Thursday, August 27, 2009

Being practical is overrated

I've always described myself as very practical, because I am, and think I've worn that trait as some sort of badge.

I'd imagine a lot of people who describe themselves as perfectionists would probably also consider themselves practical. Practical generally means being useful, and I doubt many perfectionists would do something that wasn't useful. Being useless would definitely not be perfect.

But I realized recently that being practical -- just like being wasteful -- can get totally out of control. I realized my practical tendencies had gotten out of hand when I found myself not knowing the immediate answer to this question: "Should I drive an extra 30 minutes out of my way in order to have my friends in the car during the two-hour ride for a weekend away with them? Or, should I just meet them at our destination to keep from adding 30 extra minutes onto both legs of my trip?"

Granted, I'd come up with this non-dilemma after back-to-back, extra long days at work with little sleep in between. But, the fact is, I did find this to be a dilemma for a short while.

Looking back at the laughs we had riding down together -- car somehow packed to the brim with five girls' belongings for a one-night stay (I believe someone held a watermelon in her lap the whole ride, and I definitely had no use of the rear-view mirror) -- I can't believe I even thought twice about whether the extra travel time was a good idea.

But I did think twice, and now I realize I've thought twice about -- and opted out of -- tons of other random scenarios because they weren't "practical." Thinking about how much time and how many memories I've likely missed out on with friends and family because I was being so practical with my time and my "to do" list is heartbreaking.

I'm happy to say this road trip was the wake-up call I've needed, though. Since realizing there's nothing perfect about missing out on fun just to make the most of my time, I've already begun to allot much more space on my priority list to spending time with my friends and taking time to be with my family.

It doesn't always feel immediately comfortable to abandon my schedule to just have some fun, but the more I do it, the easier it gets. And, as if having fun wasn't enough of a reward in itself, I've found that when I do return to my "regularly scheduled programming," I'm much more productive, and much happier doing so.

I guess the old saying -- as usual -- is true: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Renee a dull girl? No thank you!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A rant: Don't tell me what day these pants are for

I just stopped what I was doing to come compose this rant, because I just realized something that affects me more than it should, and I'm wondering if it's just me.

I was just moments ago flipping through a clothing catalogue my mother had left on my kitchen table, after getting home from a nice dinner out with a friend. I was enjoying the fact that I had nothing to do so why not stop and flip through this new addition to my reading stack. I was also feeling pretty impressed with myself that somehow the chocolate craving I'd been experiencing my whole 20-minute ride home had been met -- and satisfied, I might add -- instead with the blueberries I saw in my fridge. (Granted, this is the first sweet thing that passed my eyes on my return; had it been the cookies, things would've turned out a lot differently. And that's not to say they still won't ... like I said, I had to drop what I was doing to come write this.)

Anyway, I was feeling quite good and content as I flipped through this catalogue until I saw the name of their corduroy pants: Saturday Corduroy Pants.

This irritated me immediately. Then, as I sat there with my blueberry-eating peace suddenly disrupted by irritation, I wondered, "Why am I so annoyed?"

I thought for a second, then realized exactly why I was annoyed. My inner dialogue went a little something like this, "Don't tell me when I should where these pants, Mr. (or Ms.) So-and-So Catalogue. Maybe I think these pants are good enough for work. Maybe I'd rather wear my ripped jeans on Saturday. Or maybe even my sweatpants! Don't try and tell me that I should be getting dressed in your brightly colored and oh-so-chic corduroys on a Saturday."

And then, "Oh, what, so my life is so lame because these so-called 'Saturday Corduroys' would do just fine on a weekday in my office? My job isn't fancy enough to confine corduroys to the weekend? And my weekends are so uncool and/or uneventful that nothing more than my 6-year-old jeans is necessary?"

So, I think I just got into a legit fight with the catalogue. In my head. But then I realized, "Wait, that fight was with my head."

So I learned two things just now. A) I'm a sucker for marketing, obviously (though their clever naming technique didn't necessarily make me want the special "Saturday Corduroys," it did make me stop and think about my whole life and how I feel about it based on my wardrobe. Nuts.)

And B) I really need to stop beating myself up so much. If a catchy named pair of pants can throw me out of my blissful state into a self-assessing argument with myself, something's gotta give.

But in the meantime, I really hate when clothing catalogues name their clothes after the days of the week. Really, I can figure that out myself, thank you ... (And yes, I was just talking to an inanimate object, I think. I didn't say I was cured, just that I recognize I need one. Knowing is half the battle. Right?)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ankle-deep, and we're not talkin' the pool here

This week's post is short and sweet, thanks in part to the double deadlines I've got at work this week. Also, there's not much more to say on this little wrinkled life lesson than this:

We all know sweating the small stuff is stupid, a waste of time, a big waste of energy, and a really big annoyance not just to ourselves, but to the poor souls closest to us. It just so happens that trying to avoid wrinkles, or imperfections, is one of the best ways to sweat the small stuff.

So after I worried, fretted, got stressed and rushed around like a mad woman to make the house "perfect" and the food and drinks "just right" for the two back-to-back parties we had this weekend, guess what happened?

The toilet overflowed. And it wasn't just water. Or liquid, if you know what I mean.

And we're not talking just a little overflow and splash on the floor here, either. We're talking a full-on, inch-of-water-in-the-bathroom-and-more-making-its-way-in-a-river-down-the-hardwood-floored-hallway-and-then-tracked-all-over-the-house kind of flood.

So, just when you think you've got it all perfect, you're ankle deep in poop water. Need I say more?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beach bummed: How could this be?

Something happened to me this weekend that I never thought was possible: I got kinda freaked out when I found myself at the beach without a book or anything "to do."

This shocked me because (a), I LOVE the beach and often claim I could never live where the beach was not a short drive away; and (b), I'm one of those people who can pass loads of time just shuffling around my house, doing absolutely nothing, until I finally glance at the clock and see hours have flown by.

(Honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing during these black-hole stretches of time. Maybe I'm daydreaming about my someday trip to Italy. Maybe I'm wondering why my hydrangea is the only one in the neighborhood with no flowers, and brown leaves. Who knows.)

With such a track record of time-wasting, I thought I'd be fine showing up to the beach without something to keep me busy. But when we got to this beach we'd never before visited, and there were no nearby shops or anything but just beach and a snack bar, I freaked out. How was I gonna just sit there and do nothing while my husband had his iPhone to play with? My go-with-the-flow day of taking an open-ended Jeep ride was coming to a screeching halt. I wasn't flowing anymore. I was freaking.

