Perfect, Almost – Why Having Things Just So is Never Good Enough

I need to tell you something and it isn’t easy.

Are you ready?

Brace yourselves.

Here it goes.

I’m a failure at being perfect.

Whew. That was tougher than I thought.

It has only taken me three decades to admit this. If I could go back to my sixth grade self, I would tell little Chelsea to pay more attention in science class. Yes, if only I had heeded the advice given within the walls of that petri dish of a classroom, I wouldn’t have premature gray hair sprouting from this 31-year-old head of mine.

This is not the part where I tell you a story about an inspirational teacher who spoke in clichés about “reaching for the stars” and “if you believe it, you can achieve it” junk. Yes, you can thank the generation BEFORE Millennials for ingraining those words of wisdom in us, thank you very much.

Nope. My inspiration came in 2-D. See, my sixth grade science teacher liked a break from teaching every now and then. Who doesn’t? We had no complaints. On mornings like these, she would wheel in that bulky Magnavox TV, rewind the VCR, and sit back in her chair as we sang along to The Magic School Bus.

Who needs to read from a science book when you can be instructed by the show’s fire-headed, quirkily dressed teacher, Miss Frizzle? Ever wonder what happens to Cheetos after you eat them? (Probably not, but stick with me here.) Miss Frizzle had her students travel through Arnold’s digestive system in a microscopic bus to find the answer. It was the Magic School Bus that also took them through Ralphie’s nasal cavity when he had a cold. Aboard that bus, the students explored the cosmos in space, cruised through the deserts and rainforests, and traveled through time to discover how T-Rex could eat with those tiny arms of his.

Yes, The Magic School Bus was swarming with lessons about the world we live in. And today, it is Miss Frizzle’s advice that rings in my head every morning when I see the sun shining through my window. I only wish I had listened to those words sooner than later. So if you’re reading this and you’re in sixth grade, you can thank me for all the time you’re about to save banging your head against the wall to reach that point where you feel okay with yourselves.

Here’s what she said. Write this down, kids, and don’t forget it:

Take chances. Make mistakes.

When I was in grade school,mistakes were the worst things you could make. It was a dirty word. Almost downright taboo. I cringed if I saw anything less than a perfect score on a spelling test. In high school and college, I spent countless hours reading and re-reading my essays until the papers furled around my fingers.

At seventeen, I shed half my body weight, but still couldn’t reach that point where I felt okay with how I looked in the mirror.

When I became a mom, that drive to be perfect became unmanageable. It’s what I like to call the “mom bomb.” Ever heard of it? It’s the fear of a widespread explosion should you drop the ball on any aspect of life. Who’s going to fill out the paperwork correctly for your kid’s school enrollment? Who’s going to remember all the questions you need to ask at the next check-up appointment? Who’s going to ensure you see all the landmarks on your next vacation? Or what about stacking the dishes in a somewhat orderly fashion in the dishwasher? P.S., those towels aren’t going to fold themselves, hot dog style, then hamburger, hamburger.

 Obviously if it’s got to be done right, it’s got to be you who does it.

Right?

I mean, of course a lot of times it STILL has to be you doing all this stuff (how would it get done otherwise) . . . but does it have to be right, or your version of right, all the time?

In the past couple of years, I’ve learned of former classmates and young acquaintances dying suddenly. It’s the story of “she was fine one minute, then gone the next.” I wonder what, if anything, they felt they had perfected in their own lives before they departed this world. Did they have regrets? I’m sure if they did, it wouldn’t include the shape of their freshly-laundered towels.

I look back at the minutes, the hours, the days, the years wasted trying to get myself to that point where I felt fulfilled and worthy to join the masses. Truth is, I never really knew where I wanted to be in the first place. With stories of early death coming at me from several friend groups of mine, I have realized Miss Frizzle’s advice is two-fold:

Take Chances. Drink unfiltered water. Wear crazy socks to work. Put your phone down and look your partner in the eyes. Take the job you love. Leave that job you hate. Tell your kid you don’t know everything. Seek a new answer. Travel to some place you’ve never been before. Drive a new route home. Use a different coffee mug. Mix your peas with your mashed potatoes. Mend your bridges. Tear down your walls. Say what’s been welling up inside of you. Tell him. Tell her. Lasso the moon and pull it down. Don’t say you never tried.

Make mistakes. Know it’s okay. Learn from them. Repeat.

While you can take chances and make mistakes, you can also make mistakes by not taking chances. The most regrettable moments I have are those when I was too afraid. Too afraid of what others would think. Too afraid of what would happen. Too afraid of breaking out of this cocoon of security.

Friends out there, heed my beloved, two-dimensional friend’s advice. Miss Frizzle the hell out of your day, and don’t comb it out afterwards. That may just be your new kind of perfect.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!

You’re Just Overdrinking It – A Mom Living Life on the Rocks

Hello, I’m Chelsea and I am an alcoholic, kinda sorta maybe. At least that’s what I’m supposed to say when I go to those meetings when we only know each other by our first names. For the record, I wasn’t court ordered to go. I just felt like I was overdrinking it a little.

