Ramblings of a Recovering Perfectionist
Perfection causes all kinds of problems.
As a child I learned my temper was unacceptable,
a beast to be hidden away from, so
I banged and scratched my mother's bedroom door
and howled the frustration I couldn't understand,
my fingernail marks on the wood
a monument of my abandonment.
My two-year-old tantrums weren't the end of it.
My sense of injustice was sensitive
and I didn't know how to reconcile
myself with the world, so I lashed out
and slapped what I could not control—
the mortal sin of violence
rooting ever deeper
I was told stop, stop, stop
but given no instructions and
so every time I boiled over
I cried and hated myself
and broke myself in two—
the good part and the anger I cannot control.
So I controlled it.
I learned not to be bossy,
not to be selfish,
not to stand up for myself,
not to ask for what I needed;
it was safer to be silent.
As a teenager, I didn't see the problem with my perfectionism.
I clung to my high standards, the mast of a sinking ship
with a flag at the top proclaiming, "I'm a good person!"
I took pride in my effort and quietly resented
everyone who was free to not care quite so much.
But I see it now.
I see the anger and shame
and all the ways I learned to make myself small.
I feel it all over again every time I make the tiniest mistake
and it's enough to stop me from even trying;
safer to sit in depression and fear than risk
being locked out again.
Safer to lock out myself.
Safer to nitpick every thought and
never let it out of my mouth.
Everyone hid from my emotions, so
I learned to hide them from myself.
In messy reality, perfection is meaningless
and "doing your best" is easily misconstrued,
and I think what we really need is to be seen.
Witness my anger and my shame, and love me anyway.
When failure is met with love,
space is created to move forward.
I hope I can learn,
deep in my bones,
how worthy it is to try and fail;
how courageous to accept myself as I am;
how wonderful to sometimes let things be.
"I am enough" does not preclude growth;
without "I am enough,"
I exhausted myself
holding back half of myself
and had no energy left for moving forward.
She built a pyramid in the sand,
portioning a quotient to each of us,
and she tasted the structures' fright
as we kicked them down.
She would absorb the sun like a plant,
turning green, and make a fossil out of
each thought she was too afraid to say,
building glaciers of her emotions.
She had a habit of pretending to be invisible,
so similar to her surroundings
we wouldn't notice her bleak outlook
or the way she tied her hair.
She wanted a balcony to sit on,
to observe the world from,
where helicopter maple keys and fallen leaves
were her only real visitors.
She never hosted slumber parties
and gave harsh answers to avoid the truth;
the jellyfish sting of declined invitations
was a possibility too impossible to allow.
She hoarded nuts like a chipmunk,
stuffing her cheeks with every stare cast her way
as she made her solemn march downtown
wondering why she hated attention.
She might have crumpled the pages of your heart
if you were to put it in her hands, so she thought
she'd better not risk it, and remained
in the typical lonely day-to-day.
Big Red Button
I wake up with no memories but my mission.
I wonder only briefly at the empty spaces in my mind. Who needs memories when you have purpose?
So I sit up and feel the crisp, white sheets slide down my arms. I'm in a bed, in a pristine room. Gauzy white curtains billow at the edges of the glass wall opposite, and I push the sheets away as I look out over the city.
The floor looks like wood, but it's smooth and cold on my feet. I put my hand on the glass. It doesn't fog under my fingertips, and I leave no prints.
The sky is hidden under a flat, white sheet of cloud and the light is diffuse. It makes the city look flat, a perfectly lifelike drawing. A photograph. Something that once was real, but this is only a likeness of it.
It's all glass and metal, and I don't know if it's familiar or not. Nothing feels familiar except my own body, so does that mean I've never been here before, or is it only gone with the rest of my memories?
I step back so I can find my reflection in the glass, superimposed over the city. She's vague and doesn't look quite like me, but she smiles when I smile and mimics my wave.
