Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Perfection and the $64,000 question

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I was 22 when my essay was first published on the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Youngblood. This was followed by a second essay in 2007. I remember that day at work when everything was not going well and I resorted to writing to keep my cool and sanity amidst the chaos. It was about waiting for my then boyfriend turned good friend to pop the question then eventually seeing the countless benefits of being single. The title? The question.

Fast forward to present. I'm still single but I have a lovely two-year old daughter who is my pride and joy and heir to my stilletos, Leia. Two weeks ago, my baby brother Ton-ton (he's 28, an army officer but I still refer to him as baby brother) got married. I was happy for him albeit the stresses that went with their wedding preparations. The ceremony was at Davao Chinese Baptist Church. In his message Pastor Arnel Tan who officiated the ceremony said something that struck me - "If you are a perfectionist, don't get married". Everyone laughed including me but I knew right there and then that these words will stay with me for a long, long time.

Pastor Arnel just gave me the smartest answer to the $64,000 question I've been asked since my 26th birthday - don't you want to get married? Whenever I'm asked this question my brain would go to fifth gear trying to come up with the best answer. When I had Leia, believe it or not I still get asked with the same question. My answers would depend on my mood and who was asking the question. I could be polite, funny or cheeky. But from now on, there will just be one standard reply, "I'm a perfectionist, I won't get married" then followed be a smile. My answer was put to good use during the reception when some well-meaning family friends asked me if I was jealous of Ton-ton and Ann. I respectfully retorted, "No, not at all. I'm a perfectionist, I shouldn't get married," and it did the trick.  

I admit, I was once a stickler for perfection. It's not something that I'm proud of, I don't wear it like a badge. Being a perfectionist was a double-edged sword. Yes, it made me strive to be flawless in almost everything I do, but on the other hand the pressure this brought made it difficult for me to relax and see the big picture. Setting high standards and expecting other people to meet these has caused a lot of unnecessary stresses for me and the people close to me. I wanted and expected everything to go as planned so I take every detail to heart when planning. If something went amiss I would feel terrible and consider everything else a failure. Case in point - I had mild post-partum depression because I was psyching and planning to have a normal childbirth. It didn't happen, I had no choice but to go through C-section as Leia's cord was coiled around her neck. I felt so bad about not feeling the pain of normal delivery. I told Mum about this and  she made me realize that my being a perfectionist would make things hard for Leia. She told me that I have to accept that no matter how strong my desires are to make things go as planned I can only hope for the best. I can never demand perfection. Mum gave me possible scenarios of how this behavior will affect my being a mother. Until recently I have started to let go and take things easy. This means less stress for me and more time with my daughter.

I have become more speculative of things; I'm taking baby steps towards letting go of my ridiculous expectations and archetypes all for the love of Leia. I wouldn't want to cause emotional and psychological trauma to my daughter because I demand precision. A stickler will definitely not make a good parent in my point of view. I am keen on being more forgiving of faults and that I won't sweat the small stuffs anymore. This doesn't mean I'll settle for mediocrity. I will tap on Leia's strengths so she can be who she wants to be and I promise never to dominate her. I will guide and help her but not make a robot out of my child. I will respect her pace and will never compare her with others. I'm not perfect, this world isn't and no one can ever claim superiority. We all have our faults, you can plan as much as you can but be flexible, this world is far from perfection. But it's what makes life colorful and challenging and dynamic and beautiful.

But for the sake of answering questions on me getting married, I'll reply with a smile, "I'm a perfectionist, I shouldn't get married."

The groom aka my baby brother

Ton-ton and Ann

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