Between you and me, I’m not much different from you. Hell, for moms, drinking is synonymous with coping these days. If we didn’t have wine, how could we have ever gotten past that last season of Game of Thrones? Or that pile of dirty dishes? Or that constant dinging from our phones from people who forgot our shift ended at 5 PM instead of 5 AM?

You know those feelings of guilt from working a full day at the office but hearing your kid complain about all the moms who miraculously made it to the field trip at Sky Zone? Except you, of course. Here’s the good news. Those feelings can easily be doused with a tall glass of Merlot.

Oh, and those afternoons when you get in after dark and still have to check homework, rustle up an acceptable form of dinner, argue about bath time, and wait an extra hour after lights out because your kid refuses to give in to that sweet, soft slumber? A stout whiskey sour can calm those nerves.

Chaotic family life? A salted rim from a top-shelf margarita has been known to right your father’s incessant reminder that you could have done more with your degree.

And here’s a tip between you and me: that last Cosmo totally obliterated your disgust with your lack of a thigh gap.

Hooray! You’ve miraculously made yourself funny after that bubbling Prosecco.

But hey, we aren’t alcoholics. We’re just part of the mom club where the only requirement to join involves a desire to take a little trip away from reality, albeit just for an evening. And you get to rise in the rankings if you’re the fun drinker (Notice I didn’t say drunk. We’re no fan of labels).

When you’re the fun drinker, you can do a phenomenal rendition of Robert Bentley’s “Luv Gov” when he’s sweet talking Rebekah Mason in that cell phone recording. You can be that Endless Flame The Bangles sing about, and if you’re anything like me, you can down two and half martinis and still explain why Faulkner could paint a better picture with five words than Dickens could with a thousand.

So where was I? Oh, the alcohol thing. It’s not really a thing, though. It’s just a nice little addition to the currently unmanageable expectations of myself. And for the record, I don’t drink EVERY night. I just need a little nightcap. A little me time. A little “wine down” to feel ten feet tall and bullet-proof. I wear my suit of armor made of wine corks and bottle caps. Take that, life!

It was November of 2016 when I cradled a bottle of Chardonnay in my lap as I watched the world as I knew it crumble before me. Donald Trump had just been elected President of the United States. Now before you scroll away, this is not becoming a political rant. I simply want to take you back to a situation when everything seemed “hunky dory” in my bubble-wrapped life. I had the perfect job, a killer family, and a new home full of endless possibilities. The world as I knew it was going my way. And then Wolf Blitzer ruined it. He flipped my perfect little world right on its ass with his transition of blue states into red. The map of peril. My dreams of seeing empowered, elated women across the nation high-fiving and saluting a new frontier of shattering that glass ceiling imploded, all in one night.

How could I cope with losing such a surety I had felt deep in my marrow? With that bottle of Chardonnay, of course. As tears poured from my puffy eyelids, my hand tipped to pour from an endless glass of bitter, chilled grapes.

Moms, do you know that feeling you get when you take that first sip? You know the one. It’s like a warm hug that digs into your bones until you’re numb from the inside out. It’s that feeling you need when everything around you feels a little misplaced. Well that warm feeling of oblivion is not what I felt in November of 2016. It hastened the dread. Each sip was me admitting that I didn’t have all the answers. That nothing is certain. Not even the things we hold most dear.

I know you’ve been there, too. You have the battle scars of carrying that world on your shoulders, and you just need that little pick-me-up to put down all those cares that life throws at you. You may have wondered how much you can drink before you “become an alcoholic.” Friends, I don’t have the answers for you. But today, I am in a better place. Not because the world has righted itself, but because I realized I cannot right the world.

There is so much in this life to worry about…to do…to stress over. And sometimes it can feel like you’re held over a wine barrel. But don’t drink those bitter grapes. When alcohol becomes an escape rather than an enhancer to your day, you may want to consider a nice hike instead. Or if you’re like me, a nice little article to let out all those feelings with your friends.

Cheers to navigating this mom life together. You’ve got this.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!

My Cup Runneth Over – Draining the Mom Guilt

Spoiler Alert: You may not like me after reading this, but I’m okay with that.

Hello, it’s me again. You remember me, right? You’ve seen my daily posts on Facebook and Instagram. You know the posts of me showing you all how to live life to the fullest, working mom style.

Today I just managed to make a 7:30 meeting regarding economic development AFTER rousing my five-year-old daughter, Adele, from bed and getting her dressed into somewhat decent attire (that means her clothes passed the sniff test, but I still couldn’t get the black sharpie off her face from the previous evening when she decided to draw Harry Potter’s lightning scar across her forehead).

We arrived at the school drop-off line one minute before the dreaded walk of shame to the office to get a tardy slip. Of course, we only made it because I asked her to jump out before I completely stopped, causing the crossguard to have a minor myocardial infarction.

