Journal Jar Oct 18: Who you are, who you were and who you will be

This is an interesting topic, and as usual, I’m not really going to address this in the literal sense. I am just going to say that all my adult life and possibly all of my adolescence I have been a perfectionist; and when I wasn’t I aspired to be one. Guess who my favourite character from Desperate Housewives is? That’s right, uptight Bree. Mind you, I’ve only followed the first 4 seasons so I don’t know if she changes later on. I even find her the best looking even though people usually prefer the youngest actress, Eva Langoria. It’s just that Bree’s style is so put together, her manners so perfect, she bakes from scratch and brings her neighbours home-made muffins. Never mind that the contradictions in her life drive her crazy and obviously her character struggles with conservative values and breaks the rules most of the time.

So what does it say about me that at the tender age of 20 when I first started watching that show, I wanted to be like her? Seven years on, I’m glad I am not like her, it wasn’t a healthy ideal to begin with. It’s great being organised, it’s nice to have the drawers in order, fridge wiped down, make-up brushes washed, hair in place and skirt ironed. It means that I lose less stuff and waste less time looking for things and carry out activities efficiently. But all this should in principle lead to a less stressful life, and that quite frankly just isn’t the case.

The act of thinking ahead to control and limit damage and disaster (however slight) is a never ending battle. Staying on top of all the chores is a never ending cycle. Continuously struggling to perfect every aspect of one’s life is crazy.

So now I look towards an entirely different ideal. Towards somebody who can relax and enjoy having people over without worrying about the place looking perfect. Somebody who can go out dancing without planning every detail of the night or figuring out how she’s going to get home, somebody who catches moments and enjoys them, who smiles and laughs easily. Somebody who can look in the mirror and say, “I look great! No need to spend an hour here”, somebody who looks back on pictures and thinks, “That was a good day, it went so well”. Somebody who has faith in the future and lets God be her safety net.

Aiming for this new ideal is in a way setting myself up to fail as somethings just aren’t for everyone, and the girl described above just isn’t me. But if I can be like that at least some of the time, it’ll be good enough. See? I’m aiming for good, not perfect.

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Journal Jar October 12 and October 13: New Beginnings and Unfinished Business

Go here for more on the O&B initiative.

And here for the Journal Jars.

When I moved to the US, initially some things were highly annoying. I had to change the way I said things, I had to change the way I wrote. Nothing kills more than seeing my perfect spelling with a squiggly line underneath it. Damn you MS Word, this is the British spelling. I know how to spell ‘organisation’ very well. It’s also annoying when people seem to have no frikkin idea that what you just said is an alternative way of saying the same thing. Seriously how hard is it to figure out that ‘zed’ is another way of saying ‘zee’? Or that physio-therapy is another way of saying ‘physical therapy’? Why must the faces look back at me so stupidly blank? Why can’t I call my cell phone a mobile? The place where you go to watch films is indeed a cinema. Get over it.

I have had to change a lot of things in the course of my life as I moved city, country or even school. I have tried to hold on to the previous way but eventually most of the things I let go of. There is no compromise in this kind of marriage. In French school, I had to give up writing the American ‘7’ as it looked too much like a 1 to them. I had to put the dash in the middle. I had to adapt the beautiful cursive writing I learnt in the US as it was decidedly too weird. I gave in on the Gs. I was a stubborn kid; I didn’t want to listen to the teachers and students who didn’t understand. How hard is it to understand anyway, I wondered. I put commas instead of dots in the place of decimals and apostrophes for commas. If you switched back and forth from studying mathematics in English and French you know what I mean.

With this particular new beginning and new husband came new country, new job, new career path, new friends, new apartment, new city, new views from the window, and then new aspirations and expectations from life. I was looking forward to starting over and I certainly over-estimated my ability to change. A Parisian living in Houston told me that the whole first year of moving to the US after marriage, she was somewhat depressed. She was trying to explain to me the emotional stages one goes through. In some way I do get what she means. I had over-estimated small town living and I had over-estimated my ability to cut off from the past. It feels like there is a part of me that still thinks that I am back in Europe, that I must go back there soon. I must figure out a way to be a part of that old life still. Hold on to the old friendships, keep up with family just as much. An exercise in futility if there ever was one. I feel the love still. I just want to ask my parents, “Are you okay, are you really doing okay? You’d let me know right?” I still dream of old lives and loves. Life is good and not at all empty. But it lacks depth sometimes that skype doesn’t fill.

I can be busy with a full day’s to-do list in my head. And then I take a break, a nap even, and wake up to a feeling of losing something, a chasm widening to the size of the Atlantic, and there it is that sadness again.