The Princess Complex, Perfection and Other Stories.

Living

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I was having a conversation with my parents the other day about jobs we didn’t like doing. I admitted to a Princess Complex which makes cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors an insult to my very being. This of course, is neither here nor there as I am not a Princess and as yet do not earn enough to justify paying a cleaner (note the ‘as yet’). Both my parents clean toilets with their hands rather than a brush. I can’t even. As for getting down on my hands and knees and scrubbing a floor; visions of barefoot women in the kitchen, martyred slaves to their family come unbidden to my mind’s eye. Which is bullshit, sort of. The floor’s dirty, and sometimes it needs more than a mop to clean those grimy corners, right?

My second Dad said that he doesn’t enjoy cleaning the windows – not because he hates the job so much, but because he’s not very good at it. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot get those windows streak free and perfect. He doesn’t have any past life trauma attached to this job, it’s just his inability to achieve perfection that bothers him. I don’t mind cleaning windows – It was my job to clean the windows when I was growing up, and I don’t hold myself up to lofty standards of perfection. If it’s a bit streaky I don’t mind; just as long as it’s better than what it was. I said, “I’m happy with a ‘good enough’ job.”

I could tell this was a slightly horrifying revelation to my perfectionist second Dad – what kind of person is happy with ‘good enough’? A mother of two young children, that’s who :). In order to maintain my sanity, there are areas in my life where I have decided that a ‘good enough’ attitude is just fine – housework is one of them, cooking is another. I have a mostly tidy house and I am known for being a good cook, but I do not bring perfection in to play in these areas – simply because I don’t want to spend the enormous amount of energy necessary to generate that kind of high standard. Relationships are another area where I don’t think aiming towards perfection is useful. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, we’re not perfect. Welcome to being human on Planet Earth.  

There are places where I am more naturally geared to strive for perfection however: I hold myself – my code of ethics, my actions and my words up to a high standard, and I expect it of others as well. For me, writing is a wonderful combination of the good-enough (first draft) and then the gradual honing and refining of the editing process, which still doesn’t result in perfection, but a higher standard of good-enough. I also expect a high standard in education, both of myself, my children and the children I work with.  It’s not a striving for perfection as such, it is about being the very best person you can be. It’s about not settling for second best anything. Yep, there’s that Princess Complex again. Sometimes it’s useful 🙂

Where in your life do you aim for perfection? When is good-enough just fine?

Loving

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Sending care packages to far away friends. I have two dear friends that live far away – one in America and one in Sydney. I hardly ever get to see them, but every now and again, something delicious will arrive in the mail from them. My American friend sends me music, chocolates and hand written notes, wrapped up in a travelling emerald green pashmina that we have been passing back and forwards between us ever since she left Australia, three years ago. My Sydney friend sends me surprise presents like a foam roller or meditation tools, like a pillow or incense. I love presents soooo much <3. This week I put together a care package for both of them, packed full of gorgeous gifts I just know they are going to love, and sent it off.


Unexpected sleep overs. The kind where my children get whisked off for an impromptu night away, leaving the Bear and I to our own devices. I cleaned windows, hung washing and vacuumed – and the Princess asked the Bear to clean the bathroom :). We collected kindling together, filling up boxes with twigs, bamboo casings which we use instead of newspaper, and pine cones from across the road at the school. The Bear lit the fire, and I made a cup of tea and curled up on the lounge and watched more Orange is the New Black (I’m onto the second series now) and then finished Alex Miller’s Lovesong (which I loved). Later on, when the Bear came in, I said that this was the most relaxed I had been in months. I couldn’t remember the last non-productive time with no children. Apparently motherhood makes me tense. Who knew?

