Why "all or nothing" isn't everything
I’ve come to realize how damaging the “all or nothing” mindset can be. My entire life I’ve followed rules, honored deadlines, met requirements. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but I definitely like to have my ducks in a row and my boxes checked.
Here’s the thing. Motherhood and the degree to which the pace of life has picked up has made systematic, punctual completion of everything nearly impossible. The birthday party starts at 2? Ok, it takes 15 minutes to get there, I’ll leave early, give us plenty of time. Except my middle can’t find his other shoe, and no he can’t wear this other pair, he must have the dinosaur shoe. The toddler has gleefully torn open the wrapped gift and the oldest has to poop as we are pulling out of the driveway at 2:05.
Traditionally, I would give up the ship if things didn’t work out the way I planned. Following a diet but ate a thousand calories for breakfast? There goes the day! Might as well eat half a pizza later. Ten minutes late for that workout class? Obviously I will wait and go next week. This car already has a ding, so I can park next to the shopping carts. You get the idea.
It took me a while to realize that all or nothing is really just an excuse to give up once you have slipped below the “perfect” benchmark. And again, with kids, things are rarely easy and nowhere near perfect.
Last night I made a roast chicken for dinner. I don’t know what it is about cooking whole birds, but there is something about the process that eludes me. I make sure its defrosted, I pat it dry, I cook it for longer than the recipe states, I pull it out ready to make gravy in the pan and the cursed thing is still bleeding. I crank the oven and throw it back in, which blasts the meat and burns the drippings. It’s now approaching 7:00, and I’m standing in my kitchen that now stinks like charred chicken fat, angrily stirring a bitter, salty mess trying to pass for gravy. Look at all these dirty dishes! Why did I even bother?? Dinner is going to be disgusting. Everyone is starving and I’m in a mood that has me illogically yelling at my husband and coming close to letting everyone eat Doritos for dinner amid the acrid smoke.
But. I heard this phrase a while back and started summoning it in times like these. I think it comes from Voltaire:
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
I took a deep breath, sat down with my family, and watched my kiddos gobble up the chicken AND that gross gravy. They smashed their peas and goofily attempted to play charades (as they had seen in Frozen 2) with little mashed potato-smeared faces. We laughed and ate and you know what? I still made Sunday dinner for my family. The food wasn’t great, but I almost ruined the whole evening by flipping out.
There have been so many moments like this one during the last few years where I’ve just had to let it go (sorry, we watch a lot of Frozen) and accept that things may never meet my expectation of “perfect” again. I made a resolution on the first of this year to write one post per week. I just missed two weeks. Work is busy, kids were sick. And that damaging voice began to chide, “Well, you already screwed it up, I guess blogging isn’t for you!”
Don’t be defeated by perfect. Good is always better.