How Searching for Perfection and Happiness is Akin to Putting Your Head Up Your Arse

 

I am 31 years old, single, and have spent the last eleven years looking for love.  I am ashamed to admit that throughout this process I have been guilty of always looking for the next best thing.  I would hit rough patches and wonder if the grass over yonder is just a little bit greener.  This also applies to my professional life.  I have yet to hold a job that made me happy and satisfied.  Why have I been such a fickle creature?  There are many reasons, but I think two big ones are the distorted ideals of Perfection and the Destination of Happiness.  These falsehoods have ruled my life for far too long, and I feel like I’m finally at a place where I recognize the detrimental depths of these flights of fancy.

I have spent years searching for the perfect relationship.  I always thought that when the “right” man came along, things would magically fall into place. It would be easy and fun and amazing.  No conflict, no fighting, no need for real sacrifices.  We would buy a house with a porch swing and a big back yard.  Our kids would be smart and beautiful.  We would be that couple that other couples wished they could be.  Over the years of men and heartbreak, I continued to create this ideal in my brain, like my own private Pleasantville.  Due to this erroneous train of thought, when conflicts popped up in relationships, I would immediately wonder if that person is right for me.

He and I are fighting- this must mean we are fundamentally incompatible. Time to break up.

No wonder I’m still single at 31.

Now that I’m older, and somewhat wiser, I have realized that “perfection” does not exist. There are no perfect people, perfect relationships, or perfect anythings, no matter what society likes to tell us via rom-coms, Hallmark commercials, and beauty magazines. People, myself included, are so focused on finding what is perfect, that they are missing the beautifully imperfect things, and people, right in front of them.  Clinging to the concept of perfection is tragic defense mechanism that allows a person to justify surrounding him or herself with chasms of emotional distance.  Perfection does not exist.  Period.  The sooner that someone comes to terms with that, the better off he or she will be.

If there is no perfection, it stands to reason that there is no Destination of Happiness.  A Destination of Happiness is the notion that happiness is only reachable if certain things come to pass.

If I could just get that job/house/baby/car/husband/wife/etc, I will finally be happy.

How many of us have had that conversation with ourselves? How many people are always looking for that one thing that will fix their lives and finally make them happy? I know I am completely guilty of this. I thought that when I found the perfect man and had my perfect relationship, I would finally be happy.  It would be what “completed” me.

(Fuck you, Jerry Maguire)  

Except happiness is not a destination.  Life has constant ebbs and flows that bring peaks of happiness followed by canyons of sorrow. That sums up my entire experience in 2013. Up, down, up, down, like a psychotic yo-yo. When I stumbled down the deepest ravine of my life four months ago, I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to climb out of it. I’m pleased to report that I am slowly making my way out of the darkness and feel like I have some decent footing on my climb up.  But it hasn’t been an easy ascent and I still have a ways to go.  Even when I reach the top, it won’t be a Destination of Happiness.  Something will bring sadness or anger, unhappiness or fear.  That isn’t pessimism speaking, that’s the reality of life.

With no Perfection and no Destination of Happiness, what is life about, anyway? Well, life is about whatever you make it to be. If one constantly looks forward to finding the next best thing, or maintains the mindset that if only he had this, or she had that, then life is going to be a constant battle.  But if one can discover happiness in what one has now, then he or she will have the ability to find happiness no matter what life brings.  The truth about life is that you can plan and prepare and think that you have everything under control, but you don’t. So focus on the now, on what brings you joy, and let that soak into your pores and your cells and the deepest parts of your being. Live with that, and you can live with anything.

If there is no Perfection and no Destination of Happiness, what does that mean for relationships and finding love?  The fact of the matter is this: sometimes relationships are easy, and sometimes they are hard. Relationships require work and sacrifice. There will be times when your partner frustrates or angers you. There will be times when you wish they would just shut up. There will be days when he doesn’t pick up his dirty laundry or leaves the toilet seat up.  There will be days when she doesn’t want to watch another football game or would rather marathon Netflix than learn to sleep in a tent.