Learning

About the Chicago Referencing System. All of you that have been to university are grinning a little right now and not in a mean way I’m sure. Just like I’m not being mean when I see a mother with an upside down screaming toddler on the supermarket floor and give her a sympathetic grin. It’s a I feel your pain but I am so glad I am done with that part of my life kind of grin. I’m not going to waste time complaining about referencing and academic writing – it is what it is. Referencing is, however, torturous, slow and frustrating, and at times I’m not sure if I’m doing it right. A friend told me yesterday that when one of his mates was at University (as a mature age student) he got so sick of putting together the reference lists that he wrote a piece of software where you type in the details of the book and what system you’re using, and it spits out the correct referencing. He sold it to Southern Cross University. Awesome.


Marking systems and teachers’ expectations. I received two assignments back this week. One, a media assignment worth 25%, I received 80% for, which I was very pleased with. It was interesting to see what she had picked me up for – mostly stylistic errors because I am not familiar with all the rules for academic writing yet. Things like the correct use of italics and bold, never use contractions (I used can’t instead of cannot) and the use of second person (I used your in one part). All good, I won’t do those again. The second assignment was a mini writing assignment worth 5% and I received 75% for it, which was fine.


That’s all from me this week, my friends. I normally write this weekend post over two early mornings, but I needed to finish off an assignment yesterday morning, so I’ve packed all of this into one morning’s work. It’s a bit shorter, but you won’t mind I’m sure. I hope you have a beautiful weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing ❤

29 comments

  1. 🙂 I could not help but smile at the genuine sentiments. I liked the picture and the poem inserted. Have a great weekend too, and do excellent with your assignment!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good morning! This morning, finally I feel like tap tap tapping away on the ole communication email internet blogs world. So lovely to see your sharing’s for this week slide on into the inbox whilst I am mid type.

    It is a sunny sparkly winters day – worth soaking up and smiling about after a week of mist, rain and clouded in hills. Perfectionism- I used to apply perfectionism for ‘using my time in the best possible way each and every moment’. Like right now – in a previous time – I would be looking out at the sunshine, striving to get outside for gardening, because its a nice day and that’s what one should do, right?! The anxt in striving and exacting each and every moment, was to put it mildly exhausting – efficient and effective for getting many things done, but exhausting. Nowadays, the settledness that comes with feeling like writing, and staying with it, and seeing the great day outside (and knowing I’ll get out there soon enough) is gold!

    Love the poem – nothing so good as giving up on worry and getting out into the garden to sing!

    Enjoy the study world – I am enjoying living it vicariously via you, and grateful that its not me sorting out the reference list – never a strength (perfectionism was not a quality that came into such academic endeavours! 🙂

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    • Good morning Kate! You described the quest for perfectionism perfectly: trying to use every moment to its utmost. Yes, there is a season for that, but there is also a season to do what flows as well. I’m glad you decided to stay indoors this morning :).
      It’s interesting how we send ourselves outside when it’s sunny – it must be a remnant of our British heritage :).
      Happy Sunday – it’s cool and cloudy here after weeks of sun…it’s kind of restful.

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  3. Love the photo and the poem. Our family was all about work and perfectionism until I left home and found out there was another option. Eventually the stress got me over perfectionism. I still have high standards, especially with my creative work but good enough is certainly good enough with windows and the like. Guilt and worry are about the same, neither accomplishes anything. So lovely that you exchange gifts with your friends, especially the pashmina back and forth. So, I assume you cannot use contractions in academic writing, but in creative writing it is okay? I enjoy learning a few of these tidbits from you. Thanks for a nice Sunday morning interlude! x

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    • My family are workers too, and very inclined towards perfectionism…which I guess is why these are recurring themes in my life as well. My mother is a wonderful artist, but her perfectionism gets in the way to the extent that she doesn’t do much in that area any more. I don’t want that to be me!
      Yes, contractions are fine in in any sort of non-academic writing. I wasn’t even aware that I had used it, I am so used to writing in a casual sort of way.

