This I Believe

Maria - Conyers, Georgia
Entered on November 17, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in quitting.

Growing up in America, in a middle-class home in a suburban community, I was instilled with a solid work ethic. I learned the value of pulling my own weight, taking responsibility for my actions, and being dependable and reliable. I respect authority, obey rules and help others whenever I can. I am strong.

I am also weak. The perfectionism in my personality eats away my strength from the inside out. It insists on showing me all the rules I’ve broken, and all the people I’ve failed to help. It focuses on the distance between who I am and who I “should” be. But I have learned how to battle this enemy. I have learned how to quit.

When my husband left me several years ago, and my world came crashing down, I got a chance that many people don’t get. I could start my life over, from scratch, and build it however I wanted, using knowledge I didn’t have the first time around. As I surveyed the wreckage of my life, I began to see patterns, unnecessary patterns.

My life had been built on assumptions gleaned from the world around me. My goal had always been to do everything “right”. I allowed the world around me to tell me the “right” way to live. To be a good wife, I must do this, and this, and this. To be a good mother, I must do that, and that. Sitting in the dust pile at ground zero, I saw the flaw in the design. The house I had tried to build was doomed to crumble. There were no load-bearing walls, only facades, propped up by assumptions and “general wisdom”.

If I was going to rebuild, I would have to establish a firm foundation of who I truly was and throw away all the debris of who I “should be”. I spent many months clearing the property. I examined every commitment I was in, and quit all that were not compatible with my new foundation. Each commitment, in and of itself, was good and right and some were even noble. But they weakened me, because they did not fit my true design.

Once the foundation was laid, I established guidelines to screen every timber and bolt before it was allowed to be used. If it did not fit my foundation, it was unacceptable. My new house would stand. As new commitments presented themselves, they were screened and tested, and only those that passed were allowed in. Some that passed the initial screening, proved later to be unsuitable to the structure, so they were removed.

Quitting has brought me peace. I make commitments very carefully, and I fulfill them to the best of my ability. But I am no longer bound to the universal guilt of needing to do every good thing.

I do what I do, and it is good. When I’m done, I quit. And I stay whole.