I find clothes in a closet, and dress myself in a shiny grey jacket and billowy white pants. There are boots—tall, sleek, and baby blue—that fit me perfectly.
I tie up my hair in the full-length mirror hung on the back of the closet door, studying my face as I do it. This reflection is clear, and looks like me, but I don't know what I've done, where I've been. There's only this place, here, and my mission. My purpose. I tighten my ponytail and smile.
The building beyond that room feels empty. I cross a mezzanine with a glass railing and evenly-spaced potted plants that could be real or fake. I walk down a glass staircase.
I don't know where I'm going, but I don't need do. I know what I'm here to do, and I'll do it, one way or another.
The city feels more real when I step out into it, but there's still an eerie quiet in the air. The buildings here are tall, and the street is wide, and when I stand in the middle of it and look, all I can see is an endless tunnel of metal and glass that vanishes into the sky.
Walking down the empty street, I find my eyes watering. I don't know why. Tears run down my face, and a sob shakes its way out of me.
Maybe my body is remembering something my mind can't.
For a split second, my resolve wavers.
At an intersection, I find an abandoned vehicle floating askew. The sliding door isn't working right and bumps loosely, sliding repeatedly partway shut and open again.
I knock on the metal hull, and listen to the echoing ring die away.
I climb up through the broken door, the vehicle rocking under me as I walk along it. Whatever stabilizing mechanism it had isn't working, maybe because it's broken, or maybe just because the vehicle's turned off.
I try to turn it on, but nothing changes.
So I leave the vehicle and keep walking. I go into some of the buildings. Everything's still, until a breeze comes and pokes at my pants and the ends of my hair.
One of the buildings has a metal door just inside the entrance, with a screen on the wall beside it that I tap on without expecting anything.
It lights up.
I scroll through a list of locations, and then set it back to the original one. 92 Quadranth Street.
When I go through the door, that's where I am. I find the number on the building, and a street sign, just to be sure.
I explore a few more places through the door, out of interest, but everywhere is empty and much the same. When I find a park, I stop and walk there instead, off the path and into the trees. Surrounded by them, I could almost pretend there was no city at all. But even the trees don't feel quite alive anymore.
I'm struck by another fit of sobbing when a memory slices through my head. Or through my chest, maybe. Now I remember not only my mission, but how to achieve it. There's a place I need to go, and a button I need to press.
A button that will end the world.
I consider this as I walk there. It's a long walk, so I have plenty of time to consider.
I begin to wonder if I'm confused—this world feels dead already.
But no. I know my mission. I'm here to end the world.
Maybe because it's too far gone to save.
I walk up to a sliding glass door. It's supposed to be automatic, but nothing happens even when I wave my arms at it. I have to push it all the way open, fingertips squealing as they slip across the glass.
There's a big open space beyond, with sleek benches and sleek potted trees and a sleek elevator. The doors won't open, so I take the stairs instead.
At the top of the tower, a room. I pause to lean against the wall, breathing heavily from the climb until my heart rate slows.
I push open the silver door. But before I can step into the room, I'm struck by another memory. It's big and powerful and makes me gasp and fall to my knees. The pain of my kneecaps striking the floor is only enough to distract me for a moment, and then I'm lost in the deluge of memory.
By the time it's over I'm lying, gasping, on the floor.
I remember everything.
This isn't the end of the world at all. This world died long ago; I have come to the beginning of time. The beginning of my world's time, anyway. I haven't yet been born, and I won't be born yet for years and years—centuries, in fact.
This time when I start to cry, I know why. I cry for everything I've lost—a whole world, given up. I sacrificed my future so I come here and kill the world. So I could come here, and erase this dead, empty space so new life can begin.
I sacrificed the rest of my life so that the start of my life could be possible at all.
Gathering myself together, I get to my feet. The tears course down my face as I step toward the console, a wide sweep of chrome counter covered in lights that have gone out.