All in the few minutes time between parking the car and unloading our chairs, I tried to reassure myself by thinking of how almost every time I go to the beach, I don't drag my book out of my bag for quite awhile -- if at all. Usually, I end up just sitting there in my chair, toes in the sand, basking in the sea air and sunshine.

But for some reason, this day was different. I realized that while I had no problem sitting quietly gazing out at the waves when I knew I had a fallback plan should I get antsy, knowing I didn't have a fallback plan was making me, well, antsy!

Anyway, my freakout didn't have the chance to last too long this lovely Saturday. It was as if the universe was playing a trick on me for daring to wonder how I'd pass the time on this gloriously beautiful July day, a day on which I was lucky enough to find myself at the beach.

What was this trick? Well, we weren't the only ones who came barreling out of the house that day to take advantage of this long overdue sunshine. The beach was so incredibly packed, we were lucky to find a patch of sand large enough to put down both our chairs. Even if I'd had a book, I doubt much reading would've been done.

Instead, after plunking down uncomfortably close to a few different groups of beach goers, my husband and I found ourselves laughing at the "view" in front of us -- people, people, people, with a glimpse of water and more than we ever wanted to see of what an extra hairy back looks like at high noon in July.

Looking back, I still can't believe how bummed I'd felt when I realized I was at the beach and hadn't packed a book. We'd been waiting with bated breath for a day like that day -- sunshine, no schedules, doors off the Jeep and just going wherever we ended up.

Part of me blames the exorbitant parking fee we paid that day, and the resulting feeling I had that we had to have "$22 worth of fun" to justify it. (Where we usually go we pay $5, $10 tops, and that's rare.) So, that was a lot of pressure (pressure invented by me, that is).

Needless to say, though, the hairy back and throngs of people sent us packing up our chairs in under two hours. But we had a lot of laughs feeling like we'd ended up in the John Candy beach classic "Summer Rental," trying to remember every summery 80's song we could.

Being spontaneous and going with the flow can make for moments of discomfort (even when you're at the beach, if you're a spazz like me), but it also can serve up some of the best new memories (our "Summer Rental" day) and important lessons (don't go back to that $22 beach!).

While I could chalk off spending time and money and gas going to a new beach only to see it's not that great as a waste -- especially since I am Miss Anti-Wasting anything, especially money -- I chose not to let that pall fall over my sunny Saturday. Instead, we learned one of the sweetest lessons of all: Hitting the road is always fun, but there's no place like home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A wrinkled party is better than no party

As new homeowners during the past year, we’ve had two kinds of get-togethers: Impromptu, and pre-planned.

As stress-inducing as it is for a perfectionist to think about an impromptu party landing in her hands -- “Wait … no over-analyzing of the perfect menu depending on who’s coming with the perfect amount of snacks, side dishes and accompanying beverages? How scary!” -- these have actually always turned out the best. Or the most fun, anyway.

Thinking back to just last year – our first summer of homeownership – I can still feel the topsy-turvy stomach feelings that would overcome me whenever we were getting ready to have a party, or even just one other couple over for dinner.

My thoughts went a little something like this: “Oh no. The floors are covered in dog-hair tumbleweeds. The kitchen’s got a ton of crap in it, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, the living room needs to be cleaned, the whole house, actually, needs to be straightened up! And we need groceries!”

Thinking back to what I must’ve looked like on a typical pre-party trip to the grocery store, holding every kind of grill meat possible with what I’m sure was a panic-stricken look on my face, I could’ve been standing there working out a calculus problem in my head for all anyone knew. Picking between burgers and steak tips really isn’t that complicated – unless you’re on a perfect party quest. Then it can be paralyzing!

Sometimes, my poor husband would be there, too, allowing these overly analytical thoughts on burgers to be released from the safe space of my mind for all the world to hear.

“How much should we get? Do you think that will be enough? I don’t want to get too much and throw it away. Do you think we need burgers and chicken? What about dessert?”

I would literally become paralyzed by indecision, all in the name of perfection. I just couldn’t handle the pressure!

Pushed to the edge of his own sanity on one such occasion, my husband actually made this shocking declaration in the midst of one of my frenzies: "That's it. No more parties. This is insane." (And he loves having parties. I quickly got a hold of myself ... sort of.)

Which brings me to today.

One year later, while I still teeter on the border of this insanity sometimes (I think based in part on the amount of sleep I had the night before), I’ve been thinking more about it, and wondering, “What the hell am I so worried about?”

The people coming over are always our friends, or family. Are they going to disown me if we don’t have three kinds of chips, and a whole veggie tray instead of just the baby carrots I have in the fridge? Um, I hope not. (And I know not … well, they won’t disown me, anyway.)

Will someone complain of a lack of selection? Maybe, though I doubt it. But even if someone did, perhaps someone else would complain about too much selection … or the use of paper plates when we could wash and reuse. Who knows what I’m not even aware of that I could be worrying about.

The point is, I realized all this craziness I’ve been putting myself through – and my poor, patient husband – was not so much about what I thought would be a nice (or even perfect) party, but what I tried to imagine each and every guest would think was a nice party. I was literally trying to be a mind reader, a mood reader, an appetite reader – trying to please everyone with only my imagination to guide me. Hello? Nut job!

While I’m not necessarily cured of this perfect-people-pleasing-party desire – don’t we all want to make our friends and family happy? – I am toning down the over-thinking, little by little. The more gatherings we host, the easier it gets. And, you know what they say -- Practice makes, err … perfect. Great.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My couch may be ruining my life

I think I may be hypocrite. And it's my couch's fault.

This bummer of a wake-up call happened last night while I was relaxing on my couch, enjoying some quiet time alone after a busy weekend.

The culprit couch is in one the two rooms in our new-to-us house that I consider in pretty good shape. The walls are painted and are (mostly) blemish-free. The furniture -- a mix of new, hand-me downs, and flea market and discount store finds -- actually kind of matches and looks good. And it's easy to keep clutter-free. I like it.

So, I was lying there last night, unwinding, and started to think about the weekend. We'd had some friends over Saturday to hang-out by the pool and cook out. But other than celebrating the appearance of the sun finally, there was another plan that had lead to this gathering: It was a "fight night."