But there will also be other days, days when he bring you donuts at work, and she makes your bed, and he rubs your feet, and she scrubs out your stained dirty wine glasses.

And those are the moments you realize that your partner is pretty amazing.

I had a conversation yesterday about sacrifices in relationships, and how do you reach that balance where you aren’t giving up too much of yourself, but doing enough to sustain a healthy partnership. It can be a difficult dance trying to figure out where to draw that line. But at the end of the day, I think that if two people care for each other, then

whatever you give up should be worth less to you than the person you are with.

For example, let’s say you are an avid snowboarder. You love it so much you would do it daily. But if you get married with kids, you don’t have that same kind of freedom to drive off to the mountain on a whim.  So what do you love more- your wife and kids, or the freedom to snowboard whenever you want?

Another example. Let’s say you are a blogger and use that outlet to process your emotions. You love to write about whatever you want whenever you want, but your partner does not like your dirty laundry aired on the interwebs, no matter how anonymous it may be. What do you love more- your partner, or your freedom to write?

There is a disclaimer in all of this, being that if the person in your life is asking you to give up and change everything about yourself, that is plain unhealthy and you should run for the hills. However, if that is not the case, then you should ask yourself if the requests and sacrifices are reasonable and worth it.  I know that I am willing to give up or change some of the things I enjoy for the right person. It’s not perfect, but you know what? I’m okay with that, because

there is no such thing as perfect.

It is scary to make big changes. It is scary to give up things and make decisions and sacrifices. It is scary to let someone on and be vulnerable.

But you have to want it more than you are afraid of it.

So, ask yourself these questions:

What is it that I really want? What is it that I am willing to give up? What does my heart say?

Only you can answer those questions.  Take your time and do it right.  These are some of the most important decisions you will ever make.  As you think it through, make sure to drop Perfection and the Destination of Happiness.  If you don’t, you might as well just stick your head up your arse, because you are setting yourself up for a really crappy future.

Pun intended.

Until next time ~ B

The Other Truth

I have learned something recently that perhaps I have always known, but now am living the reality day to day:

Sex is: Fun. Hot. Unique. Beautiful. Dirty. Amazing.  Two people colliding together, becoming one for a short (or long if he’s in his 20s *zing!*) period of time, and then breaking away.

Sex also results in procreation.  As those two people collapse in after the heat of passion, biology keeps moving forward.  One sperm heads down the right fallopian tube and finds the golden egg.  Just like the two people that came together in the act of sex, that egg and sperm collide and become one.  Shortly after, it tumbles down the fallopian tube into the uterus and finds a cozy place to implant itself for the next 9 months.  If all is well, life begins.

I have known how babies are made since I was nine years old.  I begged my mom to tell me the truth, and when she finally did, I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever heard in my entire life.  I could not fathom why two people would EVER want to do that.  Just completely gross and reprehensible.  It was impossible to wrap my brain around the process of procreation.

As an adult, I never thought much about actually making babies.  I was just focused on participating in the activities that produce zygotes, and doing what I could to prevent conception from actually happening.   Sex was fun.  It resulted in sweaty bodies, heavy breathing, and connecting with another person.

That is, until I found myself pregnant.

Pregnant.  Bun in the oven.  With child.  Knocked up.  In the family way.  Pea in the pod.

Now I am trying to wrap my brain around the concept of procreation happening my body.  The right time, place, sperm, and egg struck together one night in October, and the process to form life began.

So back to what I’ve learned.  Sex is amazing.  The biological process in which life begins and forms is amazing.  Deciding to keep the baby and move forward even though I am in no emotional or financial place to have that baby?  Not so amazing.

I have been alive for 31 years, and in those 31 years, I have never felt so emotionally conflicted as I do now.  As a child I was pro-life.  That changed to pro-choice as an adult.  Now that I find myself building a baby in my uterus, that pro-life conviction has become even stronger.  I could never tell another woman that she would be forced to continue a pregnancy that was unwanted.  It is her body, as this is my body, and ultimately it is a decision to be made by a woman, and only by that woman.

