Marie looked around her kitchen and sighed. The sink was full of dishes. And so was the stove.
At least they ate!
“Mom, could you help me with homework?” the youngest called from his room.
“Mom, you promised to help me with my project,” the older one pleaded.
“Hon, we got a letter from a bank. You should look at it,” Phillip, her husband, barely looked up from the phone.
I should probably start with the kitchen.
“Oh, honey, and I forgot to tell you…”
Marie turned the water on and started cleaning the kitchen. How is it that the banana peal only makes it to the top of the counter? That additional motion of pulling out the drawer and throwing it into the bin is the deal breaker here? The peal made it this far, but the last few steps before the finish line, it collapsed.
Marie cleaned, tidied, organized, helped with homework, reviewed the mail, get the kids to sleep. By the time she hit the sack, she only remembered herself yelling:
“Put on your PJs!”
“No, you can’t!”
Typical Wednesday. Next weekend is within reach, yet so far, and the relaxation of the previous one pretty much evaporated with the sound of the Monday morning alarm.
I don’t want to be the horrible mother who always yells, the last thought before she fell asleep exhausted.
Marie traced the rim of the glass with her finger. The ruby color and the earthy scent invited her to have a sip. What a delight! Geez, am I an alcoholic? This was her third glass this week.
Her friend, Giselle, danced around the kitchen island finishing a cheese board preparation. She quickly tidied everything into a dishwasher. She moved the beautiful marble board towards Marie and joined her at a bar stool.
“Cheers!” Giselle raised her glass. The Stilton tickled Marie’s nose, and she had to reach for a cracker, grateful for a quiet house and a great company with her friend. At least once in a while she could just focus on herself.
Giselle talked about her personal trainer and Marie wanted to be supportive, but couldn’t help herself, but feel a bit jealous. She yawned.
“Oh, am I boring you?” Giselle teased. She tossed her beautiful hair. She always looks so perfect! How does she do it?
“No, no, my dear, I’m just tired,” Marie stifled another yawn.
“Well, you need to take more time for yourself, to relax.”
“Yeah, but stealing an evening for myself, only means less sleep. Don’t take me wrong, I love your company and I’m so happy to be out of the house, but I know what is awaiting me there. I mean Phillip cooked for the kids thankfully. But did you know that men use four to five pots when making spaghetti?”
“Be grateful your husband cooks,” Giselle laughed. “First fifteen years of my marriage, I was practically chained to the stove.” She took a sip of her wine. “Okay, I had a leash long enough to get to the bathroom. Not to pee. To clean Christopher’s hair from the sink.”
“Don’t get me started,” Marie inhaled another cracker with Stilton. “What’s up with that?! They really don’t see the mess?”
“It’s a specific form of blindness, I’m told,” Giselle laughed again and suggested they moved to the deck.
Giselle didn’t seem to mind the domestic injustice. She was at peace with it all. They entered her large living room. Marie has always been jealous of her friend’s patio. Giselle’s kids were big enough to respect the space. There were no pillows, books, laptops, Lego anywhere to step on.
“You, know, Marie, things got better once I decided not to fight them. There are things that get done and there are things that I gave up on. And my cleaning lady does the rest.”
They sat down and Marie had another slice of cheese. The Cheddar was so gut. She shouldn’t have, but lately it was mostly food that brought Marie any comfort. There was so much to do, and she was barely scraping the surface. Always falling behind.
“Don’t you feel guilty spending money on a cleaning lady?” Marie knew she would.
“Yes and no. Should I clean by myself since I am working from home and by most people understanding that means I’m available? Probably. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to be a servant in my own house. You know when the kids and Christopher would sit down to watch TV, I would be washing, tiding, cleaning and hearing them laughing from the other room. They completed their chores—the little I ever expected from them,” she gulped down almost half of her glass, “and they were free to enjoy their evening, while I had a pile of shit to do,” she finished the glass and promptly refilled it.
“Yes, but my kids are smaller, I can’t expect them to help too much and the work needs to get done.”
“Does it?” Giselle raised her eyebrows to challenge Marie.
“Well, yeah, it should. It should be done.”
“We are too old to be perfect, my dear.”
“Maybe you’re right!” Marie teased. “I feel awfully guilty that I end up running around. The kids need help with homework, the kitchen needs to be tidied up, I need to catch up on work and it’s too much. Usually I turn into a fuming dragon and start yelling at them. Just checking the time because, god forbid, they would go to sleep past their bedtime,” Marie drank some more of the delicious wine to flush down the lump forming in her throat.
“And how do you feel afterwards?” Giselle watched her intently. Her tone suggesting what the answer was.
“Shitty. Like the worst mother and wife who just orders, demands and yells,” Marie quickly took another sip to hold back tears.
“But you have a clean kitchen!” Giselle winked.
Marie almost spit the wine on the white sofa. God, she is right. Is a clean kitchen the most important thing? “Okay, but you said you were like me, so what happened?”
“I realized it was only me. I had an ideal of a clean house that prevented me from having fun with my family. One day, I roamed a home décor store and I saw a sign that read “a clean kitchen is the sign of a wasted life” and that was it. I realized that I am competing with myself. I am trying to achieve a standard of perfection because what? Otherwise I failed? What would others say?” she shrugged, “Yeah, I should do all these things…but you know what?
‘Should’ is the worst girlfriend you can have.”
As the words resonated, Marie realized she was reaching for the last cracker. Geez, I really ate them all. How embarrassing. What would Giselle think? Oh, man, I guess I am following my idea of a good behaviour, as well.
“How is your website coming along?” Marie asked to switch the attention from her own ongoing battle. Giselle worked in a large corporation, but she was planning to start her own business. She was a certified coach.
“Well, slowly, I am writing all the texts and choosing the photos,” she stood up and walked away, only to reappear with more crackers. Damn it!
“But that’s what you’ve told me the last time, didn’t you? I had my web up in one day. It’s easy. What are you writing about?” Marie moved to sit further from the cheese board and the addictive crackers.
“I think I should just prepare something about all the aspects of my work. And I have two hundred photos and I need to choose the ones I will use and that’s hard.”
“Okay, but why don’t your just keep it simple, launch it and then you can add on or change things.”
“Yeah, but what if I find out I didn’t prepare for something and then there won’t be an option to add it?”
“Giselle, you are making yourself busy to avoid the actual launch of your site. Are you afraid?”
“What if it’s not the right time? I need to get more comfortable. But with a full-time job, it’s hard. I should probably figure out how to carve more time to do it.”
“What if? Should?” Marie teased her friend. “Aren’t they like sisters and the worst enemies of every woman?”
Her husband looked up. She wiped the tears with the back of her hand. “Giselle was in an accident.”
“Is she okay?” Phillip jumped up from the sofa and embraced her.
“Well, kind of, Christopher says that she will be. I’ll go to see her tomorrow.”
Phillip pressed his lips to her hair and held her tightly. Marie rested her cheek on his chest. His embrace helped her to find a ground in a moment where everything seemed to explode in chaos. Slowly her mind return to the reality and started noticing things around her: a pen on the ground, morning cups on the table, dishes in the sink, hoodie on a chair, bedtime on the clock.
Marie smiled gently at Phillip, kissed him and looked at her phone. She wrote a brief message to Giselle and then turned on music and send her favorite playlist into the speaker. That evening she danced. Life is too short to thrive for perfection.
What about you? Do you seek perfection and missing out on other important things? What’s stopping you to take a leap?