It is hard being perfect

But I think I’m going to celebrate it without feeling guilty about it, Catholic upbringing notwithstanding.

I’m good with money. I was brought up frugaler than frugal and have found my own happy medium as an adult. I’ve been poor and I’ve been higher income, and I’m happier being higher income (to paraphrase Mae West). But I remember the poor well enough to not want to have to go back to it, which leads to saving!

My kid is (knock on wood), relatively well-behaved and adorable. I credit an excellent preschool for most of this and my DH for the rest. Though I do my best not to destroy things, mostly through benevolent neglect and lots of cuddling.

I have the best husband on the face of the planet. If anything happened to him I would be devastated. He and DC are currently happily vacuuming while I sit here typing and thinking about how I’m the luckiest person on the planet.

Even our cats are great.

I’m not at the tippity top of my career, but some of the folks who are at that tippity top know who I am. I had a solid education and I do good solid work, even if not as much as I would like to do. Sometimes projects work and sometimes they’re not really salvageable, but I keep plugging on. I try my best to get my students to become critical thinkers and to stop hating math. I’m lucky to be at an institution with great colleagues who seem to think I’m on track for tenure.

And you know what, I’m not going to apologize for my success. I’m not going to hide it. I’m even going to *gasp* do the forbidden and brag a little. In addition, I’m going to appreciate the luck we’ve had and thank previous me for the hard work she did to help me get where I am.

And you know what else? I’m going to say that a lot of folks in my circumstances would be complaining up a storm. They’d hate living in a small town in a red state, or they’d complain about their husbands and kids and cats and stress and so on. People can find all sorts of reasons to complain about things.

In college I had a professor who invited some of us to her house once where we met her husband. It was like the Jack Sprat of optimism. She was a bundle of happiness who always looked on the bright side and he was a depressed pessimist. While I definitely appreciate the pessimists (they provide the back-up systems), I kind of thought to myself that there’s something to be said for looking on the bright side of life. To, you know, “change what you can and accept what you can’t,” like in the poem.  (NB… I think there’s something about granting serenity in there.)

So when I’m not happy, that’s what I try to do. Fix the problem, or fix my way of looking at the problem. So I focus on the amenities and remember about compensating differentials. I try to compare myself to the billions of fish in smaller ponds (though sometimes it gives me a big head) and use the few thousand big fish in the bigger pond as inspiration and role models.

I know circumstances will change, and we’ll be thrown curve-balls, but I’m mostly optimistic and determined that we will turn out ok in the end (so long as we have our health, which we may not always– that is my biggest fear).

And, of course, I’m saying it to you all on an anonymous blog because this is something I can’t say in public. I can’t even say it on the mother’s forums. They attack. But gosh darn it, I’m glad I can’t share their problems and I’m glad I appreciate my family and am not in debt (even though I make less money than they do) and so on.

Do you ever feel guilty for being better off than other folks? Do you ever wish you could smack people upside the head and tell them to fix their problems instead of just complaining about them? Do you try to always look on the bright side of life?

29 Responses to “It is hard being perfect”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    I love this post. You said it all so well, that I can’t possibly ad anything to it as it will take away from its utter awesomeness.

  2. Michael Says:

    I have to agree with First Gen. With a few details changed, I feel like I could have written this post! It makes me happy to know that others out there are happy too! :) Yeah for awesome husbands and kids!!

  3. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    F***e, no. F***e, yeah. Hellz to the yes.

  4. Everyday Tips Says:

    This is a great post. I was just telling someone the other day that I was distancing myself from someone that blabs on over and over about the same thing, but never, ever works at fixing the problem. No time in my life for that.

    I too tend towards optimism, until recently. The proverbial shoe dropped and it has rocked my psyche a bit. Sometimes it takes more than just seeing the bright side. Sometimes, your own brain can work against you I am finding, and that can be very difficult. I am trying though!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Health is the one thing I worry about most. There’s such a feeling of helplessness. I’m so glad that things are better for now for your family, and hope everything is back on an even keel soon!

  5. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    Just stumbled on this interesting article, which is somewhat apropos this post:

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Absolutely. Perfect people don’t need to start Ponzi schemes!

    • Rumpus Says:

      Schools attempt to teach people math and history, science and art, but I’d really like the secret of happiness. And not philosophy classes because I’ve been to those and they were esoteric to the point of obtuseness. For me happiness depends significantly on feedback (who I talk with, what my boss thinks, etc). Perfection is nice, especially in other people so they don’t mess up my order at restaurants, but relative signals (psychology/sociology) seems to trump absolute measures.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just not care about other peoples’ feedback? I totally understand. Graduate school was a pain because we’d get back exams with a number on the top and no information on even what we’d gotten wrong. It was so depressing.

      • Rumpus Says:

        I do great work when everything is aligned. When I’m interested in the task, I have ok/good tools, I have a client/boss who knows what he/she wants, I have few distractions, and I have time to do the job… I don’t want to be less influenced by other people, I just want more “flow”. Admittedly, that’s a bit ridiculous for a professor since it’s such a singleton job (aside from interactions with students and RAs), but every once in a while there is a blue moon (apparently the next is just over a year from now) and life is grand.

  6. Grace Says:

    Overall, I am an optimistic person whom life has treated pretty well.

    BUT, when I’m in a pissy mood, I do NOT want to read posts like this one! It makes me want to reach through the computer and slap that happy face right off!

    Whoever said misery loves company, but only miserable company, got it right!

    Have a nice day! (I may mean it another time!)

  7. Holly Says:


    Happy Rumblings!

    I like it!

  8. undine Says:

    A happy and positive post about your life and situation? You have shaken the complaining blogworld to its foundations, nicoleandmaggie–and I mean that in a good way.

  9. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    But where’s the fun in that? (Being perfect). Well, except that my life is perfect(er).
    Have you been reading Epictetus? The kid and I are co-reading the Handbook… Maybe that’s just me and I’m having ancient Greek deja vu. Aristotle thought pride was a good thing.
    It could also be that you have won the serotonin genetic crapshoot lottery.
    Or could just be all that conscientiousness paying off…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Nah, haven’t been reading Greek.

      That’s a pretty awesome Slate article. We’re totally down on the conscientiousness in our household. DC is going to live forever, apparently. Well, except ze is relatively cheerful.

  10. Donna Freedman Says:

    Yep, I feel bad that I *don’t* feel bad. Or feel bad often enough.
    In other words, when things are finally starting to click for me I’m afraid to say anything about it. “Don’t think you’re a big shot/Don’t brag/Don’t show off” was drilled into us when we were kids.
    I hesitated to post at all from the United Kingdom because (a) people would think I was no longer living in financial straits and therefore had no business writing about it and (b) it was like bragging, “Look at me! I’m traveling and you’re not!”
    Kind of like your post about being beyond reproach, which in turn caused my cupcake Gethsemane: Am I allowed to have fun? Am I allowed to make what my sister calls “decisions for happiness”?
    Well, yeah. It’s just not always easy.
    Anybody besides me want a cupcake right now?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Sometimes we just have to celebrate being awesome. It’s not like we haven’t had crappy times in the past. And there may be crappy times in the future. But we’re doing what we can to make “decisions for happiness.” I like that phrase.

      Battlecry: Cupcakes within reason!

  11. Favorites First Gen American First Gen Says:

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  13. Pat S. Says:

    We all make our own beds, and have to sleep in them. Holding yourself wholly and unequivocally responsible for your circumstances in life will be the first step in turning things around. I think thats what you hit on here (albeit indirectly).

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