Saturday, January 28, 2012

Perfect Is As Perfect Does

Okay, so this is crazy, and I know that, but crazy is pretty much what I do. What this isn't, though, is me being passive aggressive. I realize it may seem to be that way, but it's not. I've just obsessed over this so much that I have no choice to write a blog about it. So, without further ado, the blog:

I'm a perfectionist--shocking, I know. I expect everything to be done right every time it's done. I not only expect that of other people, like my children, my students, and my husband (which makes for a fun-filled marriage, let me tell you), I expect it of myself, too. I expect it of myself because I don't want to contribute to the mediocrity of this world, because I like to take pride in and ownership of whatever it is that I'm creating/doing, and because I feel there's no point in doing something if it's not going to be done right. Those aren't the only reasons I try to be perfect in everything I do, though. I also have a secret reason:

I'm afraid to make mistakes.

I know the way I look at other people who make what I think to be ridiculous mistakes, and I most definitely do not want people to look that way at me. I look at them as if they're complete idiots with the potential to single-handedly bring about the downfall of civilization.

What follows is a reenactment of what happens when I stumble upon a mistake.

You used there instead of their? Your instead of you're? To instead of too? You put a comma AFTER the coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence (somebody get me some smelling salts!)? Clearly you're an idiot, your children will be idiots, their children will be idiots, and their children's children will be idiots, and, really, does the world need more idiots? If you can't distinguish between some of the most common words in the English language, how can you expect to be a productive part of society? If you can't even spell, can you follow directions well enough to change oil? Can you work a cash register? Can you be trusted to help children cross the street? IF YOU CAN'T REMEMBER WHERE TO PUT ONE STINKING PUNCTUATION MARK, JUST WHAT EXACTLY CAN YOU DO?

(Breathe, Kelly. Breathe.)

I realize that I'm making it seem as if my need for perfection revolves completely around language; thinking that is a mistake. I expect and want perfection in everything, and when I don't find it (which, of course, I never do) a previously good day can instantly become bad, and not just for me but for whatever poor schlub happens to be in my company at the time the imperfection occurs (do yourself a favor--never go out with me for margaritas or coffee drinks). And again, it's not just perfection from other people that I expect, but from myself, too. It's why I have such a problem with my tendency to veer toward the fat side--clearly, there's no perfection involved in not being able to say no to the red velvet cupcake the teacher in the classroom next to you misguidedly brought to you in an attempt to be nice--and why I hated pregnancy so much--again, there's nothing perfect about gaining seventy pounds (twice), having ankles like a Cabbage Patch Kid, or a nose that smushes out across your face like a mass of silly putty.

Anyway, I know I've already said this, but my need to be perfect at everything comes just as much from a need to not be imperfect as it does from anything else. And right now, something has occurred that makes me seem not so perfect, and it's killing me. Killing me!

I recently had something published, and somewhere along the lines between my submission and the publication of it, the spelling of a word has been changed. When I first saw it, I was horrified. I went on being horrified for a few minutes, and then, after the initial horror wore off, I started second-guessing myself. Maybe I actually made a mistake; maybe I had misread Lynne Truss all those years ago. Immediately I grabbed my phone and looked up the word in question, only to find that no, I had not made a mistake. I then looked it up on another site. And another one (because you can never be too sure). After a whole lot of checking, I knew what I had already known: I didn't make a mistake. But now, thanks to the change from the right to the wrong, the world thinks that I did.

Not only does the world think that I made a mistake, but the person who read the submission, a person that I deeply respect,thinks that I made a mistake, too. She must have been reading my words, seen the word in question, and been like, fucking idiot.

And I simply cannot convey to you how much that is killing me.

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