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  4. Sara, being compulsive, I find there is no area in my life where I can do “good enough.” It’s the best I can do or nothing. Now as for cleaning toilets and windows, I must brag:I am a master. In the army I devised new ways of cleaning toilets and making them shine. My favorite window washing was while working in a grocery store and washing their huge display windows with a 12 foot long rod with a squeegee at the top. Thanks for bringing those memories back to me.

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    • Yes, and we wouldn’t have you any other way David! Also, your quest for perfection doesn’t stop you from creating or getting things done…whereas for some people it does. Everyone is different and thank goodness for that :).
      I love that you devised a way to make toilets sparkle and windows gleam – do you apply your expertise at home as well?

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  5. Sara, I no longer use my expertise with windows and toilets, leaving that job to professional cleaners, but in an emergency I could do it. I liked your picture because my wife doesn’t make her own coffee, insisting that I do it best. Many times, I groan but dutifully put my writing aside to make her a cup as she insists only I can.

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    • No doubt Diana loves you to do that little thing for her; it makes us feel loved! The Bear doesn’t drink coffee so I would never entrust my coffee to him, but he makes a lovely tea 🙂

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  6. I love to follow along your weeks. Regarding cleaning, I don’t mind doing it too much, but I absolutely hate to dust. It’s the very last thing I do, and it might happen twice a year; and mostly because the cobwebs have become intolerable. And even thought I don’t mind cleaning very much, I definitely don’t do it enough. I clean piecemeal: part of the bathroom at a time, like just the sinks, counter and toilet. Shower/ bathtub and floor another time.

    Academic writing sounds beyond tedious. Hang in there. I love that you have friends to send you gifts, and to send gifts to. Such fun! I love an unexpected sleep over when my son is at a friend’s house. It’s only happened once, and I luxuriated in doing absolutely nothing productive and just read/ watched a movie or TV (I can’t remember which). Most often we’re the ones hosting a spontaneous sleep over.

    After being in our house for over 15 years, I’m having a new counter top put in the kitchen. The wood backsplash will be going as well. Having wood directly behind the sink was never a good idea from the start. The wallpaper is one I’ve never liked, and it will go. And finally, the wall behind the stovetop has thin, real bricks on it that were painted over at some point and then sponge painted on top of that with another color. Hideous! Going to go!! While this is ongoing, we’ve been prepping our front deck to be stained again. It’s beyond time. So excited for all the changes.

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    • Hi Susan, what a lovely comment today! I’m excited for you – long awaited renovations are so rewarding. I know exactly how you feel. We have half an unfinished house that we are inching towards getting finance to finish. Why does everything take so long???
      I don’t hate dusting, but I tend to do it piecemeal…a bit here and there when dusty surfaces start offending me. I don’t really mind cleaning (except bathrooms) but it’s a time thing. Plus a fairness thing – I expect help from everyone!

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  7. Sara, I’m more like your 2nd Dad– when I set out to clean…I do it to perfection. But then like you– I’m fine with good enough when it comes to cooking. It’s funny though because my apartment isn’t always super tidy — so these cleaning to perfection urges don’t happen all too often. 😀

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  8. There’s been some discussion around perfection recently, and no wonder, it’s the go-to subliminal message of marketing… Yesterday another blogger shared this quote “Finality is death. Perfection is finality” from ‘The Crock of Gold’, written in 1912 by Irish poet, novelist and short-story writer, James Stephens. A little extreme, maybe, but a good reminder for me that life is perfectly imperfect. A lesson I learned the hard way, squandering far too much youthful time and energy seeking to attain others’ perceived standards of perfection. My favourite quote of the moment I found this morning while reading about wise words of wild women is “I don’t mind if you pick up items from my coffee table to look at them…just please be sure to put them back on the same dust circle” Jane R. Peppard. As well as loving Dianna Gabaldon’s novels, she endeared herself to me by posting on FB a pic of her books shelves vis a vis the extensive research behind the Outlander novels, shelves which were dusty which shows she has her priorities in order. My own mantra, a long time coming, is penned on the blackboard in the kitchen and reads “Our priority is R&R, if you see something you think needs attention, please feel free to do it yourself”.
    Have a great week being the very best you can be 🙂

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    • That’s it Georgia – you nailed it. I want to do everything, and anything I do I want to do well (of course)…but I can’t do everything, so decisions have to be made.

