On the Way to Becoming the Perfect Wife
I wanted to be a perfect wife—to be all Richard desired and make him happy that he married me. But my initial goal turned into obsession. I felt compelled to modify my personality, beliefs, talents and hopes to match his. It looked good, but it felt awful.
Eventually, my unrealistic expectations led to burnout. The outward me could no longer live in disharmony with the inner me. I had to do something or crumble. Yet the thought of changing the way Richard and I related to each other scared me.
“What if you don’t like me or our marriage when I share the real me?”
“I will,” assured my husband.
At first, I didn’t believe him. And truthfully, adjusting our conditioned relational patterns—the way we had learned to interact with one another—felt unfamiliar and awkward to us both. Yet gradually we’ve grown more comfortable accepting our differences and sharing our needs, vulnerabilities and desires.
We’re discovering how to combine who we are on the inside with what we appear to be on the outside. I think we’re growing into the individual persons God created us to be. We’re also enjoying our imperfect relationship. And I’m grateful.Extremely grateful.
What unlikely “thing” are you grateful for this Thanksgiving 2010?
What's on your mind?
If you’re on Facebook, you’re probably used to posting a response to that question, “What’s on your mind?” Here’s the answer I just posted: I asked God for a friend and waited long. Then Sue came into my life 22 years ago. Now she’s in Minnesota and I’m in Arizona, yet we still make time to listen and grow. Thanks, God! (Just got off the phone w/ Sue. I’m smiling here.)
Tonight while discussing a book we’re reading I said, “Funny how the same personal & spiritual “learning” themes crop up repeatedly for each of us.”
“Indeed,” said Sue. “We could beat ourselves up for that, you know.” Instead we’re choosing to agree with God that we’re both discovering new layers of deeper awareness and development. It’s a messy process at times.
After telling Sue “good-bye” and turning off my cell phone, I flashed back to something I wrote recently.
“Growth for me is an unpredictable adventure. I know it sounds odd, but I’ve ceased crawling internally. In my mental image, I didn’t have room to stand, because I moved through a small tunnel. Ironically, I visualized myself thriving and advancing on my knees, as if that was the only way spiritual progress could be made.
“Discussing this with my life coach, I decided that I didn’t wish to crawl anymore. The imaginary walls expanded and I stood. My breathing is freer (it’s easier when I’m not bent over!). Standing up means that I accept how good it is to say no at times and that I stop doing for others what they can do for themselves, allowing them to implement their own ideas and dreams.
“I think my narrow tunnel had been built with the shoulds and musts I’ve heard and internalized. I don’t like to admit it, but I probably allowed others’ opinions to keep me on my knees. Yet, I don’t have to crawl; I have colorful options that are beyond mere black-and-white thinking.” (Excerpt between the quotes is from It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life: Devotional Readings for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right.)
Sue and I invite you to join us in this journey to “stop beating ourselves up” about the inherently messy growth process. What say you?
That Fateful Note
“I’m going now,” said my administrative assistant. “Thanks for everything.”
“I wish you the best in your new career,” I said. “And by the way, Happy Thanksgiving.”
As she walked toward the door, she handed me an envelope. When back in my office, I opened it. Inside her bon voyage card she had hand-written this message:“Joan, I hope someday you can stop and smell the roses.”
Embarrassed, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no one was reading the note. It reminded me that my zealous attempts to hide my overload-induced exhaustion were unsuccessful. I started to fume, but chuckled instead. Bonnie correctly assessed my unrealistic mindset and suggested that I slow down, stop trying so hard to make it all just right and start enjoying life.
Several years have passed since the day I read that stop-and-sniff-the-roses message, and I’ve made some positive intentional adjustments in my attitudes, beliefs, lifework and personal roles. I’ve learned to relax and celebrate life—imperfect though it may be (well, at least much of the time).
Yet recently I’ve noticed that I’m being sucked back into the trying-too-hard-to-make-it-just-right syndrome. I’m bombarded with messages that imply I’m still not doing life quite right. Books, magazines, TV shows, commercials, Internet pop-ups, social networking, text marketing, stores, blogs, doctors, schools, fitness centers, friends, family and churches all have ideas (and heavy suggestions) about what I’m doing wrong and how I need to correct it.
You and I live in an unreasonably demanding age of over-choice, over-information, over-tech, overexposure, over-responsibility and over-achievement. AND here come the holidays with all the fresh expectations.
It’s a relief once we realize that God doesn’t expect us to be, do or make it all just right, all the time, in order to be valuable and grateful friends, mothers, colleagues or Christians. It’s okay with Him if we say “no” at times, relax and smile in the midst of our imperfect reality. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful this Thanksgiving season.
How can that truth make your Turkey Day a little more enjoyable this year?
Adapted from The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right.
Make room for your fibromyalgia. I read this simple statement soon after being diagnosed with “fibro” as some people call it. It peeved me immensely! I didn’t want to make room in my busy and active life for this.
Besides, I had doctors and loved ones who looked at me with a raised eyebrow when I mentioned fibromyalgia. One physician actually pointed to his head moving his finger in circles and then pointed at me in an attempt to let me know he thought I was indeed CRAZY! (He was forced into retirement two months later, so maybe he was the unstable one, but I digress!)
So I just kept going as usual with little nod to this new diagnosis. I traveled to Arizona from my home in Minnesota to do my LifePlan with Carol Travilla (we later co-authored The Intentional Woman workbook together.) Soon we discovered I didn’t have the mental, emotional, or physical strength to complete the process. We decided that my next reasonable step was to STOP and “make room for my fibromyalgia.” That was a long time ago: 1996 to be exact.
I don’t talk or write about it much. I really don’t like to. I’m not an expert on FMS. Sometimes I think there’s little info available anyway, so there’s not much to discuss. I’m aware that each person who deals with fibromyalgia has unique experiences and needs. My story is not like yours. I don’t pretend that it is.
Yet yesterday when I got a direct message on Twitter from yet another creative and goal-oriented woman who deals with fibromyalgia, something clicked inside me and I said, “Okay, Joan, blog about it.” So at the risk of sounding overly-simplistic (I know there is much more to this subject!) I add my two-cents here.
TEN ways I helped myself manage my life with fibromyalgia:
So I’m wondering: How have you helped yourself with your pain, tension and discomfort? In what ways are you releasing yourself to freedom?
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.