And there is the part where I hate myself because I’m going to admit on paper that this pregnancy is unwanted.

Unwanted.  What a terrible word.

I always imagined getting pregnant would be this beautiful, exciting, and amazing time with a husband.  We would decide it was time to have children, and I would find out that we were having a baby and decide what kind of cute way I would deliver the news to the dad-to-be.  Would I get a onesie with some kind of adorable pun on the front?  Or maybe I would wrap up the pregnancy test in a box and tell him I wanted to surprise him with something, and he would open he box and get a big smile on his face, and we would hug and be teary eyed and talk about how excited we are to be having a baby together.

This was not my reality.  There was no husband, no decision to start a family, no onesie.  Just me, two positive pregnancy tests, and the crushing realization that I would be telling my boyfriend of four months (and not four smooth months, either) that I was pregnant.  Instead of figuring out what cute way I would tell my husband, I was desperately searching for the words to inform my partner that he was going to be a father, that we were not careful enough, that for the past month my body was building a zygote we made, and his life never going to be the same.

I have known I am pregnant for 4 weeks.  These have been a rough four weeks.  They run right up there with cancer, my dad leaving, and the loss of my first love.  I am 31, husbandless, with too much debt, less than $100 in my savings account, a 13-year-old car, unmarried, living at home, and surviving off an AmeriCorps stipend.  As pro-life as I am, I have always known that abortion was not an option for me, but the reality is this:  I would be lying if I said that it has not crossed my mind.  I would also be lying if I said that in the event of a miscarriage, it would probably be for the best.  I feel shame and self-loathing for having those thoughts.

Those feelings have been particularly acute since I had my first ultrasound and saw the heartbeat.  There is a growing human with a heartbeat inside of me, and I am desperately trying to keep it together as I move forward.  My life is changing and I am doing what I can to keep up.  I have to look at everything differently now.  I have to think like a mother and prepare for the arrival of this baby by doing what is best for him/her.  And in doing that, I’m forced to ask tough, uncomfortable, and potentially hurtful questions.  I do not like doing this.  I do not like feeling this way.

Unless you have been unmarried, pregnant, and financially f*cked, it’s hard to describe the tidal waves of emotions that flow through you at any given moment (thanks, hormones).  The first two weeks I was excited about this baby.  I was enjoying the odd symptoms and imagining what it would be like to hold my baby in my arms and relish in the moment that I made a human.  I thought about baby’s first laugh, what birth might be like, what I would name him/her, what he/she would look like.  I monitored every new feeling like it was life or death.

And then around the two week mark, reality really set in.  Finding a job, saving money, paying off bills, finding a place to live, paying for a baby, maternity leave, going back to work, leaving my baby in daycare, being in a young relationship, and so on an so forth. I panicked.  Hardcore.  One night I just lost it in my bedroom, and I have felt unsettled ever since.

On top of those feelings is the abject fear I have about making a commitment to the father.  I am now tied to this person for the rest of my life and it is terrifying.  I now not only worry about being left in the middle of the night, but I worry that I am going to be left with a child.  He and I are so different.  I knew that going into the relationship, and I have dealt with it in some way or another every day.   But the relationship was young, and I was having fun and seeing where it was going, and I was taking it all day by day.  He and I were definitely moving forward, but no major decisions were being made.  We were getting to know each other and figuring out what makes us tick.

But now, now that there is a baby involved, I feel like decisions have to be made immediately.  I have all these thoughts going through my head.  How compatible are we?  Do your wants, desires, lifestyles really match up?  Do we fulfill each other’s needs?  I am trying to be realistic about it because I do not want us to be unhappy together just because we have a child.  I do not want us to be a cliche: two angry parents who stayed together when the best option may have been to split up.

