Letting Go of Perfect
A Lesson in Life
I learn something every year I live on this planet, and darn it if each of those life lessons don't have some sort of pain attached to them. Growth, my friends, is painful. After 39 (and, God willing, counting) years on this big blue marble, I've finally learned a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier.
Perfection ain't happening.
But it doesn't work that way, does it? No, no. You have to learn lessons the hard way. The slow way. God knows what he's doing. He knows you yourself have to grow before the lesson means anything to you. At this point, I've accepted He is right all of the time, and frankly, feel a little like He's rubbing it in at this point.
But it's all good. Because he is the Almighty, and I'm wrong a good half of the time.
Love. Set. Match.
I am a first born, type A extrovert who nearly cried when my 4.0 GPA in college was encroached upon. Who pointed out rule breakers with the zest of a spoiled teacher's pet when I was 7 years old. Who knew there was a right way to do everything and was sure as soon as I figured it out, I could cross things off my running to-do list and stop making mistakes for good.
For me, success meant strangling life's circumstances into submission, and coming out the other side, arms lifted into the air a la Rocky Balboa. (Rocky Balboa at the end, not when he's getting the beatdown of his life.) Those of you who have spent any respectable amount of minutes here with me on planet Earth will join me in my hindsight LOLs.
HA HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
There are two stages in life. We are either growing or we are dying. There's no in between. There is no perfectly level, linear plane on which we reside where things stay the same forever and ever, Amen. Sometimes, the things we loved more than life itself years ago aren't even a blip on our radar screen. Think of a hobby you used to spend an embarrassing amount of hours doing. Or a person you would have jumped off a bridge with if he or she asked. Or a job you swore you'd have until you retired.
You may be looking back thinking, "Whatever happened to those Garbage Pail Kid trading cards? Wonder where so-and-so is since she and I lost touch? Hey, I said I'd be in PartyLite until the day I die, yet here I am, alive and well."
(I've never been happier to be wrong about that last one.)
Letting go of perfection has meant a lot of things in a lot of ways. I'll never be the writer who plots out her books in a beautifully symmetrical spreadsheet and color codes the story into three acts. (Heaven forbid.) I did make a spreadsheet. It's for my characters' ages as they progress through the series. I have no idea if I'll use it in the future or if it's only useful now. And I know better than to say that I will. (Come to think of it, that sentence up there that starts with "I'll never be..." is a dangerous statement. I have no authority over never.)
Letting go of perfection meant there is no perfect book. There are well-edited books. There are well-written books. But no book is perfect. Moreover, if you are the special unicorn who write's the "perfect" book, someone will still complain about it. Because: people, man. That's the other thing you learn while on this planet. People have opinions and they are not the same as yours. Nor should they be. (But you learn that later. At first, all you know is people are disagreeing with you and it ticks you off.)
Letting go of perfection means I have a scrapbook with movie tickets, clothing tags, and fortunes from the inside of stale cookies glued to the pages in no particular order. They're there in a hodgepodge order on random pages rather than me using one after the next. But in the middle of that melee is something else: my life.
Life, with its rhythm: the seasons, trees blooming, and leaves falling, people being born and others taking their final breaths, is in a constant state of controlled chaos. Our job, while we're here, is to be adaptable. Because nothing stays the same for long.
Letting go of perfect also means that instead of beating everything into pulpy submission, I need to adapt to my environment. On the flip side of that coin, is the fact that we can also sometimes adapt our environments and stay the same. Ahh, don't you love when things are contradictory?
Professional organizer and author Julie Morganstern says in her book Organizing from the Inside Out, that she finds it easier to adapt her client's home around her client's habits. When one of her clients wanted a solution to shoes, coat, and keys getting thrown down by the front door, she did not tell her client, "Just put your shoes, coat, and keys away when you come in like your mother taught you."
Instead, she built a hanger and bin to hold the coat, shoes, and keys, so that the client could come in and continue tossing their goods right by the door. Hmm. That means maybe your habits aren't "bad" but your methods are. Chew on that one for a few minutes.
I read that book years ago, and still keep it on-hand for reference. That scenario sticks so solidly in my mind--the notion that, rather than waste time, energy, and effort trying to retrain myself to be "perfect," I could simply adapt my environment to my needs.
Word of warning to those of you who are like, "Peachy keen! I'll just climb into the lifeboat and let the tide carry me away!" I tried that approach for a few years. While, yes, you do end up with a lot of movement in any number of directions, you don't exactly end up closer to your goal. And if you wake up and have no idea where you are, it's kind of like starting over. Which sucks. So instead, in the process of pushing and challenging yourself, make a plan. At least know where you're going. Especially if it's in an area that is your passion.
Because passion, my friend, is what this whole thing is about.