Perfection is a Fibro Enemy

In her book Daring Greatly, my favorite author, Brené Brown, quotes a line from Andrea Scher’s blog that reads, “Perfection is the enemy of done.” I haven’t been able to forget those words. The truth of them just smacks me in the head.

When I no longer could work, I felt obligated to do many of the things I didn’t have time to do when I was working – and to do them perfectly. I attempted to keep a perfectly spotless home (I wasn’t satisfied until every surface was cleaned and polished like a mirror). To prepare perfect meals for guests (I was known for my Italian specialties full of gluten that I can no longer eat). And to be the perfect friend (neither snow nor sleet nor dark of night kept me from the drug store to medicate an ailing comrade).

The result was perfectly awful! I experienced an increase in my pain level, greater fatigue and the onset of additional symptoms that remain with me until today. Instead of perfection, all that struggling resulted in days in bed. A better idea would have been to settle for a little dust, to get take-out food for visitors and to ask someone else to make runs to the the drug store.

The question then became: If I can’t have the perfection I once aspired to, what can I now do instead? With a limited budget, the answer to this question can be challenging. If you can’t do it yourself, and you can’t afford to have it done, you have few options. Compromise is inevitable. Acceptance is even more difficult to attain.

Friends once commented on my immaculate ivory carpeting with the visible Hoover tracks. Although I left carpeting behind when I moved across the country, my cleanliness standards came with me. It has taken me years to accept a layer of dust coating everything in my house. This morning, I left myself a reminder, writing with my finger in the dust of my dining room table. I’d say this is one area I’ve conquered!

I once was known as a counter wiper. You’ve met these women, I’m sure. There wasn’t a speck or a streak on any surface in my kitchen — ever — including the stove. These days, I consider it an achievement if I put the dishes in the dishwasher after a meal. I’ve learned to consider crumbs as part of the décor. And meals aren’t what they used to be, either. Until recently, I’d always made my own spaghetti sauce in large batches and frozen the leftovers. Now I buy sauce in a jar – as the rest of the world does. Do I like it? Not very much. But the alternative is to use an entire day’s energy standing at the stove, stirring. Prego is definitely preferable.

I had never bought grated cheese to put on top of spaghetti. I always bought a block of Romano and grated it fresh for each meal. These days, the Italian deli grinds it for me, a pound at a time. I’d like to say that my extra effort for perfect freshness was worth it all those years, but this is one instance when I can honestly say that it was not!

I refuse to believe I’ve lowered my standards. I’d rather think of it as having overcome my need for perfection (at least in some areas). I’m still working on many others. During my career in aerospace, a frequently heard expression was “close enough for government work.” In other words, it was acceptable. My new mantra is more like, “It’s fine for fibromyalgia.” This means although it’s not perfect, it’s as good as fibromyalgia allows it to be.


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