A fight night is exactly what it sounds like. There was some special Pay-Per-View fight on that night that my husband had been anticipating for weeks, and he and his friends had been getting geared up for it for days.

So this big fight was coming up and of course, they were plotting to hold this brutality viewing extravaganza at somebody's house. Immediately upon hearing this, my stomach turned.

We have a pretty good house when it comes to hosting a party or two. We have a pool and yard, plus a couple of decent-sized TVs (and that's an understatement) and a variety of gaming systems. So, it's kinda the ideal place to gather.

Usually, though, the "fun" naturally flows to either the outside patio or the basement, where the games and highly durable furniture live. But this time, on this night of nights, only one room would do for the fight -- the "Renee's peaceful-and-pretty-and-free-of-eating-and-dark-colored-beverages" room.

There was that stomachache again.

Luckily, I had an important event the following morning, plus we were having work done on the house the next day, so I had many reasons to back up why this fight night really shouldn't happen at our house. (That, and my husband is well-versed in my reactions at anything happening in, on or around my precious new and light-colored living room set.)

But somehow, somehow, I still wound up hearing those dreaded words come out of my husband's mouth later that day, almost like a record played on super slow motion: "We're just gonna do it here."


That's right -- Renee's peaceful-and-pretty-and-free-of-eating-and-dark-colored-beverages room was the choice location.(Disclaimer: The group originally slated for six or seven guys had at that point been whittled down to just three including my husband. This change was his grounds for boldly making the move to stay at our place for the fight. Boldly. Very, very boldly ...)

Upon hearing the news, I'm sure my brow furrowed, and then I ran inside and hid the Doritos (orange ... fingers ... guys who've been drinking poolside all day -- the horror!). Then, still not feeling secure, I actually texted my husband from the other room (so as not to make a scene, of course) to PLEASE not drink anything other than beer in there (I figured it's clear, I can work with it).

Still, with all these lines of defense, I was in shock at what was unfolding before me. And powerless to do anything. Was I going to make a scene, in front of his friends? I don't think so. But inside, I was all torn up. Torn up!

(And here's where I'm a hypocrite: We bought both our moms nice handbags for their birthdays this year, and guess how many times I've seen either of them use them? My mom once (and I know she did it because I'd been asking), and his mom, zero. Why haven't they sported their nice new Coach bags? They don't want to -- guess what? -- ruin them. I've threatened to take back my own mom's if she doesn't start living a little and using it. Pot. Kettle. Black. You bet. That's what I'm saying. I need help.)

A day after fight night, everything -- naturally -- was fine. There were no stains (though I didn't flip the cushions, now that I think of it). There was no dire destruction of my custom sofa and chair (my biggest purchase since our Maui honeymoon, I'd like to add for the record).

But I'm still a little freaked out. More freaked out at myself, though, I think. Who is so worried about her furniture being ruined that she texts her husband ground rules in the middle of a party?

I tell myself -- and anyone else who's kind enough to act like they care -- that I'm extra sensitive about the stuff because it's the one nice thing I've bought for our house, the one thing that wasn't either handed down or settled on because it was found at a bargain price. I actually hand-picked the stuff and it was made to my exact specifications, my first big contribution to our first home. It was an "investment piece," or pieces. That's what Ethan Allen said, anyway.

But investment aside (And is that even possible? For furniture?), is it worth all this crap? Is it worth the worry anytime my husband or anyone else ventures in there with -- oh my God! -- a beverage? A food? Probably not.

But then I have that other voice in my head saying, "Renee, this is one of the only nice things you have in the house. Don't you want to take care of it? Don't you want it to stay that way?"

And I don't know what to do.

Is there some happy medium where you can still enjoy the things you've worked hard for, while keeping them nice as well? Will I say, "To hell with it!" one day, and then regret my carefree attitude when there's a major blemish (i.e., imperfection) the next?

Does it have to be one or the other? I'm not sure. I could actually use a little advice on that.

The one thing I do know is, it's not really worth getting upset with my husband -- or worse! -- freaking out a friend, just to keep it "nice," right?

I guess it's about letting go. If someone could just teach me how to let go without letting things go (i.e., letting things go to crap), I'm all ears.

Feel free to offer your words of wisdom or tips in the comments below. Maybe I just need a little nudge in the right direction, whatever direction that may be.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Stress lovers: You know you're out there

I've got a little idea about the natural-born perfectionist: We thrive on stress.

Thriving and stress seem to be at odds with each other, right? To thrive means to "grow vigorously," according to Merriam-Webster online. And stress is defined as a constraining force or influence.

But, for someone who wants, or needs, to achieve perfection, you're already kind of a self-hater -- because when you really stop and think about it, nothing can be perfect -- so to live on stress kind of makes sense. In a sick, perfection-seeking sort of way, that is.

I'm pretty sure most type A's/perfectionists/over-achievers think that despite how impossible it is to attain, we should still be striving for perfect, and that getting that much closer every time is worth the pain/aggravation/struggle.

But what does trying to achieve something impossible result in? Stress, obviously. But as obvious as that is, or should be, we do it over, and over again. (I think this behavior also fits into the category of insane. But, I digress.)

Since our natural propensity is to keep pushing ourselves to make things (our work, our knowledge of current events, our bodies, our relationships) as close to perfect as we can get, it's got to be, more likely than not, our natural state to feel stressed. If we're always aiming for the unattainable, can we ever not feel stressed?

I think it's a safe bet to say most of the perfectionists out there generally are usually feeling like crap. And largely from the things going on in our own heads, telling us how imperfect we are.

"Why didn't I work harder on that report?"

"Why can't I lose those last 5 pounds?"

"Why don't I spend more time with my significant other/best friend/family?"

With all of this negativity swirling around in our minds, stress is the natural order of things for us. We're used to feeling like garbage, like we better get up and get going or we'll never do anything worthwhile.

And this is how a person becomes a stress thriver. It's how the perfectionist, or over-achiever, is used to feeling. Take the stress away and we don't know what to do with ourselves.

I'm willing to bet that many people who realize they're perfectionists would also describe themselves as the type of people who can't sit still. Not all perfectionists, but a bunch. I certainly feel this way a lot. (I remember friends in high school thinking there was something seriously wrong with me, or them, because whatever we were doing at the time wasn't fun/exciting/productive enough. Sorry about that.)

