My House is A Mess and So Am I

I like things in their place. I like when everything is in order. When my desk is overwhelmed with papers and there is no order, only chaos, I freak out. I was the student who obsessed over straight A’s. I lost sleep and cried over projects trying to make them perfect. I wanted all my papers to go above and beyond the requirements to secure that perfect grade.

My anxiety and compulsion over these things would drive my health into the ground when I was in school, especially high school and college. When I didn’t get the perfect grades on some assignments in college, I learned some hard lessons. It was not fun and it was not a good time, but the outcome I gained overtime has been kind of priceless.

When I taught English to high schoolers, I saw the same anxiety in several students looking back at me silently freaking out over projects and papers I assigned. They turned in excellent work, but the panic and eye twitching over every little point awarded to them did not go unnoticed. So, I started my pep talks and speeches on how perfection isn’t attainable in everything you do and that it’s okay to make mistakes. While I spoke, I could hear the little “uh-huh,” “hmmmm,” and “see, what did I tell you,” the Holy Spirit threw my way at my past and current feelings on similar things. I heard the words coming out of my mouth, and logically I knew it wouldn’t help many of them. It wouldn’t make that anxiousness disappear. It didn’t help me when my teachers did the same.

Some things you just can’t see or realize until you’re on the other side. I knew that me being on the other side of school gave me a different perspective on it. I knew that obsessing over those things were not worth it in the end. I knew it was not possible to be perfect at all times in every subject. It just wasn’t. Some of us are designed to be great at math. Some are better at English, or history, or science. Now, I’m a firm believer in doing your best in all that you do. It just took me until college to understand that your best doesn’t always look the same every day.

Did my anxiety disappear the day I walked across the stage with diploma in hand? Of course not. I still see it in my post-grad life in my home life, work life, church life, etc. Now, the obsessing over papers and assignments turned into anxiousness over external audits and analyzing the behavior of family members towards me. It doesn’t just go away, but I am slowly getting better at managing it. My mom is pretty good as well at talking me out of the black hole I start going down when I get overwhelmed. My husband helps balance me out too and be the voice of reason when I am not being rational.

We are the exact opposite, especially when it came to school. I was always ahead of the deadline, and he was always Mr. Last Minute. He didn’t do things immediately, and he wouldn’t clean up his stacks of papers off his desk. He didn’t obsess or freak out if he saw a B or a C on an assignment.

When we got married and then moved in together, it was a little bit of adjustment. I thought dirty clothes should immediately go in to the laundry hamper and not in the bottom of the closet. I also hate dirty dishes laying in the sink, and my eye is definitely twitching during the in-between phase of the dishwasher being full of clean dishes/when it’s running and there’s no where for the dishes to go but the sink unless you have time to hand wash, which we hardly ever have the time to do.

I think I help balance him out a little bit too. The dirty clothes go in the hamper (for the most part), and I have learned to let the dirty dishes sit in the sink a day or two until one of us can get to the dishwasher. I don’t get as upset anymore if our office desk isn’t completely clean. He makes sure to leave his work uniforms and work boots in the garage, especially after I’ve just swept the floors. I’m no where near as bad as I used to be about where things should go, but I still have room for improvement, as do we all.

The animals really pushed my buttons when it came to wanting things in their perfect spot. The cat leaves litter everywhere and covers our furniture in hair. The dogs never put their toys away and I have tumbleweeds rolling around my living room as you’re reading this. I used to pick up the toys and vacuum the couch almost every day. Now, I don’t push back my bedtime just to make sure the dog toys are all put back in the bins. My house for the most part is still fairly clean, even if there is a squeaky toy to greet me in the hallway when I come home from work.

My nerves go a little haywire at work when the schedule gets thrown off, or my routine goes in the trash for the week. Hopefully, I’m managing those issues a little better, but my co-workers may have the real answer to that. Personally, I noticed how far I have come since I was a sixteen year old having full-blown panic attacks in Spanish class. It was a few weeks ago when I spilled something on my to-do list pad at work.

I had already written out the week’s tasks for the next week, and the spill had bled through to the next week. My first knee-jerk reaction was to rip the pages out and start over. I even lifted the first two pages to make the tear until I noticed it wasn’t just the first two but the next seven pages. Could I have ripped them all out? Sure, but something stopped me. The pages could still be used. It would have been a waste to just tear them all out because of one quarter-sized spot on the page. Even though my type-A personality wanted to just immediately fix it back to perfection, I let the stained pages stay. I’m on week three and the stain is still there, but the paper has dried, and in that one spot I’ve noticed the paper is tougher. It’s not as flimsy as the rest. In a few more weeks there will be no spot.

It reminded me of mistakes and lessons learned. How I’ve come back stronger and a little bit tougher after I’ve made a mistake. How I’ve improved over time, not instantly. It definitely reminded me that things don’t have to be perfect or look perfect all the time. That’s not life. Mishaps and mistakes happen when it comes to school, work, sports, clubs, church groups/ activities, home life, family gatherings.

Mistakes happen in life. I spend a lot of time preparing for the best possible outcome and trying to think of every little thing to make sure everything goes right. Sometimes it works, and sometimes something happens I never could have seen coming.

Did my senior year in college go perfectly? No, it ended a few months early due to COVID and I didn’t get the perfect graduation.

Did my wedding day go perfectly? For the most part, yes, but it was still a tad colder than I hoped after the sun went down and some people I invited couldn’t come.

Did my first day at my big girl job go perfectly? No, I bawled my eyes out as soon as the day was over.

Did my first day leading the youth at church go perfectly? No, only one kid showed up.

Did my plans to publish poetry work out? Nope, still sitting on my shelf unfinished.

Did I accomplish all the goals for last year, Nope, but good progress was made.

Did I get to go to the mountains like we planned for Valentine’s weekend? Oh no, it decided to snow.

Not everything goes the way I plan or envision it. I’ve learned to roll with what comes and allowing myself to heal through the mistakes, hurts, and living in the not-so-perfect conditions. I still don’t have the best reactions to everything, but through prayer and learning more about God and myself, I’m getting better. I’m learning to not get angry at the mess, but to look forward to the cleaning up process and what is to come after.

But I’m letting go of the idea that I’ll be completely 100% the best at handling the imperfectness of life one day. The only thing any of can do is to learn from the mistakes, come back a little stronger, and keep working on ourselves. I know I can’t expect perfection from anyone else, but I think one of the hardest thing I’ve had to learn in my late teens and early twenties, is that I cannot expect perfection from myself either. I’m a work-in-progress mess, and thank you Jesus for continuing to work on me.

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