The moon is upside down. Back home, it arrives in the sky as a fingernail, the top is the top and the bottom is the bottom. On this side of the Equator, the rules are different, so that the moon lies lazy on her back, filling up over the days until she is fat and round. She makes me chuckle each time I look up and see her. It seems she can relax more as she goes about her business making a big golden hole in the African night, whereas our moon must shiver over the colder climes of home. The clouds show me ships and dragons and mountains and valleys, pushed by a warm wind and heralding crazy storms, change, threats and promises, and stories from far away told through voices I will never hear.
All this thinks me, as the moon grows fat. Of circles. When we are little, we learn some wonderful things at our mummy’s apron strings, and we also learn some less than wonderful things. As we are consistently praised for doing things well, for achievements ranging from winning a place on the team to putting our pants on the right way around, we are collating important information. Over time, and as we grow into adulthood, we will hold onto this information, believing it to be factually correct. The right way to live. We don’t think much about it, to be honest. It is how the world works, this striving to achieve, this drive towards perfection. But ‘perfect’ does not exist. Not for warm blooded humans, emotionally driven and longing for love. It does exist, however, and absolutely should if I were to build a bridge over the Firth of Forth, for example. Anything less than perfection in my work would cause massive destruction. This is clear to me and just a bit obvious. However, if an individual judges themselves by this rule, then guess what?
Failure, is what. Using the guidelines learned in childhood with intelligence and aforethought is a good rule for a life, but only as a starting point. If those guidelines tip us into circular thinking, meaning we don’t stop to notice our thoughts, we are doomed to run out of steam and to hit the buffers. So many of us need to be perfect and as a result we feed the inner judge, the feelings of regret and the sense of failure. Just imagine allowing ourselves to be imperfect, to get it wrong, to develop within ourselves a ‘Good Enough’. This does not mean being sloppy. I don’t do sloppy, nor ‘can’t be bothered’ but I am, thankfully, acquiring new Good Enough skills and am still getting whatever I need to do, done and done well. Just not perfect. I take the circle and I break it so that it is I who holds a line, not my parents, not the world. And this line is one I can make into any shape I choose.
Perfection brings comparison into the mix. We have an astonishing ability to watch someone else present their huge carrots at a garden fete and to wish we hadn’t brought along our own. I must be doing something wrong here. These carrots of mine are definitely not perfect, not beside those ones. I’m a carrot failure. Even if we manage to laugh it off, whilst crying inside, we still chew over what we did wrong, our fault, not enough not enough, for days or weeks afterwards. We may even give up growing carrots at all, speaking out the lie that we’ve quite gone off carrots anyway.
I am reading a book I want to recommend. I want to recommend all the goodly guide books consumed beneath the African skies, but it would take too long. Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown is a winner for me. I had no idea that I was so controlled by a need for perfection, so armor plated before the world with its judging eyes. I learned, like we all did, that to succeed, to win the prize, brought me a tsunami of parental love that seemed to disappear completely with a bad report, or when a tale teller told that I was in the pub drinking Babycham, at 16 with, god help us, a MAN. I want to be a perfect wife, mother, friend and carer. I fail all the time on all counts and beat myself into a bloody mess. It takes days to recover and by recover I mean by pushing the regret, self blame and shame into a shadowy corner of my mind in the hope that they will rot away to nothing. They never do. The next time I am imperfect, they awaken and scoot onto centre stage pointing their fingers at me and, worst of all, laughing in derision. Ha…..you’ve done it again, you failure. You’ll never get this right. We warned you…….
So, flying home a week today, I return imperfectly, although I sincerely hope there is no such imperfection in the construct of the airplane that will fly me past the moon, the cloud dragons, the ships and stories, across time, the Equator and on down into the snow and ice. Back home to where nothing has changed. But I have, thanks to my guide books, those encouraging and challenging friends who have shown me I am absolutely, unequivocally…..