As I think more about the sitting still issue, though, I'm realizing most of the time I can sit still just fine when I'm alone, but add anyone else to the house, and I'm a nut.

Hmmm, what could this mean? Is this perfectionism something that's just in our own heads, or is it tied up in worries about how others are perceiving us as well? (People pleasing will have to be another post entirely. But just really quickly -- it's a sham. Stop it now. No one else is even noticing. Trust me.)

So, are we driving ourselves crazy just to answer the harsh words in our heads, or for the fear of hearing those same harsh words from someone else?

I think it's a mix of both for some of us, maybe one or the other for the rest.

If you're trying to do things perfectly for someone else though, get ready to wait a long, long time for that someone else to even realize what you're going through to do it.

And if you're doing it just for you, stop and think about whether you've ever even been satisfied with an unnecessarily stress-filled accomplishment. And was it worth it? Or, in the end, did you think to yourself, "Why did I get so worked up about that? Especially since it didn't turn out perfect anyway ..." (Because it can't, of course.)

I have a feeling more than a few of my fellow perfectionists have looked back at their crazy stressed-out behavior at one time or another and realized the same thing could have been accomplished with far less pain (and fewer weary looks from those close to you, I'm guessing).

I also have a feeling that sure enough, the stress cycle started right back up again the next time a similar task needed to be done.

For the perfectionist, stress is like a little safety blanket. The more we can cling on to it, the more we feel like we're giving it our all.

"If I get myself worked up into a tizzy, at least I'll know I exerted every ounce of my effort on this."

That's not what we're thinking -- because this nutso behavior is totally reflexive, not something we actively decide to do -- that's just what's going on in our subconscious to support this self-defeating behavior.

But tizzy or not, we're not gonna be perfect. So let's cut ourselves some slack. Let's be that super cool cucumber for just one usually stressful project or event, and see how it goes. What's more important in the end? Doing something "perfectly," or feeling perfectly great when you've gotten something done, and still have the energy to enjoy it?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Family is messy


It's the stuff of countless TV shows, just as many movies, and fodder for some of the funniest stand-up comedy acts I've heard. It's the other "f" word.

After recently spending a day with my own, and then collapsing in a pile on the couch after their departure -- and this was for a kid's birthday party -- I wondered how it is that these people I call my family can take so much out of me.

"I don't feel this exhausted after spending the day with friends," I thought to myself, kind of horrified at my feelings, and totally perplexed.

"Why was that so hard?" I kept trying to figure out.

After having friends over my house, I usually feel just fine, having had lots of laughs most times, lots of merriment, etc.

So why, then, after hosting my family, is the feeling I'm left with so different? After all, wasn't my family my first real group of friends, so to speak? Shouldn't things be easiest, most comfortable with them?

"Is something wrong with me that I just found it so tiring to be with my family? Is my family that dysfunctional? Is it just me? Do we just not spend enough time together ...?"

But no. I don't spend a ton of time with my friends, either, but whenever we have a planned or even impromptu get-together, it's just so much easier.

And then, as usual, it hit me. The classic perfectionist issue: For perfection-seekers, family is a constant, losing battle. It'll never be perfect. Not in the clean, tidy sense of the word, anyway.

Family is totally imperfect, because as much as it defines who we are, it also defines exactly who we're not. We may be related and have so much that makes us alike, but that doesn't mean we're the same. And that can equal wrinkled and messy.

Despite our best individual attempts to be who we want to be, sometimes family can fly in the face of that, and we'll look at them and wonder, "What the *&%#?"

The very fact that no matter what, they're a part of us, can be endlessly frustrating when you can't for the life of you figure out where they're coming from.

While we can accept the imperfections of our friends because we're probably thinking, if we even notice, "What's it got to do with me?" the imperfections of our family are just too close to home to ignore, aren't they?

For some of us, maybe it's because their imperfections remind of us our own, and that annoys us on a level we're probably not even aware of.

Or maybe it's because were so closely entwined just by the blood running through our veins -- or our shared history, or even our lack of shared history, as the case may be -- that what our family does just cuts deep, holding some kind of meaning for or reflection on ourselves, whether we like it or care to admit it or not.

Sometimes with the fam, the little things don’t just roll off our backs the way they could with a friend. Families are tied together whether we like it or not, whether one of us is being awesome or horrible, funny or annoying, kind or mean. And unless we plan to ditch the family, we just have to deal with it.

Of course, we can address the things that bother us with the offending family members, perhaps even with greater ease than we could with a friend. But this -- for the reasons it bothers us in the first place -- can be even more exhausting, and begs the question, "Is it even worth it?"

Friends can be pains, too, don't get me wrong. But family is supposed to be our place of safety, of security. At least, in a perfect world it would be that way.

But as long as perfect to the perfectionist -- or the over-achiever or the Type A personality, whatever you want to call it -- means neat and orderly and tidy, family will inevitably be exhausting.

If we take a step back, though, and realize that all the years of love, arguments, joys and sorrows could never be orderly, this new perspective might make the imperfect thing we call family just a little bit easier to deal with.

So the next time I find myself wondering, "Where did these people come from?" I'll try to remember this:

"My family is a wrinkled, imperfect mess. They may exhaust me -- and I them -- but they're my family, and they make me, me. The good parts and the bad."

Monday, June 22, 2009

What I learned from Liv Tyler

People who know me will probably roll their eyes when they read this, but I'm going to say it anyway: I may not have a perfect stomach, but thank God I have skinny ankles!

I stole that from actress/model/Steven Tyler's daughter Liv Tyler, actually. It's a quote of hers I read recently, and it hit home in a way that made me realize, "Wow, what a good way to think."

It may seem obvious that it's always better to look at the positive. For a person with perfectionist tendencies, though, it's not really part of the deal. For a perfectionist, there's always something that can be improved, something that could be better.

The actual quote, from Britain's "The Sunday Times Style" magazine, is, "All you can do really is try your best and accept yourself. I'll always have a more round stomach, but thank God I have thin ankles."

Reading this quote somehow, for the first time, really made me realize, "Hmm. I guess some things just really can't be controlled."

If a superstar with endless resources realizes she can't have a perfect stomach -- or whatever else it may be -- maybe it's time I accept this, too, I thought.

