Monday, May 9, 2011

Perfect for Me

As I read Good Enough is the New Perfect, I was reminded of an earlier time in my single parenthood. A few years ago, the thought of my life remaining the same was the most terrifying thought I had. That I would be single forever, that I would work in the same department forever. Now those same thoughts give me great comfort. If nothing changes, it will be perfectly fine with me.

So what changed? Not much, it turns out. But just enough to completely change my outlook. 

It was around the holidays, which can be a trying time when we're not feeling particularly celebratory. I was dreading the get-togethers, dreading if people would ask me if I was seeing anyone, dreading questions about my job, where I felt like I was getting nowhere fast.

I decided with the new year, it was time for some changes. I went to my boss, and asked for more responsibility (no raise or promotion, just something to keep me from going stir-crazy as a secretary, at the time). I went back to school for a paralegal degree. I knew it meant more time away from my kids, but since my parents were more than willing to watch them while I was in school (as they did when I went back for my bachelor's degree), it would be okay. My girls would be with people that loved them, and it was only two nights a week.

I also came to terms with being single. At first it was, I'm not dating "for now." For now has turned into years, and I've discovered that I really like it this way. There are still some times when it can be scary to walk into social functions with no "date," but for the most part, it's nice to not worry about whether or not someone else is having a good time, to enjoy the company of the people I meet there...and to have the freedom to leave when I want to go home!

It didn't take long for an opportunity to come up at work for a promotion (and a raise). I always loved the people I work with, and the company I work for, so to be recognized for what I put into it meant that much more to me than to just get hired somewhere else. Just last week, I was telling my parents that I'm actually starting to get a retirement plan together...that includes staying exactly where I am for 25+ years! And I just hope it works out that way.

A few weeks ago, I was worrying about the lack of space. As the girls get older, will they still be okay with sharing a room? (Especially when we all get on the same...cycle. 3 women in a two-bedroom apartment suddenly seems very, very small!) Financially, I'm still not ready to make a move to a larger space, and then I came up with another alternative. We're slowly moving Riley into my room. We haven't figured everything out just yet, but for now, she knows she has somewhere to go when she needs some space away from her sister. I pretty much only use my bedroom to sleep and change so it doesn't bother me in the slightest to have her in there. This arrangement can certainly work for at least another year, giving me more time to financially plan for a potential move into a 3-bedroom.

A 3-bedroom apartment doesn't sound like much, but it's the only thing lacking from my current picture of perfection. I used to dream of a house or condo, but now I realize, homeownership would be far too much to take on.  I don't think I could ever get a good night's sleep with a mortgage hanging over my head! As regular readers will know, I've put a lot of time and energy in the past year into getting my budget in order. Right now, my vision of financial success is one of no credit card debt and having an emergency savings fund (in lieu of the credit card to save me when the "unexpected" gets out of hand). Each month, I'm getting a little closer to that goal, and that makes me feel as savvy as Suze Orman. Well, okay, not quite, but I actually look forward to paying my bills now because I feel an empowerment over my finances that I've never felt before. And that's plenty good enough.

I distinctly remember that feeling of complete hopelessness back then. It wasn't even a depression, it was just an acceptance that my life would just suck for the foreseeable future. It only took a few adjustments to turn that around into a life I treasure today. A life that can feel at times like sheer perfection.  

Read more posts inspired by Good Enough is the New Perfect at From Left to Write. The links to the book here are associated with my Amazon affiliate account, and would generate a small referral fee for me.


Anonymous said...

We lived in an apartment before we moved to this house, but I always cherish those times we spent there! You are so right. Mortgage does tend to hang over heads. Renting means no responsibility, you can move anytime you want, it's cozy, offers so many facilities. I wonder why we didn't see all that before.

Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

I wonder the same thing about space and our kids. I have a boy and girl, and while they are young enough to share a room (we have a 2 bedroom apt as well), my husband and I are not ready for home ownership nor are we financially able to move to a 3 BR (in DC area no less!). But we do what can, right? Congrats on taking such amazing steps to do what was right for you!

BigLittleWolf said...

I was reading one of these "good enough is the new perfect" posts yesterday as well.

I like the concept behind it. (Perfect is impossible, a moving target, a damaging "ideal," and B-O-R-I-N-G.)

But - I don't care for the expression "good enough." I much prefer "good" - and I know that doesn't sound as spiffy as "good enough" but it sends a better message.

I took up the issue (indirectly) here (hope you don't mind the link) - and I don't like the underlying sense of "settling" that it implies.

I much prefer the notion of being our own "best," and appreciating what is good in ourselves and others.

April said...

BLW- I'm totally with you on that other book, and wouldn't read it for that reason (not to mention, the whole implication that it's better to be married than for single to be an option!), but in this book, the concept is definitely more focused on re-defining our own "best," but also realizing that we don't have to be the best at everything. Some aspects of our lives can indeed fall into the "good enough" category. I know at first, I struggled with not so much trying to have it all, but having to be it all. Eventually, I learned where to focus my priorities, and there are some parts of my life that are good enough.

Pippi said...

I am trying to figure that balance out too. I suspect it will be a longer process than I would like, hehe. Your post is comforting. I hope you get that 3-bedroom! Yes, my kids are lucky they don't sleep on dirt floors in a single room like many children in 3rd world countries. At the same time, they do need beds and chairs. There is a reason we send aid to those countries! It's hard for me to find that balance with the constant mantra of "so many people have it worse than you" ringing in my ears from my childhood. And yes, I tell Andy the same thing when he yells about not having enough games, or not liking the dinner I fixed that was already adjusted far more to his taste than I would prefer. But I don't want to forget that it is still ok to need things.

Amy H said...

What an uplifting, lovely post. I'm thrilled to hear that you're in such a great place and finding ways to solve for the next phase of "perfect". I'll be cheering you on the whole way!

DarryleP said...

This post, and you, are really inspiring---learning what works for you and what you value most. And from where I stand, XX years ahead, I think the answers constantly change. Figuring out what's "good enough" and what works for ourselves is a lifetime process.

Cat said...

I'm glad you know what works for you. So much dissatisfaction comes from constant "want." There's a great line in a Bright Eyes song I love- "My mind races with all my longings, but can't keep up with what I've got." Sounds like you're doing awesome. Here's hoping the 3 bedroom comes before full cycling is in place!

Melissa said...

It sounds like you are crafting a beautiful life for you and your daughters. I was so touched by the fact that you're sharing your space with your daughter to give her some "room of her own." I know the spirit of the terms in the book meant whatever brings you joy, but I still resist all the labeling and categorization. Wishing you all the "best," Melissa

Lisa Hanneman said...

What I love most about your post is the feeling of accomplishment I just got from reading it. You set clear, attainable goals for yourself and stuck to a plan. I often try to cram too many things into too short of a period of time and don't end up walking away with that feeling.

You're showing that if you don't aim for perfection and make step-by-step changes to be who you want to be perfection may end up finding you.