Embarrassing Secrets of a Recovering Perfectionist

During my first month as a freshman at Vassar College, one of my hallmates caught me folding my dirty laundry. Yes, you read that right – I folded my dirty laundry before placing it in the collapsible navy-blue mesh hamper at the foot of my bed. It was a nervous habit that gave me a sense of control in an unfamiliar place. Of course I didn’t want anyone to know about my odd practice, so I flushed with embarrassment when my hallmate said, “Caroline, did you seriously just fold those pajamas before putting them into your hamper?” My hallmate’s tone ...
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Feeling Judged and Controlled? Question Your Inner Cruise Director

When Jonathan and I went on a cruise to Bermuda with my family several years ago, the piped-in, controlled voice of Cruise Director Carlos drove me crazy. Now, this was a lovely cruise. It was a privilege to relax and have my towels folded into animal shapes every night. However, the oft-repeated, overly-enthusiastic announcements just did not work for me. (I’m an introvert who jumps like a startled deer at the sound of a ring tone.) Several times a day, Cruise Director Carlos would blast over the loudspeakers, reading the rundown of social events with forced good cheer. After a ...
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The Only Life You Can Save.

What if the only life you can save is your own? Something happened to friends of mine this past week. I won’t go into detail, because it is not my story to tell. The short version is: People I love are being unjustly excluded. And I’m angry about it. Writing that last sentence is a big deal for me. See, for a long time I was convinced that feeling anger meant that I was a ‘bad’ person, lacking in compassion. And I wanted so much to be (and to be seen as) ‘good’. So whenever anger arose, I tried hard ...
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Set Down The Strings.

I have this counterproductive dance I do with my long-distance loved ones. Here’s how it goes: when I don’t expect to see faraway friends and family anytime soon, I’m pretty good at keeping in touch. I make calls, write cards, and send care packages. But when I do expect to see people soon – say, in the weeks just before a family vacation – I slack off. I don’t call, and I hold back from sharing. My justification for this is that I’m saving up the best discussion topics for in-person interaction. …
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