I love to
browse through thrift stores. I like looking at what people
used to own, but no longer wish to own. I can see aspects of
people's lives, things outgrown, things no longer necessary.
And every once in a while, I find a treasure.
the most important treasures that I found cost me a quarter.
It's a book called Living with a Perfectionist, and it's
one of my most dear possessions. But I haven't even read the
book, nor shall I ever. I'm not a perfectionist, and I don't
have to live with one. But there's a note on the inside
front cover of this book, and it goes like this:
Jade and Amber
offer you this book in an attempt to help you understand
what has happened between you and me, also between your
mother and me.
I read this and work on changing my misconceptions of
reality, and learn how to face and deal with anxiety and
insecurity, and the pain involved with life, it is plain
to me, had I learned this sooner your mother and I would
still be together for we loved each other very deeply, and
she stuck by me through all the injustices I could
possibly put her through. Only when my selfish
actions came to have a negative effect on your lives did
she not stand by me.
For that I will always love her
deeply; however, I have burnt the bridge to her heart,
which will always leave a dark cloud in my memory of
her. Oh, how I wanted to share the real me with her.
will never be, nor will I ever allow there to be, an
excuse for my allowing the ideal self I had created to
destroy my real self and all the happiness and beauty I
had found in your mother and yourselves. It was more
than one should expect to find in life. But at least
now I can live with and tolerate myself and most times
enjoy myself and others without keeping them at a
distance. Thus, I hope our relationships can grow
into full bloom as God intended.
love you both dearly and will always be behind you in
whatever you choose in life with open arms and heart,
the book there are passages highlighted and notes in the father's
handwriting. On a page dealing with rejection and hostility,
the father wrote this about his own life: "Extreme
rejection. Father divorced and terminated all relationships
(loved him dearly as a child). stepfather committed suicide,
his father said us kids drove him crazy. Mother's boyfriend
Harold just up and left."
wrote, on a page dealing with jealousy and resentment, "The
intense jealousy and resentment that grew as the result of my
perfectionism caused many, many cold hostile outbursts of
rage in my life, often resulting in my imprisonment."
passage of the book reads, "Being selfish means you care
enough about others to let them be responsible for themselves, so
they can be free to take better care of themselves. If you
became selfish in this way, what are some things you would do for
yourself?" To which this unknown father wrote, "work
more on my problems, and let others seek out remedies for their
problems. Take the time to read material that will help me
versus material that will make me adequate for others."
more--much more--but the point is clear already. My heart
goes out to this man who is finally taking responsibility for his
actions and for the harm that he's caused others. But my
heart also goes out to those who had to live with him. I can
imagine his wife's struggles as she tried so hard to make him see
the harm he was causing, but he refused to see. He was so
caught up in being right and doing things his way that he wouldn't
even entertain the notion that what he was doing was harming his
family. He's taking that responsibility now, but too late to
rectify the situation, and too late to spare his family the pain
that they had to go through.
understand how he could arrive at a point of hurting others
because of his horrible childhood. Anyone who can write
about a jealous ex-boyfriend breaking into the house, and his
mother ripping the man's face off with a crowbar in self-defense
was bound to grow up with emotional and mental obstacles.
This was a person who was from a very young age destined to have
problems in relationships. And he obviously had many
problems, with his wife and with his children. His actions
even harmed the children, though we can't know how.
important aspect of this book for me, though, is that this man is
turning his life around and doing his best to seek out forgiveness
and to help others to understand his actions. He's developed
a strong spirituality (some handwritten notes refer to ideas that seem to
come from AA), and he's chosen to try to learn how to have a more
positive effect on the lives of others. He no longer wants
to hurt others, and probably never wanted to--he probably never
allowed himself to admit that others were feeling pain because of
to live our lives fully, we must ask ourselves constantly just how
we're affecting others. We must look at our actions and our
words and be very honest when we try to see how we treat other
people. Are we spreading love and peace and hope, or are we
contributing to the negative in the world? Are there any
parts of ourselves that we picked up in childhood that we don't
like seeing in others, but that we practice regularly?
life, for example, I've always kept a distance between me and
others. I learned early, as a child of an alcoholic, that I
couldn't trust anyone's love for me. In my adult years, I've
definitely pushed people away from me because of the distance I've
maintained, never daring to trust that this person truly was
interested in being my friend. After all, most people have
plenty of friends--why would they need my friendship? I
continue to do this even now, even though I'm fully aware of the
problem and have worked hard to change my perspective and my
thoughts. I still shy away from people and social events,
feeling that I don't belong.
ways, I'm very much like the father who wrote the letter. I
know that even though I've hurt myself the most because of my
tendency to withdraw, I've also hurt others, never intending to do
so. And one of the most important questions that I can ask
myself is this: am I doing, even in a small way, what he did
before he learned that he needed to change if he was going to be
happy? Because if the answer is "yes," I need to
change something--not tomorrow, but now.
this man for what he wrote, and I sincerely hope that he's been
able to find peace in his life by leaving behind his perfectionism
and controlling tendencies. And I pray that the people whose
lives were made so painful by his actions have been able to put
the pain to rest and reach reconciliation. More than
anything else, I hope that they haven't adopted his early ways of
doing things--may such cycles end somewhere. I know that I'm
a richer person because this man shared his pain and hope with his
daughters, and indirectly with me.