Ugh! Even as I type those words I taste their bitterness! I guess you could say I have a little trouble admitting when I’m wrong. I’ve always been a bit stubborn. (Insert the sigh of my mother right here.) That stubbornness has served me well in so many areas of life.
As a kid, peer pressure was not much of an issue. Just try to force me to do something, the claws will come out. Now that I’m a parent, try to harm one of my children and you’ll see the momma bear fangs glisten. As an advocate for children with special needs, I will not give up until we have a solution! As a wife…this is where it gets a bit tricky. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a “right-fighter.” Fighting to get the last word in at the expense of the man I love, just isn’t all that satisfying.
It all started with a bit of a tantrum on my part. I was about to sit down to write the next blog post when I paused to use the bathroom. Of course I unknowingly sat in the most recent shower of urine. (Sorry for the details…life with boys.) I cleaned that up and took a deep breath. I congratulated myself for staying calm. As I opened the bathroom door, the knob fell off. Typical. I put it back on and refused to lose focus on the task at hand. Stepping into the kitchen, I sat down at my desk to find that mornings’ unfinished cheerios encrusted beneath my feet. I felt my blood pressure rising. I scraped up that mess just as my little ones burst through the door from the bus stop. I paused again to fix them a snack. My six year old was not satisfied. He wanted a banana.
I showed him that there were no bananas left and discovered the fruit-fly infestation on the corpse of a half-eaten apple. Lovely. I began disinfecting the entire counter. You truly cannot be too safe or too clean. I glanced at my computer and the unfinished work. Guilt started setting in as the timer went off to indicate that dinner was almost done. I quickly pulled it out of the oven, neglecting to use my oven mitts. Yelping, I ran my burned finger under a stream of cool wanter. My six year old, still whining about the lack of bananas, was now sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. I tripped over his little legs and admitted defeat. I sat with him, and cried. Frustration turned to anger, “What the heck is wrong with everyone!” I was feeling pretty justified in my emotions as my children scurried to the other room.
That’s when my husband came in and got the brunt of my frustration. In typical fashion, I argued with him about how everything was going wrong and no one was helping. I was angry and hurt that the messy, discouraging jobs seemed to always fall into my lap. He listened and then told me the truth. “You don’t create margin. You don’t give yourself any time away.” I opened my mouth to protest and then just let it hang. He was right. I wasn’t giving myself time to do anything. I was striving to make everything perfect, in doing so I was actually hurting those around me. I was so desperate to have a calm, neat, well run family that I was actually creating chaos.
I’d love to say I acted like a grown-up in that moment, but I didn’t exactly. I closed my mouth and got up off the floor. I straightened the rest of the kitchen and finished dinner. I apologized to the kids for yelling. I spend the rest of the night thinking about what my husband said. The next morning I packed my computer and started toward the door to take my little ones to school and head to my favorite coffee shop. My husband asked me if I was going somewhere.
“Yes.” I whispered, “You were right.”
He replied, “What did you say?”
“You were right.”
“Say it one more time.”
I noticed the gleam in his eye and gave him the gift every stubborn person hates to give, “You. Were. Right.”
Thankfully the words didn’t choke me on the way out, in fact they felt pretty good.
I’m learning to take my husband’s advice. It’s slow going for a stubborn, perfectionist like me. I understand that I have to give myself and those around me a break. I have to get away and trust that things will be fine. If I wait for everything to be perfect I will never be productive. In fact, when I do allow myself a moment of peace, I’m not only more constructive, I’m also able to be present in the relationships that mean the most to me. What are some ways you create margin?
Have you admitted this lately?