SDL: The Cure For Perfection: My Response

A couple of days ago, my nephew, Dan, wrote a follow-up column to his very widely read post "The Disease Called 'Perfection'".  In one week, more than a quarter of a million people have viewed that page.  Yesterday, he posted a follow-up column called "The Cure for Perfection".  In it, he admitted that he could not possibly offer the balm required to heal the galaxy of sorrows and injuries that people posted on his first post.  Instead, he asked his readers to write the column for him, through the comments.  He asked for people to write what was their greatest struggle ever, what the person they are now have to say to the person they are then, and how the Perfection post affect their lives.  My abbreviated post is too long for even Intense Debate's generous allowances, so I posted my comments hear.

My Comment to The Cure for Perfection
There were 8 whole comments when I first started writing this comment yesterday morning.  I've given it a lot of thought, a lot of writing, a lot of deleting, and finally decided it's impossible to put 35 years of struggle in two paragraphs, or to leave religion out of it, since I would have never reached any of these conclusions without my faith.  However, the biggest factor in my deciding not to go into detail: this is my husband's story as much as my own, and I have to respect his right to privacy.
Engagement photo November 1979
THE STRUGGLE (In a nutshell):   
I've had lupus since I was 14.  I got married when I was 17.  My husband had just turned 19.  I gave birth to our first son when I was 19.  He was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus when he was 21.  The first 15 years of our marriage were a long string of tag-team hospitalizations, the drain of medical expenses, both of us struggling to control our disease, major surgeries for me, and the high-risk pregnancies of three sons, all bound together with under- and unemployment when my husband got kicked out of the Air Force for having diabetes.  To say we had a rocky marriage would be an understatement.  Our expectations of marriage were diametrically opposed.  Our life together was one very small, very leaky boat caught in a raging storm that never ended, with both people trying to captain the vessel and no one manning the crew.

Tidbits: A Shadow's Honor

Pierpont Durant clinging to the last vestiges of his faith and hope in the future.
So there he huddled, desperate for the cool fresh air which poured through the cracks and crevices, smelling sweet and unadulterated, free of the filth and dank of the cell.  Piper permeated his lungs with the lilac of spring and the spice of fall and some exotic scent of summer he could never quite place.  He bathed himself in the light that warmed and cleansed him and fought back the creeping blackness.   
He told himself to be a man and accept his just sentence, admit his weakness and set aside his dependency, but it was an insidious, seeping, creeping thing which leant strength to his soul and corroded the shadow’s defenses.  Despite the excruciating pain of that exquisite half-life, he despaired that he would ever conquer the addiction.

Altered state of consciousness

“A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.”     —W. H. Auden
“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.”    —Neil Gaiman
When I was writing a sequel, I knew who my characters were.  At the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, the wonderful Mr. D. is reserved, silent, and rather contemptuous of his surroundings and the people in it.  A pretty easy write-up.  All he has to do is stand around looking hunkilicious and disdainful, and shoot off a few zingers at our heroine once in a while.  And, since I was writing pretty much from her perspective, I really didn't have to do that much to change it.  (Which actor did delicious and daunting best on the screen is a topic for another day).

Even though I was writing a prequel as much as a sequel, it was pretty simple.  Little Miss Put-Upon went through her trials year after year after year, and the white knight popped in on occasion to ruffle her feathers by being the man of mystery who refused any intimate acquaintance.  He gets a few of his own scenes, but they are only snapshots, as opposed to Miss PU's live satellite feed.  Then, voila!  The next time he appears, he's all soft and gooey, giving into his lustier more tender inclinations and marrying her.  The biggest problem I had was keeping on the path.  The more I wrote, the less the love birds resembled Jane Austen's characters and became more my own.

Before I decided to abandon the sequel idea altogether, I had brought the first novel to submission stage.  The one-edit run-through I began with my brother did the dastardly deed, it died an ignominious death, and the manuscript was declared dead in the water.

The Joys of Service

"I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business."
—Michael J. Fox
Maybe it is because I spent so much time today reading the heartbreaking comments so many people have posted on Single Dad Laughing, that I feel so compelled to post today.  The button on the bottom right will send  you to Dan's amazing post, 'The Disease Called Perfection', a serious delve into the anguish caused by the pressure people put on themselves and upon others to appear as the media's contorted perception of beautiful, behave pleasantly, never feel lost or uncertain, never make mistakes, never feel anger, never doubt, never sin, never fail to meet the expectations of others or mold yourself into their misconception of you.  

As Dan so poignantly points out, lives have been lost—lives of children—because a person feels encompassed in darkness, trapped in their horrible situations, and there is no hope of that ever changing.  They feel they have betrayed God or God has betrayed them, or they have disappointed their families or shamed them or angered them or whatever overwhelming despair overcomes them, and they take their own lives because they see it as their only means of escape.  Because of the despair of imperfection in a society that demands it.

The point of Dan's post is to encourage people to stop castigating themselves that they are not the super model or the super mom or the ubber-dad or -kid they believe society demands of them; to be kinder to themselves; to know that they are not alone and that no one has experienced anything that has not been experienced by somoene else.   The perfection in which they feel surrounded is only an illusion.  That illusion distorts our vision. We see everyone else more perfect than they are, and ourselves far, far less.

In response to that blog post, readers have poured out their hearts to the great anonymous void of the internet, hoping to somehow connect with someone—anyone who will listen, receive some validation, or just get a virtual hug.  In one day, almost 500 people have shared this post with their friends via Facebook, and almost 200 have made comments on the blog, either sharing their own sorrows or attempting to uplift those who so desperately stand in need of it.

I'm going to share my own comment here, just to follow Dan's example and be real, and dig up the courage to not do it anonymously.  

There is no new thing under the sun

Didn't Shakespeare pen that?  Isn't there something somewhere in one of his plays that he uses that phrase?  I mean, after all, as Jane Austen says in Mansfield Park,
 Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is a part of an Englishman's constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them everywhere; one is intimate with him by instinct. . . . His celebrated passages are quoted by everybody; they are in half the books we open, and we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions . . .
Well, if the Bard did use it, he borrowed it from Ecclesiastes 1:9, which was penned at least a couple of thousand years before his time.  Thus, my argument that there is no such thing as original thought.

The ultimate proof of my claim: 

This is a very, very funny comedy bit about how Pachelbel's Cannon in D has permeated modern music.

This Is It

Dear Reader,

How to begin? . . . . I originally started this particular blog to explore the whole process of creating/writing a novel. I got it started, then abandoned it because I couldn't make the nifty-keen-o template I found work, and then I abandoned it. It also didn't help that I wasn't writing anything.

Originally, I set out to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. That was back in 2001. Since then, I must have written millions of words, thousands of pages, and got at least seven sequels going in my head or in various stages of rough draft or outline or notes or something. But, my great book never produced itself because a: it was tooooooooooooooooooo long; b: in was scattered and confused because I tried to build in an element of mystery to it, and c: in the beginning, I was a totally wretched writer. I read my very first draft and cringed.