Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Perfectly Paralyzed

One of my favorite blog writers posted a request for feedback on how to deal with a problem, which was multi-layered, but basically came down to dealing with her life-long struggle with depression. Since her post hit home hard, and moved me in the way that only a really good writer can, I was compelled to attempt an email in response. I must admit something, which you, dear reader, already know, and that is the temptation to procrastinate dealing with my own problems by escaping into others' is a bad habit which I indulge all too often. So, of course, I was shoving aside my own to-do list to write to this complete stranger about the intimate details of my own struggle with depression, but hey, I never promised I wouldn't one day implode under the weight of my own neuroses.

While dodging my work and occasionally plunging into the Halloween candy jar of bats, pumpkins, corn and skulls, I started thinking about how to respond to her. What exactly were the things that had helped me during my own struggle with depression?

As I started writing, I remembered one of the lessons that I'd learned during my seemingly endless therapy sessions: Perfectionism is one of the things holding me back from accomplishing so many things in life. That is not to say that I suffer from the delusion that I am perfect. Oh HO, that's a knee-slapper of an image. No, the way perfectionism rears its ugly head is in the way I must plot and plan every single little move before taking action, for fear that the action taken will be the wrong one.

For example, why haven't I painted the kitchen yet? I've lived in this house for over 10 years, and I am ashamed to tell you that there is a section of the kitchen that I have never painted. I don't mean that the walls looked perfectly fine and I just moved in. I mean that there was hideous wallpaper on the walls, I ripped it off willy-nilly, and then left the walls all naked and fuzzy from old wallpaper backing. Why not just clean them up and paint them? Well, that would require picking a color scheme. White with blue sponging? Light blue and get that pretty bird border I saw years ago to go around the top? But what if I want to hang up some of my collected tins? Wouldn't yellow work better in there with that collection on the walls? And what about that space over the archway, what if I want to put a shelf there? A border would look stupid in that small space if there is a shelf, too, but then why have a border at all if you skip that wall? Okay, no border again. How about picking a bold color for a change. Oh, but should it match the yellow walls of the next room, or at least transition into the next room somehow? Should I pick out some curtains and find a color in them I like and match that? Oh, but I like these white curtains that are already in there...AHHHHHH

Uh, you see my problem already, don't you? Hours and hours spend on such nonsense thinking over the years, and no action taken. I can't commit to a damn wall color, so don't even drive me demented trying to make big decisions. The drive to make the right decision, and do it exactly the right way, and have it come out perfect, paralyzes me into inaction. It's just as J has so wisely said - it's only when the pain of staying in one place outweighs the fear of moving on, that we take action. Oh, groan, that is too perfectly true about my whole life. So many decisions made based solely on fear and pain avoidance.

I must say, in my own defense (not that anyone is attacking me but ME), that I've tried to make some strides towards picking an action, committing to the plan, and deciding to let the chips fall where they may. And there have been some big decisions made in that direction. Like asking Lydia to move out when her behavior became intolerable. Oh, yeah, that was based on the pain of her staying outweighing the pain of what would happen if I asked her to leave. Well, okay, not a perfect example, but give me a break, I'm on a sugar high here.

I did decide to throw caution to the wind for a change and embark on a relationship with J, which was a nice change of pace for my usually timidity-stifled romantic life. And that was not a decision based on pain avoidance, but of deciding to laugh in the face of fear of rejection, take the risk, kiss the boy.

It's not that the perfectionism thing doesn't still hang me up, but I'm making strides. It used to be that I would never practice something I'd never tried before in front of other people, for fear of being ridiculed for doing it badly. How stupid, right? How can anyone expect to do something perfectly on the first go, but that would complete me flummox me to the point that I would refuse to try things. Lately, I've tried my hand in a softball batting cage, I've sung in front of people, I've even taken the plunge with a cold reading on the radio, announcing the weather on a small am station for the first time in years. The more things I try, the more I feel in better control of situations, and the less time I spend fretting over the most minute decisions.

As a matter of fact, as soon as we get J through his surgery and healing period, I'm going back to the home improvement projects, and I'm going to paint that damn kitchen. I don't care what color, if I'm in a purple with yellow polka-dots mood that day, so be it. Who the fuck cares, anyway? It'll only be covered with spaghetti sauce spatters and spiderwebs soon anyway. I should save all this nervous brain energy for the big decisions. Like the living room couch pillow colors.

Kidding, I'm just kidding!

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