My whole life I have tried to be the perfect person. In second grade, I was the math whiz who only missed one question the entire year. In fourth grade, I was hated by the teacher, because I was so far ahead of her class, she had to find random things for me to do. In fifth grade, I was one of two people in my grade to be bussed to a gifted program once a week. In ninth grade, I made the cheerleading team, although hardly anyone knew me. I was a cheerleader two more years. As a senior, I was one of the student council officers.
Fast forward a few years. I graduated with a degree in English with a minor in film, with a graduating GPA of 3.89. I went on to nursing school, where I was accepted on my first try, bypassing the waitlist.
I graduated nursing school, and passed my boards on the first try. I applied for, and got, the first nursing job for which I applied. A year later, I decided I wanted to go into OR nursing. I was hired on my first interview. I worked hard, always picking up abandoned shifts and working many hours of overtime.
I tell you all this to show you what a perfectionistic hard worker I was. I set my sights on something, and I busted my butt to get where I wanted to be. I sort of pushed my way along, like an oxen in a plow field. I kept my head down and moved forward until I got what I wanted, what I thought I needed. I thought I was being my ideal self, the person my family needed, and the person I thought I was supposed to be.
Then I had a stroke.
Imperfectly Perfect: How To Let Go Of Your ‘Ideal Self’ And Be A Happier Person Today!
The stroke derailed my entire life. What I thought was my perfect path was ripped out from under me like a cheap rug. My entire identity was in limbo. If I couldn’t be the perfect wife, mother, nurse, what was I going to do?
I had to relinquish almost total control, which is something I had held tight to my entire life. I couldn’t walk by myself, couldn’t eat without choking, couldn’t write, and I even had to have help going to the bathroom and bathing.
My life as I knew it was over.
With a lot of coaxing from doctors, therapists, my family, my husband, my friends, and even my editor (Love you!), I started to slowly come out on the other side of this tragedy with a smile on my face. I may have been discharged as a nurse, which at the time was devastating, but it actually freed up a lot of my time. I now have been reacquainted with my first love, writing, which is actually very therapeutic in my recovery process.
I may still have many deficits, but I’m home to actually spend quality time with my children. They don’t see me as a mommy who is always stressed out and tired, but as a mommy who is here to read to and play with them. I am able to be here to teach them things, things I wasn’t around to help with before.
Maybe the best part, I have been able to help and encourage people who are going through chronic illnesses of their own. I get messages several times a week from people who want to be reassured they aren’t crazy. They simply want somebody who will listen and believe them. I am that person for them.
I may not be the perfect person I thought I was supposed to be, but I am the perfect me. It has taken awhile, but I’m happier on this side. It took loosing control of everything I thought I was supposed to be, to realize I am happier on this alternate path that was planned for me. I just had to be forced to let go of my tight grip on my ideal self, and learn to go with life as it comes. This is my “new normal,” and I’m better for it.