“Present Over Perfect” Needs to Be Our Mantra Right Now

I hardly recognize life right now, do you?

Empty school playgrounds, empty shopping centers, empty stadiums, empty college campuses, and even empty toilet paper shelves are our new normal, and this upside down world that now has 40-somethings yelling at their boomer parents to not go out, has me completely flummoxed. 

Also, what day is it?

I’m going to give myself and my family the grace we need now. (Twenty20 @Pinningnarwhals)

Approximately two weeks ago when the situation in Italy became achingly worse by the second, and the United States braced itself for this virus to shed itself right here on the shores of the land of the free, we all genuinely had no idea how the everyday freedoms we take for granted would be robbed from us. At first our hubris got the best of us, and we assumed that school would be out for maybe a week at most, we’d all be working from home for a few days (and honestly, that seemed like a welcome mini-vacation), and our community’s businesses and restaurants would remain open and running, with little disruption to everyday life. 

The reality and shock of what has actually transpired over the last few weeks is still mentally hard to grasp let alone process, and I know there are millions of Americans who woke up today probably unsure what day of the week it is. It’s like we’re stuck in some quasi dystopian novel, yet we have no idea how long the chapters are, nor have we, or even the experts, been able to fully figure out the enemy. 

With all that being said, and with all these newfound layers of mental, emotional, financial, and even physical stress making itself right at home in well, our homes, leave it to social media to somehow make us feel worse with its constant barrage of stay-at-home dos and dont’s. I’m not talking about the CDC’s  (or state, local, or federal) recommendations, I’m talking about all the other recommendations and expectations about everything else we’re supposed to be doing during an unprecedented pandemic, the likes of which none of us in our lifetime have ever experienced before. 

When we knew our kids would not return to school

The first day it became evident that our kids would not be returning to school, floods of “How to Homeschool” articles came rushing into our newsfeeds. Within minutes appeared more educational resources and “To-do School Right” lists than a parent would ever be able to complete in an entire school year. Then when most jobs began to transition to work from home and employees had to learn new technologies, all the “How to Successfully Teach Your Kid Pre-calculus,” and “Productivity Strategies When Working at Home” articles came rushing in.

Finally, once people came to grips with the fact they needed to be full time at home parents and teachers, while also remaining employed at their real jobs, restaurants closed and grocery stores began running out of food. And then to top it all off, college kids (and their giant appetites) returned home. Congratulations, you’re now a chef, too. 

I have run several marathons, and I can tell you with complete conviction that this new normal we’re living feels absolutely like a marathon, and that means we’re all going to hit something runners call, “The Wall.” It’s when you want to quit, and you have to use every brain cell you have left to chant a mantra to yourself just to stay upright and moving forward. 

Folks, I hit the wall a few days ago, and all the pressures I’ve felt about doing all the things– the homeschooling, working, cooking, taking care of neighbors, taking care of spouse, checking on aging parents, taking care of my family’s health and well-being, taking care of myself, finding toilet paper, and doing it all with positivity and conviction, well, it can all take a big, giant hike. 

My new mantra is Present Over Perfect

My new mantra is simple, and it’s going to give myself and my family the grace to not only survive this and come out alive, but to come out not mentally shook to the core.

And that mantra is, “Present Over Perfect.”

I will remain present in my home with my family safely around me, and right now that’s about all I can do.  We will get school done and work done, but it will be average or below average at best. We will abandon routine and perfection and happily trade it in for disarray and mayhem.

We will eat cheese-sticks for dinner at 10 p.m., watch an incessant amount of reality TV, and wear the same clothes for 36 hours at a time. We will give ourselves grace when we want to pick a fight with a spouse or kid, we will lower our standard bar of expectations on everything we’re doing, and then we will lower it some more, and then a little more. 

We will remember that this too shall pass, and ultimately there is nobody keeping a score for who does this the best. The only score we should be keeping is how healthy we can keep our fellow Americans, and since the only way to do that is to stay home, than we will excel at just that, being PRESENT at HOME, nor PERFECT. 

Now pass the remote control and the cheese-sticks, because this family has to save America right now. 

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

Read more posts by Melissa

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