I'm pretty sure all of us are unhappy with at least one thing -- and in most cases, for women at least, a few different things -- about our appearances. Mine has always been the stomach area. It's just the one thing I've always focused on, staring at it, prodding at it, checking it out from different angles, different positions, both seated and lying down. It's the first and, well, last, measure of how good I'm keeping up with myself. And with my genes -- where six-pack abs are just not in the cards -- checking it out more often results in a, "Ugh," as opposed to a, "Wow, way to go!"

Now the eyes are really rolling, I know. I know this because I realize I'm in pretty good shape. I exercise most days and eat a pretty healthy diet. I'm petite and by no means am unhappy with my figure. But, that's kinda the point.

No matter who we are or what we look like, many of us still focus on the things we think are crappy -- or imperfect -- about ourselves, and use that as a measure of the whole package. (For perfectionists, unfortunately, this female tendency is magnified even more.)

But Liv Tyler doesn't measure herself by the imperfect (or at least she didn't the day she gave that quote). Instead, she said something pretty profound for all of us body-part haters out there: Focus on the good stuff, damn it!

This idea of focusing on the good is an age-old motto, but somehow, I've never really heard it applied to body image stuff. Or maybe I just never listened.

I found myself stopping after reading that quote and thinking, "Wow, I don't have a perfect stomach either, but darn it, I do have nice ankles!"

Some people don't like their ankles. Some people don't like their knees, or their legs in general. But maybe those people get boatloads of compliments on their beautiful skin, gorgeous hair, stunning face. Do they focus on those nice things, though? If they're perfectionists -- and in most cases, if they're women -- probably not.

So, I just want to say, "Thank you, Liv Tyler. I think you're gorgeous. And I'm appreciating my ankles now, thanks to you."

Of course, the belly checks still take place ... I don't know if those will ever end. But I do have another little voice in my head now, running after the less-forgiving one, and it's saying, "Hey, stop being so mean to yourself. Maybe you don't have perfect abs, but check out those ankles!"

Monday, June 15, 2009

I never thought past 28

I've been freaking out lately about my life.

It seems that ever since my 25th birthday, I never really fully embraced my new number -- or age, to be more specific. Not that 26 or now, 28, is old. Of course I know that. But, for some reason, I think I've failed to really know my age since my mid-20's. 

Let's see, how can I explain this?

For my whole life, my age was something I could just announce without thinking. I just knew it. I couldn't imagine not knowing it. Then, when I was buying some very girly malt beverages recently and the store owner looked at my ID and then asked me how old I was -- I couldn't answer. I literally hesitated, said 27, quickly thought of what year it was, and then said, "Oops! I mean 28. I'm 28. I can't believe I didn't remember that!" Followed by some nervous laughter and avoidance of eye contact. 

Um, who's nervous buying liquor at the age of 28? Someone who suddenly realizes she doesn't even know her own age so who knows what else could happen, that's who.

I left the store unscathed -- other than the disapproving look I got from the store owner who was probably hoping he wouldn't get busted for selling liquor to a girl who didn't even know the age on the "ID" she was using -- and I went on with my life. A little weirded out, but I didn't give it much more thought.

A month later, on a summer-like spring day, I started thinking about my age again. More specifically, I found myself thinking, "Oh my god. I'm only a year-and-a-half away from turning 30!"

This threw me into a different kind of age-related tizzy. This one was more focused on the question, "What the hell have I been doing for these last few years and how am I going to make up for all this lost time before I turn 30?!"

For days and weeks after, I found my brain landing on this topic a lot, wondering how I was going to accomplish all of these goals I'd thought I'd accomplish by the time I was 30. (Other than the fact that 30 is just a milestone age, it's also the number I always used to avoid thinking too much about when I'll have kids.)

"Oh, I'll start thinking about that when I'm 30," was what I'd been telling myself and most others who'd asked.

And now -- awesome! -- it's practically here!

With a year-and-a-half to go, you'd think I'd have jumped right on that big to-do list of "accomplishments" I had running, right? But instead, I just kept freaking out. Looking back, I was like a dog chasing it's tail. I'd think about this looming milestone, have a brain freak-out, forget about it a little, then think of it again and freak out again. This cycle continued for weeks.

And then something hit me one day. 

I never thought past 28.

At first, this realization seemed absurd. I'd think, "Of course I've thought past 28, and I imagined myself ... " Blank. It was blank. I really hadn't thought past 28. This is not to say I'm one of those people who never thought I'd make it to a certain age -- I've actually always imagined I'd live well into my 90's, for some reason. But what I'm saying is that I never really pictured myself in my life past this age.

There were things I'd pictured I would have done by now -- age 28 -- like meet my future husband (check), have a job I could be proud of (check), visit lots of cool places (check-ish ... don't want that one to be "done" per se). But there are other things I definitely want to do and accomplish, but I guess I just never really pictured myself doing those things the way I'd always pictured myself at this age.

I think it always just seemed so far off, like a version of me I couldn't really relate to. At least for me, when I was younger and in school or in my first job, the world just sort of seemed like it was at my fingertips, so full of possibility, so open to take me in so many different directions.

Hitting 30 has always represented a time when grown-up life starts, when things get more serious and more, well, boring. But I'm only a year-and-a-half away from that now and that's nothing like how I feel. So, I've been freaking out.

But not anymore.

I certainly don't feel like a "grown up" today, despite owning a home and being married with a dog and a yard and having a tax bill to pay (ew, that one sounds so grown up). But I'm starting to realize, maybe there is no scary, crappy day when you suddenly turn "grown up" you and become lame.

So if that's the case, then there's no reason why now can't be the future, right? What I mean is, I'm already doing the things I pictured that "Renee at 28" would be doing. I'm not, however, doing the things that I want "Renee at 30" to be doing -- the fun career and personal-life things, that is (Not the yucky tax bill kind of things ... I'm already doing that!).

So why not start right now?

Here I've been pretending that my age hasn't increased past my mid-20's (see liquor store incident, above) -- just sticking my head in the sand anytime my mind started to wander to the next big age -- when what I should have been doing was being happy about where I am today and working to do even more to keep it that way. Did I really think the 20's version of me would just disappear the minute the birthday clock strikes 30? I kind of think I did. And it could, if I let it.

But all this freaking out has lead me to realize what people are really saying when they repeat the old cliche, "This life is not a dress rehearsal."