In the centre, a simple red button. As I step closer, I find that it's not what I expected, and yet it makes more sense, somehow. The button isn't made of plastic or metal; it's organic. It's soft and slightly veined and I can see where it has caused a tiny crack in the console where it grew through the metal.
The world is practically asking me to end its misery.
I reach out and hesitate, my finger hovering. I think of my face, not my real face but my reflection in the window. I think of the empty, echoing streets.
"Thank you," I whisper to the old world, and I press the button.
is everything i do a defence mechanism?
I've always been sparing with my affection
and I suppose it's from my fear of being judged;
if I admit to nothing, I'll face no accusations
and no one can say I have bad taste.
My discernment is valuable, and I try to never give false praise
so I can always be trusted; partially for your benefit,
and partially for mine.
Hellfire is only hot if you believe.
Religion, like morality, is personal.
It should be a structure to support each of our connections with divinity.
But misused, it becomes just another form of oppression.
It's funny how there are christians with so much anger at old religious persecution, who turn around and say witches should be burned.
City of Immortals
The couch holds my weight,
but poorly, sinking under the
excess drink between my bones.
My leg droops. Foot tapping
at the floor and the pinch of couch cushions
doesn't hold me up, anymore.
The cold bottle has grown warm in my fingers
but the ceiling doesn't change as long as I stare at it
and the crack stares back.
A rivulet of escaping water
hurries across my basement apartment floor.
Everything's escaping from me
these days. The case doesn't help.
The impossible case.
Not a single trace in a city where
everything is pencil, drawing lines.
I've gone back and back and back to the database
(more than I needed to, getting lost in people's stolen stories)
(but I never look at my own file anymore)
and there's nothing.
Not a crumb of DNA or a single lingering
who they might have been;
they've erased themself.
I chase a ghost and find myself
pretending I don't envy them.
Oh, to disappear.
To dust, to dust, we all die in the end
but I can never die when my
entire existence has been catalogued and chronicled.
They've created, with their surveillance,
a city of immortals.
I know I'm listed as depressed
and maybe that's why I've wrapped myself
in this impossible job, a last ditch
to fall into so I can pretend to die;
a shroud of empty searching,
Something tickles at my mind
and I almost wonder if I'll run away.
The light flickers like a firefly, on and off,
and threatens an ending, but
I don't know if I can survive another
in the end,
I'd rather be a moth in the darkness
than chase the moon and find an artificial light.
But the blinding bulb calls and
drink in hand
I keep fluttering flickering towards it.
But I'm good at my job.
Sometimes I pretend I didn't
wish I was a failure so I could
wallow in peace. But
I know I'm good at this.
Even in the impossible cases,
I smell something.
An elegant killer that leaves
a trace of perfume,
a footstep that never touches the ground and yet,
I can almost make out footprints in the air.
What's the easiest way to be invisible? I mutter
into my glass and the liquid answers,
don't exist at all.
They asked me to find the murderer.
An invisible, untouchable force that kills and leaves
nothing behind; a wound with no knife;
a scream cut off as body hits floor
with such impossible weight, because death
is heavier than a body.
And a mind, alive, is lightest of all;
so light it floats and drips away like rain
leaking across a basement floor.
To be seen keeps us sane but
to be watched
might kill us.
My body already so heavy on the couch.
When I close my eyes, that's all that changes.
I was dead already.
I always have a plan
because making decisions is too much weight
to place on my shoulders and mind
I've drunk water
but not enough
and once again my throat's dry
wanna hang out? come over, please,
so I can isolate myself in your presence
and feel more disconnected than ever
If I could only eat those little crescent bread rolls
and chocolate and pieces of cake
and read novels forever
but my body needs more
and it would all be better if I could make myself
cry ugly, blubber messy on the floor
I binge on distraction
to forget the nothingness
and that's the only reason I want more
just to stop the wanting
so I shake my hands and sigh and fail
and it's not enough