I didn’t take home my exercise book when I was six because my story got a “C”. Instead, I threw the book into the deep gutter that ran along the side of the road between Central Primary School and my house. The town had huge gutters that filled with rushing water when it rained and where I fell off my bike more than once.

Somehow the exercise book survived the water and my mother noticed it in the gutter on the way home from a parent-teacher night. She dried the book in front of the gas heater. What happened next I can’t remember. I only remember the shame of a low mark, the shame of failing and the constant fear that if I wasn’t perfect then they would send me back. Back to the hospital, back to the nurses, back to being a number instead of a name.

I wasn’t theirs so how could they love me if I wasn’t perfect? My parents had a choice whether or not to keep me. If I wasn’t the perfect daughter, the culmination of my mother’s dreams that died with each miscarried baby, then they would no longer want me. I’d be alone, abandoned for the second time.

If I wasn’t the perfect wife I’d be abandoned for the third time. The lessons of childhood, created in my head, dictated I should keep my opinions to myself. Asking for more, expressing dissatisfaction, wanting to break free from the numbing boredom was forbidden – not by anyone else but me.

For so long I left so much unsaid. Perfect wives don’t complain, don’t want more, don’t object. In the end I could keep silent no longer. I asked for attention, for time, for more than indifference. My husband said I was needy — dependent, soft, weak — nothing about me felt that way. I spent a life time being the opposite. My mother called me fiercely independent.

“If you could have changed your own nappy,” she said “you would have.”

Tell me about when you tried to be perfect.

{photo by seier}

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

7 thoughts on “Perfect

  1. I hadn’t even got anywhere near the end of this piece and a voice was clamouring inside many acts of desertion and the saddest one of all was the one in which you had deserted yourself, by default, with this preoccupation and understandable fear of rejection.

    It is the child within me that identifies so strongly with yours.. same result but different reasons.. I was such a ‘good’ child.. never any trouble.. I didn’t want to be pushed out from my mothers inner circle after my brothers arrival when I was 19 months old, then another brother.. another sister.. The fight for survival and recognition, acknowledgement in a large family in the shadow cast by the the mantle of Catholicism… oh boy!! No wonder I needed help!

    The need to be perfect.. the best one possibly canbe.. It was an asset when it came to caring for others in my working life.. you cannot make mistakes when peoples lives are at stake. A new born baby to birth.. Important then to be the best that was humanely impossible at what I practiced. But that was very different to what we are are really talking about here.. my ability to practice and skill base was linked but not an indication of who I was intrisically and to be found lacking or unacceptible on the latter was soul destroying for me. I also recognise now that that reaction was also a choice .. not a good one .. but back then I didn’t have the knowledge or wisdom to see another..

    The same as a young wife.. I felt needy and greedy in the the face of wanting more. If I hadn’t been ‘blinded’ by love I may have recognised then what was really happening instead of feeling bad about myself and sublimating my desires. I didn’t complain or assert myself. I consoled myself with the aid of my friend.. Cadbury.

    I am testament as to why one should never substitute love with Tim Tams. How do you answer when someone screams at you in rage “why are you getting so f***ing fat” accompanied by some unrepeatable insults. I don’t need them (Tim Tams .. or the insults) any more now I answer only to myself. Why did it take me so long to realise this.. that ultimately I’m answerable only to myself and anyone that cannot love me for who I am without trying to cage me isn’t worthy of my time..

    I am love.
    I can love, give, share, accept.. I can be the person I was always meant to be.. open and recptive to all the love that is around us. It actually attracts it.
    That is if you can keep that fear at bay.

    1. Dearest Roma
      I am love.
      I can love, give, share, accept.. I can be the person I was always meant to be.. open and receptive to all the love that is around us. It actually attracts it.

      God I LOVE this – thank you – it’s beautiful.

  2. Katie you will appreciate knowing a lot about the journey I have been on that reaching this state & place in time hasn’t been without a lot of pain, heartache and soul searching. It means a lot to me that someone I respect like your own good self ‘gets’ what I I’m saying. I’m glad you like my truth..

    You will be REALLY interested when we eventually catch up over a bottle of wine to hear about some of the somewhat extreme measures I have been taking. could say I have taken myself COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone to get here. To be honest I find it pretty unbelievable myself.

    It is so good to be in love.. in love with life .. particularly after being dead for so long.. Now all I want is my very own Duckfish.. not because I need such a one or really anyone but it would be nice to have my chalice completely overflow… occasionally… 🙂

  3. Yes, I so identify with this.
    But I was the second child, the one who could never match up with the perfect older sibling. So instead after years of trying I gave up. I just wanted them to leave me alone, to find another measuring stick to use against me. I was the one happy to read or be alone in my room, I was not the one with tons of friends or every activity and award won at school. I was the clumbsy child who fell when I tried to join the race.
    Now, I have days where the measurements and eyes watching are too much. I don’t want to even arrive at the event, count me absent. If I do not arrive then I am not weighed. But this is not how the world works. You all too often have to play the happy drone. Struggle through your days and Smile even if you don’t want to.
    Some days, like yesterday, I give up on the struggle and waste my afternoon in sleep just so I might feel like I have a bit more strength to continue tomorrow. Some days I am happy just to be me, but much too many are spent in regrets. How do you lose this?

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Amelia.
      I’d say just try not to resist ‘negative’ feelings and let them flow through you. The struggle is what makes us unhappy.
      Having a nap doesn’t seem like a waste but a way to love and nourish yourself.
      It sounds like you’re finely tuned to your emotions — awake and alert to all of life’s variations — that’s the best place to be ♥

  4. Every day until I lost the plot badly and my psych pointed out to me that I was a perfectionist! I now know how to say no to myself anf others.

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