It means that this is my life today, right now. It's running along this very minute. So I better stop wasting time wondering about what will happen when 30 comes and get back to living all the moments leading up to it.

How will I find the time to squeeze in all the fun I want to have and accomplishments I hope to achieve by then? Maybe I should start by quitting the wondering -- and, let's be real, the worrying -- and just do it. Today.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I don't work for the 'Today' show

Wow. I really fell off the face of the blogosphere lately -- I can't believe my last post was almost three months ago ...

But at least I've got a good foreshadowing thing going with that last post's title -- "Pressure, pushing down on me ..." I'm good. 

(I had no idea that would be my last post for months, of course. But what a telling, telling title.)

So anyway, I'm back. Today's topic is "Today," that popular morning news program featuring stories on everything from the crap state of our economy to videos of Jon and Kate "before they were stars" of "Jon & Kate Plus 8."

I restart my blog with this topic because I ended my workday with this topic. And then kept thinking about this topic for my entire 30-minute drive home, mulling it over and over in my mind. 

The issue is this: I'm a journalist. I went to school for journalism and I work in journalism. But I don't work for the "Today" show. Today, though, I was on the phone with the "Today" show for work. More specifically, I was on the phone with a publicist for the show. 

I was interviewing her to get some basic details for a story I posted on my paper's site,, on a North Andover couple who have been chosen to compete to have the "Today" show throw them a wedding. If they win, "America," as this publicist put it, will be choosing everything about this couple's wedding, from the bride's dress to the couple's cake to their honeymoon destination, and many things in between.

So, naturally, I had to cover this story. It's fun. It's exciting. It's just the kind of thing my "wicked local," weekly paper's Web site needs to drive traffic. At least I hope it will drive traffic. And the reason I figure it will drive traffic is that everyone loves the glitz and glamour and magic of television and/or movies to touch, or even just faintly graze, their hometowns. Or at least that's how I feel.

So back to "Today." As I was speaking to this very nice publicist and asking her all the hard-hitting questions about "Today Throws a Wedding" that I know my readers want to know, I was also somehow having a separate dialogue with myself in my head. It went something like this:

"This is kind of cool to be talking to someone in New York from the 'Today' show."


"I could do this woman's fancy NBC job with my eyes closed."


"Her job is so less stressful than mine, and I bet she makes twice as much money as I do ... Plus she's in New York City with all the important 'Today' show people."


"I wonder if she gets to talk to Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira."

This is the conversation I was having with myself while interviewing this publicist, then while writing the story, then as I packed my stuff up to go for the day, and especially as I walked to my car.

I was thinking, "I'm here in the suburbs of Massachusetts, nowhere near where all the glossy magazines and important news networks and big publishing houses are. What am I doing?"

But then I caught myself flashing back to the time right after my college graduation when I had to decide what I was doing. Was I going to try to make it in NYC, somehow finding a job and then finding a place to live? I went to NYC with a friend that summer, and checked out the "really nice place" another friend of ours was being put up in by his company while he worked in the city for a month. 

It was horrifying. Let me rephrase that. If you like to open your windows and get fresh air, and have a bedroom with a separate wall and door from your living room, and be able to store a hairdryer and maybe some towels in your bathroom, it was horrifying.

It was just so small. And so expensive for being so small. This -- and not hearing back from anyone regarding my many, many job applications addressed to New York, NY -- led me to reassess my wants and needs. I assessed that I wanted to be able to drive around without having anxiety about where I would park, and I wanted to be able to afford to eat and also pay rent. So, I opted to stay closer to home.

As I was walking to my car around 7:30 p.m. EST on this very nice June day, I began appreciating (Yea! I love when I do that!) the fact that yes, my job is not glamorous like the "Today" show publicist's, and I make what I'm sure is way less money. But I can see trees all around me the minute I step out of my office, I can have a dog who can roam around in our yard anywhere she wants, I can grow herbs and flowers and sit outside in the sun where I live, and I can have as many friends and family members over for an impromptu cookout anytime I want and we will definitely have the space.

The good news is, all of these things I am appreciating thanks to my encounter with the "Today" show publicist are not just things I'm telling myself to make myself feel better. I really do love these things.

And as for my unglamorous job, at least sometimes I get to talk to someone who might get to talk to someone famous. And in the meantime, when I take time to think about it, I actually do take comfort in knowing every time I print or post an elementary school student's photo, or a profile an ordinary person doing extraordinary things, I make that person feel a little more famous.

Making others feel good by doing my job? Today, that works for me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pressure, pushing down on me ...

When songs come on the radio in the car, they almost always manage to change my mood, if I let them.

Most times, though, I'll be in a certain mood and will want to remain there -- whether it's happy, sad, tired or grumpy -- and I'll search the radio stations until something fits.

This is definitely related to my little problem of over-thinking. (I do it all of the time, on a wide variety of topics, and it's most certainly a result of being a perfectionist and wanting to analyze every possible angle of everything, before coming to the perfect conclusion, decision, whatever.)

So anyway, back to the car. I usually need to find a song complimentary to my frame of mind because I'm always wrapped up in my thoughts, and in these moments, I feel these thoughts are important and must be seen through to some end.

But last night, I didn't let my mood control the music. Or actually, the music snapped me out of my mood -- not a good one -- and I actually started laughing at myself.

I was driving home bleary-eyed from my longest workday of the week, all embroiled in a stressful work-related situation in my mind. And boy was I in it. I was having conversations in there, playing out possible scenarios and how I would react, how others would react, what I would say. It was some juicy stuff!

Then this song came on, and just as I was about to change it, I started laughing.

"Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you ... "

And so it goes.

I immediately realized I was putting myself under pressure, in a made-up scenario in my mind, a scenario that hadn't yet happened and probably wouldn't happen, and therefore certainly didn't deserve this much time.

I do this all of the time. And when I choose to share such a scenario with my at-home sounding board/husband, I get huge flack for it. His favorite reaction to most of my scenarios -- "This doesn't even exist!"

In the car last night I finally had a moment of clarity -- sans the exasperated reaction from my husband -- that I was doing it again. Making up situations in my head, and having physical, emotional reactions to them when they hadn't even really happened.

I took this perfectly placed Queen/David Bowie song last night as a kind gesture from the big guy upstairs, telling me, "Hey, you, snap out of it!"

