Money Drunk Money Sober : when perfectionism has dragged me into despair

For this time period, I am working through Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan’s book Money Drunk, Money Sober before I work through the Prosperous Heart. The following blog entries are in response to prompts and experiences from the book. I see this as an extension of my Artist’s Way work. Some of my entries are jarring and highly personal – any program of sobriety and self-improvement demands admitting dysfunction both personally and in family, and it also calls to admit some painful truths. While not everything I work on appears here, a number of realities do. I have a genuine body of work thanks to my work on the Artist’s Way program, and I can’t ignore the changes the continual commitment has brought about. Because of that, I also can’t ignore what going further into the harder aspects of the program – like facing money issues – has the potential to improve.

What I was criticized for most by my family as a child? FOR NOT BEING A PERFECTIONIST. So when I have those moments, they’re harder to recognize, because other people viewed me as “sloppy” and even “slovenly and unkempt.” It was like my friend’s mom, who was convinced that all long-haired men were automatically dirty and smelly, and reacted as though they were even when it was visually clear that they are not. How my family saw/sees me has nothing to do with how I actually am. I know for a fact I am most certainly not “sloppy,” but I am living with a lot of people who kill themselves and each other over incredibly trivial details because they mistake “detail” for “quality.”

perfect color regsitration from wikimedia commons

But I do have perfectionist moments of self-defeat.

  1. My senior year of high school, I spent almost every spare moment doing something to try to get scholarships to cover college. I was determined to avoid student loans, and my parents refused to let me have a car so I could work my way through school. (“Your first job is school,” they would tell me sanctimoniously. But they would pretend I hadn’t said a word when I pointed out that they weren’t paying for that first job and it had to be funded somehow.) It’s no wonder I’m still angry – they loaded more cognitive dissonance on me than any human being should ever endure. My mother also didn’t believe in “direct” conversation, so I was to spend my life lived to please her (she actually said this is what I was supposed to do, to my complete horror) and I was to do it all without ever knowing what the hell she wanted from me. (Slave labor.) Now I realize that her refusal to be direct is because what she wanted of me was so selfish and rotten that to verbalize it would be to expose her evil to the world. As it was at the time, I couldn’t relax until I had some reassurance I actually had a future that didn’t involve my continuation as the family housekeeper. Ultimately, I didn’t relax at all that year, made even worse by a bunch of other decisions made by family members that screwed me over and made me even more miserable. I wound up taking the loans. Despair led to me just maxing out loans later in college – and while I don’t regret that decision, as I didn’t have much in the way of other choices, it does burden my pride and my conscience now.
  2. The oils business – I let it slide when I needed it most, right after the divorce. I kept treating it like something I had to do “all at once” when I measured, “once a day” approach would have served me infinitely better.
  3. The same is true with the second job I had lined up post divorce. Ultimately it would have given me proximity to much healthier and less racist people, but that’s not the choice I made. Instead I hung out with people that had an abusive attitude towards me based on my American-ness and my whiteness.
  4. The times I did NOT send in a full manuscript after a publisher requested it. Those are the biggest “perfectionism” fails, and much of it came from an attack of the “I don’t know hows.” I didn’t know what a full manuscript looked like, how long it was supposed to be, or even the preferred format. For some reason information like that was buried in the writer’s guides back in the day, if it was mentioned at all. So I just gave up the manuscript.
  5. When I quit writing fiction. I was made to feel like my work was never good enough, so I quit.
  6. Every time I’ve let someone else stop me from a project with positive intent. The most glaring was “No! Your work will attract vandals!” ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? That was pulled straight from the “pick something unlikely to keep you all in the panic room,” approach. Pure crazy, reach for a blocker paranoia. It’s an imperfect situation. Choosing NOT to do something cool because it might have an imperfect result, or an imperfect reaction? Ugh – we’d never have any entertainment, art, or engineering.
  7. The countless times I’ve pulled back from a social/emotional/friend connection because I was too aware myself of the large size of my body.
  8. The times I have entered a fucked-up situation because I wanted to see myself as a good person. Like every time I visited family on holidays, knowing full well that is when my parents got the most violent. A good daughter visits her family, so I went – and endured the abuse and violence – and wondered why I needed to be so good anyway. Rising above is actually my ultimate act of self-defeat.