major accomplishment. Anything above and beyond is just jam!

The Gardener Wed, Mar 9th 2016 @ 8:17pm

Hello Mary - your description of your kitchen sounds like second son when he shared a house at uni - you needed skates to negotiate the kitchen floor..There were six of them, had no clean clothes end of term - there was the equivalent of a waste tip to take home to Mums. A friend of the friend I've been propping up for 20+ years said when we met 'I've dreaded meeting you, been told how efficient you are, and how much you do'. In fact, in comparison with our feckless mutual friend I was like a meteor. I'm far from perfect, but have achieved lots - very greedy of life, only got one. this probably needs therapy - I can't work on interesting things if house untidy, so go at house like a meteor. I cannot cook in a mucky kitchen - I love cooking, and working surfaces are like an artist's canvas - must be clean. Shocking housewife, really, s moving things out of old house reveal that things have not been dusted behind since we moved in 23 years ago. Having had a terrible five days with Mr G had a super day with the painter - his mother died of alzheimers last year - and it seems that his remit is to keep me going by making sure every nadgery thing works. We are also always laughing-mostly at my impractical and ambitious ideas. Crying on shoulders, Mary. I reached desperation - SOS here inundated - help which should be forthcoming needs burocracy, fill in tax forms - internet one house, printer other. Only woman who can help on a course. Mr G is going to get thrown out of respite soon - upsetting all the others. No food in house, will go shopping tomorrow, no I won't, car in for MOT. My poor husband is so anti-social now no hope of going out for a good meal.But my good fairy is there somewhere - eldest son yesterday 'you've done so much so far, you'll make it' and sent me a picture of one of their rare breed ewes with triplets. Someone here said recently 'just one more step'. Exhausted, but, just one more step, Mr G to bed, find the kitchen table, and collapse with cartoon books.

Lex Thu, Mar 10th 2016 @ 2:36pm

I can be Grumpy Potty Mouth! Does that help? Especially with a pinched nerve. In fact, I've channelled my creativity into creating new expletives! But then I never projected the image of being perfect... I hope! L'xx

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