Just like me, I know he is having difficulty with the concept of this pregnancy.  It was unplanned, and neither of us were ready for it.  The weekend before I learned I was pregnant, he made plans to move in with four men in their 20s.  Right now he has the opportunity to live it up, to enjoy being single and childless until the baby is born.  “Gotta do this while I still can, I only have six months left,” he says in front of me and his buddies at the bar.   It was an embarrassing moment.  Yeah, boys, gotta get the last of my living out because this old broad trapped me into fatherhood.  

I know he did not mean it like that, but I certainly took it like that.  Unfair?  Probably.  He is doing the “right thing” by me and continuing with the relationship and preparing for baby.  But I feel like he has been talking himself into it.  “I’m excited for this.  It was unexpected, but I never wanted to be an old dad, and now I won’t be.  What if we had waited until marriage?  We probably would not have started a family for another couple of years.  So this timing actually is good.  It will be fine.  It will be an adventure.  We got this.”  Thirty minutes later: “Well, we’ll see how it plays out.  You need to get a job.  I had different plans for the next year.  I am doing the best I can.”

When he says negative things, I get upset and take it personally.  I worry he feels trapped and tries to emotionally escape, like he is trying to get whatever is left out of his system because there will not be any more fun had once the baby is born.  I worry he will resent me and the baby because we took away the lifestyle he preferred, and he’ll never get it back.

When I say negative things, he tells me, “It will be fine.  You made a choice to keep the baby, now deal with it.  Get yourself together and get a job and do this.  You know the risks of having a baby.” When I push back, he tells me that he does not like seeing me be hard on myself.  He tells me that I can do this.  He tells me he fell in love with a feisty, foul-mouthed woman who had big plans, and that I need to grab life by the balls and move forward.  Some days I just want to push him away and deal with this by myself, because it is too hard to think that I am making him miserable with the pregnancy.  (Yes, I know it takes two to tango.  But I chose to keep it, and my choices affect the both of us.) I wish I believed him, and I wish I could get out of this funk and and get back that feistyness, but right now I am just really struggling to wake up and get through the day.  Growing an unplanned human is emotionally and physically exhausting, and when you add stress on top of that, some days just feel really bleak.

The repercussions of an unplanned pregnancy are difficult.  I am suddenly having to make big changes for which I was unprepared. The relationship with my boyfriend has been strained.  I am mourning the loss of the experiences I thought I would have.  I am taking it really hard.

This is not how it was supposed to be.  It was supposed to be happy and wanted and beautiful.

But hey, I made this choice, so it’s time to just deal with it.  I knew the risks.

An unwanted, unplanned pregnancy with a new boyfriend and no money.  Maybe I should have known I would turn into some kind of welfare queen cliche.  A couple of years ago I said to my mom, “I have this feeling that I’m going to end up as a single mother.”  I am eating those words right now.

These are the words that not many pregnant women admit out loud.  These are not the words you find on happy baby blogs where people are glowing and excited and having the best time.  You are not supposed to admit out loud that a baby might not be wanted.  You are not supposed to admit out loud that you have thought about abortion.  You certainly are not supposed to admit out loud that a miscarriage would not be the worst thing in the world to happen.

I realize there is a risk to putting these thoughts out into the internet world.  Some people may think I am selfish.  Some may think I am unworthy of being pregnant when there are so many couples struggling with fertility.  Some may think I am nothing but a heartless bitch.  But you know what?  I am writing all of this and putting it out there anyway because I know there are other women who are conflicted.  I know there are other women who are struggling.  Someone has to speak The Other Truth.  And that person might as well be me.

This is also the truth: I want this to get better.  I want this to go from unwanted to wanted.  I want this to turn into a happy, beautiful pregnancy and then into a happy, beautiful family.  Before you pass judgement, know that I am not a horrible person.  I am a real person.  This is a real pregnancy.  And these are real feelings, whether you like it or not.

And until next time, I will continue doing the best I can.

~ B