My Week With Shingles: Perfection is the Enemy of Good

It started with what I thought was a pulled rib muscle and some sort of bug bite. Two totally separate issues that just coincidentally happened at the same time. Then, the “bug bite” spread, and the “pulled muscle” became unbearable.

It was shingles. 

“Have you been under any extra stress lately?” the doctor asked casually as she tried to find a prescription that I could take while pregnant. I almost laughed. Who in the world hasn’t been under extra stress during the past year? But yes, I was under quite a bit of stress that I couldn’t even begin to list out for the doctor, with my difficult pandemic pregnancy smack at the top.

For the next week, I was little more than a blob on the sofa, unable to find any position that relieved the excruciating deep nerve pain. The burning and itching of the shingles’ blisters, while agonizing, paled in comparison to how much the shooting nerve pain raged. I couldn’t have “the good stuff” while pregnant, so I took the medicine available to me and tried to count my blessings as my family picked up every bit of slack.

I was advised to stay home, especially since I could barely move. My son had an allergist appointment coming up that I needed to cancel. I got online one night to cancel the appointment, and to my shock, saw that it had already come and gone. I had completely missed the appointment.

I have never missed an appointment. 

I was mortified. I had wasted this doctor’s time and had likely taken up an appointment spot that someone else could have used. I could not give myself a free pass, despite all my “get out of jail free” cards in my pocket, from shingles to pregnancy brain. I could not let it go. I had the overwhelming need to call and apologize.

But beneath the shame, there was a moment of clarity. Had anyone else told me that they missed an appointment while under these same conditions, I would have afforded them every last ounce of grace on earth… but I could not do so for myself. 

I couldn’t take my own advice.

Knowing that made me reconsider the amount of stress that had likely triggered my case of shingles, how much I demand of myself, and how little grace I give myself. It made me think about how much I encourage other mothers to rest, relax, delegate, and so on, while completely ignoring my own advice.

In the time that has passed since the worst of my case of shingles, I’ve identified lots of areas of my life in which my stress could be mitigated if I just eased up on myself a little more instead of demanding my usual level of perfection.

My kids don’t need a perfect mom or for me to be a perfect person.

Ironically, that’s what gets me sick, knocks me out of commission, and makes me unavailable to them.

I don’t have the solution yet on how to lessen my stress or revamp my whole life to be less of a perfectionist, but it’s certainly something I take into consideration now when I plan out my days and weeks. What can I let go of? What can I delegate to someone else? Where can I accept help? 

Perfection is the enemy of good.

It was meant to be one of my mantras for this year, but I had lost track of it along the way. Perfectionism and its undue stress will not make me a better mom, but it will make me a more tired, more stressed out, less joyful one.

I’m ready to practice letting go of things so that my kids can have the good mom I know I am!

Erica Tran
Erica was born and raised in Metairie and now lives in Kenner with her husband Michael, her two sons, Benjamin (3 years; truck enthusiast) and Joshua (1 year; budding foodie), and the bane of her existence, Cuddy the Fish. After graduating from UL Lafayette with a degree in advertising and landing her dream job, she left her chosen field and now works part time as an administrative assistant for a Catholic retreat movement. She spends the rest of her time at home with her boys, finding lost trucks and actively ignoring various messes. In 2019, she self-published her first book, The Sister. In the rare moments she's not working, reading and writing, or chasing her kids, she's probably sprawled on the sofa with a Coke Icee and pretending her house is cleaner than it is.

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