and those who decide that they'll die if they're not perfect,
so they don't try at all.
Both often wind up alone,
as the former pushes
and the latter
pulls away from people.
But you know what?
You don't have to be perfect.
You don't owe perfection to anyone.
You don't owe perfection to your spouse or your boss or your kids or
the bully-ghosts you keep conjuring
in your mind and
for whom you perform some kind of
kabuki theater of failure,
Realizing and admitting that you don't have to be perfect
does not equal quitting.
It does not mean
you're not going to keep trying
or at least the best you can manage at the time.
(What the hell is anyone's "best" anyway? Always trying till you're at the point of absolute pain and exhaustion? Who can live like that? Who even really wants to? You don't have to feel like you're supposed to any more.)
I've been helping a sober friend plan his 65th natal birthday party. The guest list will be an eclectic bunch, befitting his colorful personality; comprised predominantly of sober friends but with some non-program people -- some drinkers in the mix.
He wants to be a good host, and it's not an AA party, so he will have alcohol there for those who imbibe. The layout of the house is such that it can be easily served (he's hiring a bartender) but will not be physically in the middle of the festivities. Subtle, but available, a nice way to make sure all his guests are both comfortable and able to celebrate with him.
We were chatting about food and how to serve it, refreshments, etc., when suddenly he stopped cold, struck by a thought.
"How much booze should I actually buy?"
I made a "dunno" face and shrugged. "How many people do you expect at the party total?" I asked.
He looked into space for a moment, scanning a mental list. "About a hundred, probably."
"Okay," I said, "and how many of them will be drinkers?"
"Oh..." again he consulted his mental list, "maybe 20 in all. They're not alcoholics, just, you know, drinkers."
"I get it. I get it." I waved my hand.
"And I want to be a good host," he continued, "but I don't know... I mean, how much booze should I get for roughly 20 drinkers? I mean, it's a party. It's Saturday night... I want everyone to have fun and all..."
I nodded. "Right. Right. But the success of your party is not about getting 20 people hammered."
"Right!" he nodded. "So how much do you think each person will drink? I mean, it's going to be high energy. I've got a DJ and it's Saturday night and while I don't want people wasted I don't want to run out, either. I don't want to look chintzy."
"Oh, yeah, no. I totally get it." I nodded again.
"So what do you think? How much will each person drink?"
Now it was my turn to stare off into space for a minute. "Each? Well, Saturday night, party... I don't know. Couple litres maybe? Or like... a gallon?"
He nodded in agreement, and then we must have simultaneously replayed the last ten seconds of the conversation in our heads, because together we burst out laughing -- long and hard -- at the fact that to both of us, without thinking too much about it, a gallon per person seemed like a perfectly reasonable guess.
The chuckles kept burbling up as he said, "I better Google it. You and I have no frame of reference..."
I myself hadn't completely stopped laughing, and through my giggles, agreed. "Can't argue with that."
I actually saw someone do this to themselves today.
I listened to them work themselves up to a rant, like an old locomotive gaining speed; their mind chugging and whistling along until what had started as good news was nearly overwhelmed with fear and suspicion. Certainly that's possible for anyone to do, but alcoholics seem especially prone to this kind of anxious over-thinking.
Listening to them I felt my arms pebble with goosebumps and I had butterflies in my stomach -- butterflies of gratitude, actually (I know how insipid and cornball that sounds, but truly, that's what it was) because listening to that poor soul create anxiety out of thin air I saw how clearly AA and the 12 Steps have helped me straighten out my thinking, and perhaps more importantly, become aware of how I think.
Drinking is the symptom of alcoholism; thinking is its home.