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  9. First of all, I LOVE that picture. LOVE it. My daughter happened to walk by when it was up on my screen and she asked, “Is that Xena?” (you know, the warrior princess). I explained that, no, it isn’t Xena, but it’s a representation of another, real-life warrior princess (that’d be you). 😉

    I have never considered myself a princess, but I also detest cleaning bathrooms and floors. I’m not actually all that keen on windows, either, come to think of it. My favorite chores are ones that mostly do themselves – laundry and vacuuming. I also, when the mood strikes, can enjoy dusting.

    But mostly, like you, I’ve reconciled to live in an imperfectly tidy house. Though there may be a place for everything (SOMEwhere …), many things refuse to stay in their places. This used to drive me mad. (I have slight OCD tendencies.) But after living these eleven years with a daughter whose standard of “neat” is far below mine, I’m learning to roll with it. Mostly.

    Learning to embrace “enough” is a big deal. We are so often taught that more is better and better is better and best is best of all. We constantly encounter media and real-world examples of how things *should* be, and can’t help but notice that we don’t measure up. But everything is a balance. Does the mom with the perfectly clean house and from-scratch bake sale brownies have a manuscript draft under her belt? Does the perfectly fit woman who spends twelve hours a week at the gym have the joy of spending agenda-less hours with her kids? We make choices based on what’s most important to us.

    Loved the Mary Oliver poem. Thank you for sharing that. 🙂

    Happy studying (even the referencing)!!!

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    • Hello Jamie, so lovely to read your comment this morning <3. Apparently people who are disturbed by things not being in their right place are know as systematisers – a sign of a scientific mind (not necessarily OCD!) My partner is like that – he can't understand why I don't put things away in the same place all the time, plus is very disturbed when I move furniture around :). Funnily, I enjoy science, particularly biology and biochemistry – but I have a decidedly unscientific way of thinking.
      The image is awesome isn't it? I have been waiting for ages to use it :). A warrior princess.
      Also, you are SO right about how we make choices about how we spend our time. People think that they don't have choices, but we always, always do. After all, we created our life thus far. We make choices based on what's important to us. Exactly.
      I have been busy writing my morning pages every morning this week and am loving it so much, like an old friend that's been there the whole time. I have also been carrying and writing in a notebook, which is wonderful. SO thank you, you have made a big difference to my week <3.
      The weekend is zooming towards us; before it comes though I have to find a costume for book week…

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  10. writing…”a higher standard of good-enough.” Ha ha. Nice.

    You know the Good Enough Question is one I keep circling back to. In writing about it the last two yrs, I decided it is one of the biggest, weightiest questions human beings struggle with and the reason contentment is so elusive for many of us. (But there is gOOd discontent, right?? Not being satisfied with okay in certain areas, the push for excellence…) It’s also a “geocultural” question. I’m sure many Koreans will answer it differently than Caucasians and people in the East Coast in the States than those in (sunny, laid-back (California).

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  11. The first paragraph made me laugh…I don’t think I’m a princess, yet somehow that always ends up being my nickname in a group! But when I make enough money, I’m for sure going to hire a cleaner too. 😉 Amazing that your folks cleaned toilets with their hands!!
    Love the Mary Oliver poem and your sentiments on ‘good enough’. It feels so freeing to take the pressure of perfection off…I’m starting to discover that feeling. And it is quite addictive. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! So freeing to not be constricted by perfection…
      My name means princess in three different languages…I can’t help it, or that’s my reasoning anyway!
      Thanks for dropping by this morning, it was nice to see your name on my notifications!
      ❤️

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