Some lessons take a lifetime to learn.
Once upon a time, I was determined to build a better me. I’d look at myself in the bathroom mirror every morning and think…if only. If only I were smarter. If only I were wittier. If only I were more gracious and more graceful and l instead of a flailing slob who’d left toothpaste dribs all over her counter.
If only I could get my shit together.
Once upon a time, I aspired to be what I considered to be a perfect, or near-perfect version of myself. I didn’t know how or when I would achieve my goal, but I told myself that then and only then, would I deserve a life that really made me happy.
Um…yeeeah. I fully aware that that sounds like fucked up perfectionist bullshit. Rest assured therapy happened. Therapy continues to happen. And other stuff happened. Fun stuff. Incredible stuff. When life says, “Here’s your chance to tap dance in a play; to go to France; to nab the love of your life,” it’s hard to say to no. It’s hard for me, at any rate. As I grew older, I began to realize that my drive to “better” myself was becoming less about a warped, but sincere sense of perfection and more copping out. If I waited until I was perfect before I learned to danced, went to Europe or dove into a relationship, I’d never have to risk tripping and falling, losing my way in a strage land or having my heart broken.
So I started doing things, despite not being perfect. But it wasn’t until I looked at myself in the mirror on my thirtieth birthday, that I had a stern talk with myself about the whole being perfect thing. In reality it was an internal, wordless kind of moment but for narrative purposes the gist was this.
“Listen, sister. You’re thirty years old and you still have toothpaste smeared all over your counter. Clearly, this is just who you are. Deal with it and move on.”
And I did. Sort of.
I sort of embrace the idea that I’m dorky and I’m sometimes okay with the way I blunder through parts of my life. I’ve stopped using my propensity for flail as an excuse to shy away from intriguing opportunities and challenges. But I’ve never truly exorcised my desire to be perfect. Perfection and being perfect is this beautiful, risk-free fantasy that feels oh-so-safe. It’s fake and dumb, not to mention impossible but it’s still there.
Recently, I developed a hankerin’ to try my hand…or more perhaps more acurately, my boobs at burlesque. Miss Helevetica Bold and the wonderful gang at Rockalily Burlesque, very generously offered me an opportunity to guest perform at Zombie Strippers, their Hallowe’en themed production.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I am irrationally afraid of zombies. (I didn’t sleep for two nights after seeing the trailer for 28 Days Later.) Instead I cooked up a routine that focused on my favourite part of Hallowe’en…the candy. I was excited! Sweets and an outlet for my attention-whoring, exhibitionist tendencies? Whee! But also, a performance. A sure-fire trigger for my perfectionist tendencies. Um…yeeeeah.
I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. I combed stores looking for the just the right props and costume pieces. I scoured the city for pasties big enough to conceal my huge pancake nipples. And then I practiced and then I practiced and practiced some more.
Some lessons take a lifetime to learn. I’m generally smart, but like everyone I’m remarkably dense about certain things. Which why the universe has to keep hammering this particular point into my head.
In retrospect there were signs throughout the day. My period started. I dropped one of my pasties in the toilet. I tried to apply false lashes and glued my eyelids together.
That evening I handed out candy to neighbourhood children, while my own The Green Bean did his own Hallowe’en pillaging. After he came home, we organized his stash before I put him to bed. I quietly acknowledged that I’m a strange type of family gal, kissed The Man of Mans and left to show my boobs to strangers.
When I arrived at the venue, most of The Rockalily troupe had already arrived. Digression: These women are awesome! I’ve seen them perform several times, but hanging out with them in person was phenomenal. They were welcoming, funny, irreverent and sexy. They gave me tips, encouragment and feminine hygiene products. Love!
Resume: Backstage was awesome. The first set of routines were awesome. The whole thing was awesome. And I was still in perfectionist mode, mentally reviewing all of my moves, the placement of my props and my escape strategy in case anyone booed, upon seeing me in my skivvies.
The first set ended. There was a live band, a quick intermission, one more act and then I was up. I was nervous, but I was prepared. My music began and I stepped on stage, just as I had practiced. I held my bucket of candy and set it on a chair, just as I had practiced. The bucket tipped over and the candy – an integral part of my routine – spilled everywhere. That was not what I had practiced.
“Okay, universe. Is the lesson that I am strip teasing on Hallowe’en, not performing brain surgery so I might as well relax and have fun because my best laid plans are scattered on the floor?”
I’m dense, but eventually I get it. The routine did not go as I had planned and practiced, practiced, practiced. But I don’t care. I had SO much FUN grabbing candy off the floor and shaking my last-minute substitute pasties! And wasn’t that the point all along? To have FUN? When I stepped off of the stage I felt like a clumsy, spastic dork.
I felt good.
Once upon a time, I was determined to build a better me. It sucked. I was never satisfied and I was never happy. I’m not perfect. Not even close. There are times when it’s worthwhile to challenge myself, to work hard and do the best I’m capable of. But ultimately I’m a typo-typing, toothpaste smearing, candy-hurling, breast-baring kind of lady…and I’m happy with that.
Tomorrow I will celebrate another birthday. When I wake up and look at myself in the mirror, I will remind myself, “You’re thirty-six years old. This is just who you are. Deal with it and move on.”