I went out on a limb last night and actually bought my very first ever iBook to read on my iPad. I have always been very against the notion of e-books, and iPads and Kindles. The only reason I even have an iPad is because I got it ridiculously cheap, so it would have been stupid not to get it. But I promised myself I would never buy an e-book or cancel my daily delivery of the paper version of the New York Times to get the digital edition instead. I love real newspapers and real books. I love the smell of them, and I love the feel of them. I love walking into somebody’s house, and seeing books everywhere. I love being able to get a sense of that person’s personality and interests from the books on their shelves. An iPad makes all of the above impossible. E-books are so fucking unromantic!
Nonetheless, I think I am about to cancel my delivery of the New York Times (except for the Sunday edition – there is no way I am reading that on an iPad!) in favour of the digital edition. I am getting tired of having to clear up all the old newspapers every week. It’s an added chore that obsessive/perfectionistic me just does not need.
Speaking of perfectionism, the iBook I bought last night was “Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control” by Allen Malinger and Jeannette Dewyze. I decided that I can handle buying the e-book version of self-help books because, let’s face it, I don’t exactly need people to come into my house and see my embarrassingly extensive library of self-help books. I’m quite happy to hide those away on my iPad, thank you very much.
Yesterday I wrote about how I want a guarantee that working the SLAA steps and meditation will “cure” me, and that I’m afraid to start doing either of those in case they don’t. I thought that sentiment was interesting in the light of the following paragraph from “Too Perfect”:
Unfortunately, obsessives, perhaps more than any other group of patients, have a need to believe that there is a specific and clear answer to every question; an ambiguous, conflict-free solution to every problem. In therapy, obsessive patients often believe at some level that I have the answers, and that if only they give me enough accurate information I’ll eventually be able to produce a sort of prescription for happiness, detailing exactly what needs to be done – something they might follow as one would a road map. Usually they are disappointed to learn the truth: that the pathway to positive change is anything but clear, especially in the beginning.
Wow. That describes me to a T. I’ve had countless therapists over the years, and yet I’ve never really felt that I got anything out of therapy. I think that this was probably because I was expecting each therapist to give me a detailed roadmap to that place called “Happiness”, and I was frustrated when they couldn’t. I don’t think it’s a question of laziness, of not wanting to do the work that SLAA step work and meditation require. Rather, I’m just very uncomfortable with ambiguity and stepping into the unknown. When I was taking my seven-week long Zen meditation class, I was the happiest I’ve been in a long time because I liked turning up at a set time and having a teacher teach me about Buddhism and meditation within a specific timeframe. This was nice, and neat, and tidy. And then the class was over, and, well, I was still interested in Zen and Buddhism, but now it was no longer contained in a classroom, but this was this huge, scary field that I would now have to explore all on my own. Where to start? What to read? How to get “better” at meditation?
It’s the same thing with the SLAA steps, although I must admit that I do love the fact that there are steps. How terribly organized and efficient! I know that everybody should work through the steps at their own pace, but, oh, how I wish that there was some sort of timeline, and some sort of “prize” at the end of every step e.g. You will complete Step One in one month by doing (a), (b) and (c) and, upon graduation, you will never again be attracted to unavailable douchebags.
I’ve always wondered how I could be such a successful undergraduate student (4.0 GPA) and yet have my life falls to pieces after graduation. Given what I’ve just written, it should be no surprise at all that this happened. I was a very good school girl. I was very good at being told what to do, and knowing exactly what was going to happen once I did it. Life was structured and clear. I’m not going to say that I was happy (I still struggled with procrastination and perfectionism back then) but things were far more in control because I had a lot more time, and far fewer responsibilities, so I was able to cover up my issues more easily.
I decided to go to graduate school because I desperately wanted to lead that nice, structured, schoolgirl life again, but, by that point, I was nearly twenty-seven, and I knew deep-down that wasn’t what I truly wanted, so the whole thing was a disaster. I procrastinated all the way through my Master’s, and only graduated by the skin of my teeth.
And what do I want? I want to be me. Just me. I don’t think that this rigid person, obsessed with structure and perfection, is really me. I want to be free – free to relax and enjoy life. And I want to write and sing, not because I “should” or because I want “glory” and “success” but because I enjoy these things so much, and they’re fun. Yes, “fun!”. That word that so many people in my family have absolutely no understanding of, thanks to you Mr. John Knox, you fucking cunt.
I’m crying right now but I’m also kinda happy because reading that paragraph above from “Too Perfect” was a bit of an eye-opener. It showed me once and for all that I am just going to have to deal with the ambiguity of meditation and SLAA (and, um, life in general) and just accept that there’s no ready-made, fast, “cure” for what ails me.