And I listened! It's amazing what you can hear when you open your ears -- and your mind, and your heart -- and listen for those subtle reminders that everything is really going to be OK.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do you dwell in your disasters?

This phrase is from a song by one of my favorite musicians, Ray LaMontagne.

To some, quite a few of his songs might sound sad, but I find them touching and poignant, and so true to things I never would have otherwise realized I feel or do.

The lyric is, "I never learned to count my blessings, I choose instead to dwell in my disasters." (It's from my favorite song on his 2006 album, "Till the Sun Turns Black.")

The reason this speaks to me so deeply is that, frankly, I do this, but never realized it until I heard this song.

It’s not that I’m bummed out all of the time, or even a lot of the time. I’m a pretty happy person. But when I’m sitting quietly in the car, or with my dog, or looking out the window, I’m probably worried.

Who knows what it is I’m worrying about. It’s so often, it really could be about anything. It could be something as huge as the health of a family member, the safety of my loved ones, or as stupid as, “Did we shovel out the mailbox enough? Or am I going to have to deal with standing in line at the Post Office again?” (The thought of dealing with the Post Office brings me more anxiety than I think is normal. I blame it on a certain postal worker in a certain small-town Post Office. That’s all I’m saying.)

Obviously, I’m not as upset about the Post-Office-type worries as I am about the really scary ones, but the point is, they’re all there, swirling in my mind, obscuring the brighter things I could be thinking about – the blessings.

And there are many. I am blessed. Very blessed. I do realize this. But it’s not the natural course of my thoughts. I don’t linger on how lucky I am to be happy, healthy, have steady work, a real home, an abnormally awesome dog, and equally awesome spouse. I do think of these things often and remind myself, “Hey, this is pretty awesome!” But it’s almost as if that thought takes me by surprise. It’s not the more comfortable thought in there. It’s the, “Ooh, I like having this thought,” thought. The, “Why don’t you come around here more often?” thought.

I think this is (surprise!) tied to the perfectionism thing. Here’s why: No life if perfect. What does perfect even mean? It’s an impossible goal, an impossible ideal. And do you know what the definition of ideal is?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, ideal means, “a: existing as a mental image or in fancy or imagination only; broadly: lacking practicality,” or, “b: relating to or constituting mental images, ideas, or conceptions.”

Yep. Ideal is not possible. It’s in the “imagination only.”

So for many of us who have this perfectionism in our personalities, we’re so hung up on the ideal – which is, by definition, impossible – that the real is kind of an afterthought.

Now back to the song about dwelling in disasters. (I didn’t want to bring this up earlier, but I will now that I’ve made my point.) Do you want to know the name of that song?

It’s “Empty.” Ouch.

(I actually didn’t even know the name until I began writing this post. Double ouch.)

Perfection is a search that will always leave us empty. It will always have us dwelling in our disasters and forgetting to count our blessings.

But don’t feel guilty about that (yet another issue I suspect is tied into perfectionism). Just hear it. Think about it. And notice how you’re thoughts are going some quiet day. What’s on your mind? If you’re dwelling on some worries, try to consider your blessings. It may not be second nature, but that’s OK, too.

It’s not about changing who you are, but just changing your view.

And only when you want to. Sometimes dwelling in your disasters just feels right. And feeling right is what it’s all about.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When your puppy makes work look good, something’s amiss

When I look back at old pictures of my impossibly cute puppy, Clover, and me, I realize something sad – I spent most her puppyhood freaking out.

Of course, I cuddled her and oohed and ahhed over how cute her little fuzzy face was, how tiny and prickly her little teeth were, and how fun it was to snuggle her in my arms, feeling her soft, precious puppy fur beneath my fingertips.

But I was also terrified of her. Yes, I was terrified of a tiny, 10-pound, fuzzy, funny Golden Retriever.

Like any puppy, she was like a newborn baby in her inability to control her pooping and peeing. But the thing that makes that even worse with a puppy is that (A) they don’t wear diapers (Although, why not?) and (B) they’re free to and very good at roaming around all over the place, places where I might not have glanced in months. Places that were not easy to clean. Places that were, well, everywhere.

Having this kind of pooping and peeing machine walking around our apartment – never mind her need to chew on anything she could reach – was absolutely horrifying. To a perfectionist, that is. What does a person who tries to make her life and living space perfect do when something’s walking around making everything, well, not perfect?

She freaks out. And then she runs.

I ran to work, and found solace in my eight hours of only having to worry about meeting my deadlines. At home, I had to watch the clock and take puppy Clover outside every 30 minutes, begging her to “go potty,” which would usually end with her not going potty, and then promptly going potty as soon as we got inside, on the kitchen floor.

At least, this is how a crazed perfectionist saw this period of her life.

My much more laidback husband was fully engaged in Clover’s puppydom, not fretting over the poop and pee everywhere (and I do mean everywhere, both in the house and in every inch of her fur). Sure, he didn’t like coming home to her covered in her own you-know-what and scrubbing down every crevice of her crate each time this happened any more than I did. But he saw the bigger picture – this is our puppy! It’s her only time to be this tiny, cute little thing, and it’s awesome!

While of course her cuteness and the fun of watching her learn how to walk on a leash and climb stairs wasn’t lost on me, it was certainly mixed in with a fog of wondering if we had enough cleaning supplies, if a walk to the store on a nice spring day was really worth the mess I would most likely return to, and so on.

Freaking out about all of this to a friend, I’ll never forget her saying, “Renee, you’re being ridiculous. You have to leave your house. It’ll be fine.”

But the horror of having a major clean-up project upon my return was not only making me think twice about running errands, it was making me look at her as an unpredictable mess machine, not the adorable, most awesome little puppy I could ever ask for. (I knew this then, of course, but wasn’t able to enjoy it.)

Sadly, I can’t get those precious first weeks back. But I can file this away for the next time we have an unpredictable little mess machine on our hands – I’m thinking … a baby … someday?

I’ll be sure to surrender to the ride, and embrace all of the messy, un-perfection of it all. And that, by then, will be my new perfect.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Perfect doesn’t beget clean

I was replacing the brush head on my electric toothbrush yesterday – a move long overdue due in part to the outrageous cost of these things and also to the even more outrageous way they build up a horrifying green goo that can only be described as yuck – when I realized something.

Perfectionists are dirty.

It’s completely counterintuitive to what most people and even perfectionists themselves would think.