Her rush to the school door would have been a full-on sprint, had it not been for her calm and calculated balance of the metal pot I put on her head for Johnny Appleseed day. See, I totally forgot she was supposed to dress up for this enigmatic, larger-than-life character. I had only noticed the reminder sheet this morning amidst the burgeoning pages of field trip forms, cookie dough order packets, hearing and vision test results, and PTO meeting notices brimming from her Kindergarten notebook.  

So this morning Adele got a pot on her head. Too small, I might add, and she was running down the path to get to school with a half-eaten apple in her hand. Oh yes, the apple part. It would have been a full apple had I known that bruised fruit was our only savior from the God-awful metal contraption unruly bobbing on her noggin. I wish she didn’t like apples for breakfast, at least this particular morning. Don’t take another bite!” I shrieked with urgency as she nibbled her way to the core before entering the classroom. At least the pot on her head was a good disposal container for the apple core once it finally slipped off her head and clanked across the lime-green linoleum.

So where was I? Oh, yes. #killingitmomstyle.

And did I mention I work, like for a living? Girl, do I work. I get paid, too. I am what they call a “working mom.” Obviously, if I told you I’m just a mom with unmanageable expectations of myself, that wouldn’t carry as much weight, would it?  Obviously, these moms who are just moms need more to do to fill up all that spare time they have lying around. They need to earn their keep. They need to bring home that bacon, unwrap it, fry it til it’s golden brown, ensure the kids and spouse have had their fair share, clean up the mess, and put that bacon away for tomorrow. Anything less and you’re just proving all those working dads out there that we belong in the kitchen, and well, who wants to deal with another mess?

Sidenote, I took a call today from a close friend who was convinced her husband would learn that socks are better left inside the laundry basket rather than beside it. Poor girl. Mine at least lets his two-day cultured, jersey knits touch the rim of the receptacle. #proudwife #tooblessedtobestressed

Three meetings into my day, I made sure to break for a little post-promo on social media from a big event I attended last year. #memories. And you know me. I had to include a photo or two of myself to prove I was in on the fun (but not too many selfies. I can’t come across vain). I’ll just post the one of me splattered among the smiles. I think that one photo captures all you need to see. But girl, I AM ON in this pic. That dress is smokin’ and those elbows have been rubbed down to the nubs from all those exhilarating convos with people you may have read about in Business Alabama magazine or seen on the Today Show (Did I ever tell you I hung out with Jenna Bush Hager? She even let me hold her lipstick bag when she went to the loo).

I saw that you commented on my post about how you wished you were there. “How do you do it all, Chelsea?” “You’re truly a one-woman spokesperson for the Shoals.” “I wish I had your job.” “I wish I could do that.” “I wish I could be more like you.” “You make my life feel so small, sometimes.”

But here’s the thing. You know that photo? It was taken the same day I locked myself in my office and dry heaved on the floor. It was a day very much like my debacle of a morning in the car line at school. That event was held on the same week I went to the doctor with chest pains and trouble breathing. He told me there was nothing physically wrong with me. It must have been bad indigestion from eating all those over-priced hors d’oeuvres at that last soiree.

Nevertheless, that same week, like many to follow, I medicated myself out of fear from drowning. I downed wine like a working mom should, because we deserve it after a long day, right? After all, that’s what they tell us makes it all go away. And it does, girl. I drank until I was numb. Until I was able to see myself how you all see me. You know, over-brimming with put-togetherness.

Here’s what that cup is really filled with. I am a mom who loves her daughter with every fiber of her soul, and I still feel it isn’t enough. I am a wife who remembers special occasions, holds her husband’s hand, tells him her dreams and asks to share his own, and it’s still not enough. I work in a position where I am seen as the community’s advocate and best friend to all I encounter, and yet I’m pained by the one friend I failed to acknowledge in a crowded room. My cup is filled with one long laundry list of things unfinished, including the laundry. I am constantly striving to be the Johnny Appleseed who spread the fruits of his labor across these United States, but I am oftentimes just the one balancing an ever shifting, heavy object on my head, bound to hit the floor at any moment.  

I know this must come as a shocker to you, and I admit, it took a long time for me to call that wild-eyed adventure girl a sham. But let’s be real. I’m not doing you any favors. I am starting the journey now to drain the bullshit. The mom guilt. The one last thing. The should have dones. The wish I didn’ts. The now whats. I’m emptying my cup of dregs of someone else’s life, and filling it with just enough. Enough. Isn’t that refreshing?

Moms out there, won’t you join me in feeling enough? I know with a lot of self-love, we can get there. One day, we can sweep what’s still left to do and those unattainable goals under that dusty, unkempt rug of ours. And we won’t touch it tomorrow, or even the next day. I know what you’re thinking. Someone’s gotta clean that shit up. But it’s not us. Not today. Today, we are enough, and that’s a wonderful place to be.

Have a comment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or contact me at chelsea.kauchick@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe! You can also like my Cuprunnethover page on Facebook for blog updates stress management. Thanks for reading!