My first home happens to be a one bedroom apartment. For Shawn and I, we who have children that are feathered and furred instead of human–this fits us perfectly. For the longest time, with our bad financial decisions when we first got together + the way the economy was going, I dreaded that we would become one of those couples. Stuck forever living in a room within his parents house feeling ridiculously uncomfortable for living in a home where two people should not be having to live with their son and his wife at this age and please put some pants on, Mel, next time. The neighbors have been writing us letters. Angry letters.
Now that we have our own place, I can wear no pants and no one will be frightened.
Except maybe Shawn, but he doesn’t count because I married him.
My kitchen is small. There’s enough room on the faded hip pressed board covered in hard plastic 80’s white counter top with faux beige marbling to roll out a loaf of bread. A batch of cookies, chop up veggies and fixin’s for supper. My stove is off-white, my cabinets are pressed wood and water damaged. Sometimes bits of them fall apart but they open and close. My kitchen floor is swept daily but there’ll always be a piece of dry cat food hiding somewhere because a cat can never eat very lady like no matter how many times I tell her not to crunch with her mouth full. Whomever lived here before dinged up the floor in one spot near the stove, too. I imagine it must have been the stove itself being pulled out or maybe even delivered.
The carpet in the living room? I vacuum it every other day now. I have five birds and birds are even messier eaters than cats. Pieces of pellets as well as brightly colored pellet dust fling everywhere. Carefully placed blankets to collect bird pewp and to protect said carpet don’t always work. You can’t always predict where a bird will hike tail and let it fly, y’know? So a spritz bottle of vinegar and a cloth rag handy helps. But there’ll always be a piece of whatever here or there–the millet I use to train them with is light as air and tinier than lady bugs. It’s always all over my desk and around my chair.
My living room walls were pop corned by some genius who decided that cheap texture would be fabulous to hide crooked and uneven walls. On them are the tapestries of Rohan and Gondor, a red dragon mirror, a map of middle earth and photographs I’ve taken of our cats, cards given to me by my online friends, a street sign my husband stole with his friends in college hangs proudly over our door. Flounder, it shines dimly at night by my computer desk’s light.
On the counter that divides the kitchen and the living room a tiny rock water fountain burbles. My bed is a california king memory foam and lately I get up and I make it everyday.
At 32 my life has finally become my life. My home is finally my home. It isn’t a room in my mother-in-law’s house that makes me feel awful because we can’t give them any privacy and it is hard for them to give it to us. My house is cluttered in the way lived in things should be cluttered. There are notes on the fridge, there are magnets with pithy sayings. My desk has pieces of paper with love and sayings scribbled on them. This is a home, it is everything that reflects who I am and who he is–who we are together.
It’s flawed, perfectly.
And yet in the back of my mind sits a woman I don’t rarely like speaking to. She is dour and squatting amidst the chaos, frowning the entire time. She reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s despair, except she isn’t naked–she is clothed in the best, neatest clothing without any cooking stains or bird dander or cat fur and doesn’t cut herself with a ring. She cuts herself with words instead. Words like: Not good enough, and, what a mess you are, and, it’s not clean enough, as well as, it’s not a perfect house. And she laughs in a manner I can only say cruel, showing me pictures of mansions and little new york apartments with summer-bright color schemes and oh-muh-gawd to die for decor. She points at them and says, see? These are clean. These are perfect. You will never have this.
My apartment isn’t the only place she shows up. She’s there when I write. She is there when I draw. She is there when I pass by my reflection in a mirror, when I do my make up; mocking and whispering, pointing out everything that’s wrong. She is there with every single thing I do, trying to hammer home that it isn’t perfect. And if it isn’t perfect than there’s no point in even doing it anymore.
Sometime in my life this woman moved into my head when I wasn’t paying too close attention. Was it when I was just sixteen and realizing boys weren’t gross? When I looked in the mirror and instead of not caring what I saw–I started comparing myself to magazines and girls on television? Was it when I was younger and something was said to me? Did she move in then, when as a child I was too busy day dreaming and, like a starving spider, grew year after year, fat and bitter on the suger-spun dreams of a little girl who thought the whole world would bend to her?
I don’t know. I don’t think the when is so much as important as to the how to get rid of her.
When did perfection in my life mean so much? Especially since I am a creature made of so many flaws? How could I ever start listening to her and expect such an unobtainable goal? How could I let her take away my pride and my joy in all of the beautiful things I already have in my life?
As I sit here writing this, I look around me. My flawed kitchen is lit by the blue and white glow of LED icicle lights, flickering merrily. My husband, a man who I would literally fall apart and cease to be without him sleeps soundly not a room away. My children, who happen to have feathers sleep covered in cages while the furred ones sleep sprawled out on the floor in various cat-yoga sleep shapes. I am alive. I am writing this. I am still creating art. Come Febuary, I will have my very first short story ever published along with several other talented writers in a collection. I was literally exploding into glitter and small puppies when I learned this. I am here, and I have so much more than I ever dreamed I ever could.
I cannot be that woman. I cannot be a creature that seeks perfection at every corner. In it, lies my true heart break. The search for perfection has brought me my blackest depressions and has made me hurt myself far more deeply than anyone ever could have. I cannot be the Martha Stewart of organization. There will never be labels on all the drawers in my head or my life. I will lose my keys. I will forget where we parked the car. I will occasionally throw my pants on the floor before going to bed and leave them there until tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.
I have to let go of perfection.
I have to let go of perfection to let go of all of my imperfections.