Wouldn’t someone bent on keeping things perfect be one of the cleanest people you know? That’s logical. But it’s not always so.

Here’s how it works, or rather doesn’t work, at least for me. I like being clean, and like having the things around me clean and orderly. I think it actually gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

However, stronger than my penchant for cleanliness and warm fuzzy feelings is my need to be able to devote the amount of time it takes to achieve this perfect state of clean. And guess what? That time never comes. So I find myself tiptoeing by my nightstand so as not to disturb the dust that would most certainly land on my pillow should I exhale too forcefully.

And now I realize, it is this hate for living with dust that seems to be the reason why I so rarely dust! Maddening, isn’t it?

Here’s what’s going on inside my head at these intersections of life and dust: If I try to wipe up those nightstand dust mites, no matter how carefully I wield my Pledge-moistened towelette, some of that dust will inevitably go up in a poof and land on my pillow, which will then require I change the sheets, which might mean I’ll have to do laundry. And while I’m at it, I really should vacuum this rug while the sheets are off so none of the stirred up rug dirt lands in my bed.

But I don’t have time to do all this. So I tiptoe by the nightstand.

And this brings me back to the toothbrush. So long had it been since I’d cleaned out the hollow inside this thing – knowing that waiting inside was the sickening, electric-toothbrush-gelatinous-goo (anyone with an electric toothbrush will know exactly what I’m talking about here) – I actually literally shuddered and screamed when I saw what was in there. It was black, yet green, and looked most likely toxic and was probably not helping the cold I’ve been battling back all winter.

Here’s where that day’s light bulb went on – perfectionists, or just people with a few perfectionist traits, are so bent on doing things right and completely and to the best of their ability, that a lot of things never get done. Even important things. Probably especially the important things. Sound ridiculous? I know.

Sound self-defeating? Definitely. And therein lies the problem with doing things perfectly. You can’t. So save yourself from the toothbrush goo gone wild – or from putting off writing that job application until the perfect moment, or from slapping some new paint on your walls until you’ve sampled 42 colors in all lights of day – and just do it. Sure, giving it your best is great. But giving it your anything is better than not.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A serendipitous sign for my blog: A perfectionism story in the Globe!

I started this blog late last night, and found myself actually dreaming about blog posts all night long. I know, that's not normal. I half blame what were unusually loud plow trucks startling me out of sleep what seemed like every half hour for the strange dream scape of last night.

But anyway, imagine my delight when I opened today and what was the headline in the top left-hand spot? "Perfectionism can be a problem."

I actually checked myself for a second there, thinking, "Wait a minute. Is this a joke?" I honestly felt like I was being punked.

But then I looked around and noticed the page was in fact the legitimate Boston Globe Web site, so I excitedly clicked on the story and gobbled up every line.

Basically, the premise is that perfectionism is great when it drives people in the top of their fields to go over and above to achieve success. That's perfectionism at its best.

It becomes problematic -- and insidiously so, it seems -- when people begin going, well, crazy, driving to achieve some unattainable end.

The trait can actually cause the reverse effect of its intent, creating problems in relationships, and even at work, where you'd think perfectionism would be an ideal employee trait.

One line in the story particularly spoke to my brand of perfectionism, which I'm currently working to overcome.

Carey Goldberg writes this quote from Jeff Szymanski, who is the executive director of the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, based in Boston.

"Perfectionism is a phobia of mistake-making."

And that's it. It's all about the fear of a bad outcome that pushes perfectionists to do some of the crazy things they do. As my husband likes to say, "You're worried about something that doesn't exist."

And that's the moral of that story. Let us all, fellow perfectionists, worry-worts and overachievers, just be here now. Let's just try -- try -- to remember that if the house is a mess when friends stop by, or you're not the best golfer on the course, or your work output suffers because you've finally been sidelined by the flu, or even just a cold, that the world will continue to turn, your friends will still love you, golf will still be a sweet way to spend the day, and your boss will just be happy you're not getting everyone else sick.

If that's too scary, pretend it's not. I might turn out it's actually kind of fun.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

No slave to the iron

I came up with the name for my blog when I was making my bed last night. Finally, I was putting on the clean sheets and shams I’d washed three weeks ago – having had every intention of putting them on that day – and noticed how embarrassingly wrinkled and creased my “hotel-esque” bedding was looking.

I was kind of annoyed at first, but then I realized, and this made me laugh, “They don’t make homemakers like they used to!”

Not that I’m a homemaker. I work fulltime and have only a husband and dog to take care of. But since my husband wouldn’t notice dirty sheets if they started disintegrating beneath him, I’m as close to a “homemaker” as this family’s gonna get.

So back to the wrinkles. Seeing that the duvet and sham set for which I’d searched for months to get that clean, crisp hotel look – on a budget, hence the search – had turned into “rumbled-hotel-chic,” made me realize how much I hate wrinkles, and as a result, have managed so far to avoid anything in life that would make me have to deal with them.

Let’s start with my job. I'm a newspaper editor, and lately, I’ve been working from home a few days a week and, therefore, wear whatever I want – I won’t get into details, but it’s a pretty comfortable, ironing-free wardrobe. When I’m in the office, it’s also all about comfort, because I’m rushing around a newsroom like a harried maniac either on deadline, just off deadline, or approaching deadline and still stressing as the days near deadline.

I do have to look professional when I’m covering events or government meetings, or when I’m interviewing people in person. But even then, I’ve somehow managed to find the most professional-looking pants, shirts and dresses available for a person who both hates wrinkles but even more hates ironing.

So, as I looked at my rumpled bed last night, wondering where I went adrift during the “dress for the job you want” lesson, I realized, I have the job I want. A freshly pressed blouse versus a nice, wash-and-wear shirt really doesn’t decide that. I do.

So, my long-winded point is that even though my bed’s not as crisp as that of the hotel I can’t wait to check into next weekend (thank you for showing me the Sunshine State sale!), and even though I was petrified wearing a wrinkle-prone silk dress to a friend’s wedding this weekend – so much so that I wouldn’t put on my coat in 30-degree weather and held the seatbelt away from my body for the hour-plus ride – I’m doing just fine here in my iron-avoiding world. And if having wrinkled sheets and avoiding all iron-required clothes means I’m doing it my way, than that’s OK.

It’s better than OK. It’s my imperfect life, and I’m starting to like it.