1. having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
2. absolute; complete (used for emphasis).
Why such an obsession with this word? Even its definition makes it seem unreachable. “Having all the required or desirable elements.” So why focus on being it? It just sets us up for failure. For myself it puts my entire self on pause, or worse stop. I am already thinking of how I cannot do something to its utmost perfection, so why even start to try? Because without trying there will never be chances of success.
I have this horrible habit of starting something with such exuberance only to let it wither away. Just look at my plants – they all have the same fate. It’s not that I stop caring, I just lose my inspiration within the frustration of the middle parts. But that is for a whole other post in the future!
When I was little my dad called me a printing press. I would zoom off art work one piece after another. I did this with that true-kid excitement. I didn’t care if it was perfect, my passion was much more important. To me the extra bits of paint were supposed to be there, even if they weren’t. It was about the expression, and the joy I knew I could spread by sharing my love of painting.
Then I grew up. I took formalized Art classes. I was surrounded by talent that I can only describe as immensely intimidating. I enjoyed what I was learning, so I tried my best not to compare, and to appreciate my own work for its own uniqueness.
It was the first time in my life where I felt rushed though. I was struggling to keep up with the Picassos, Manets, and Adams. I was far far far from that level, so any hope at catching up required a lot of time at home. I finally had a chance to shine. Our focus was Pop Art – think Andy Warhol’s Tomato Soup Can. Our project was to take something close to our hearts that was mass produced. I chose a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. I ate a lot of them at the time, and I liked the rooster, Cornelius. I spent close to sixty hours painting the replica. I was extremely confident I had finally matched the talents of my classmates. I brought it in, gleaming. I started to look around at the other projects. One gal had made the Double Bubble bubble gum, and included a Bazooka Joe Comic inside with a foam stuffed wrapper. Another guy painted a giant replica of the shaving cream his dad had used to teach him to shave. If you pressed the sprayer on the top it squirted foam! My Corn Flakes was flat. Two-dimensional. I felt deflated, as flat as my project. I had no idea how these people had time to do this! My simple project had taken me so many painstaking hours to make. Of course I had scraped and restarted half a dozen times, working towards my perfect project. I asked my cohorts how on earth they managed to make these amazing projects. The gal was pretty blunt. Basically she had thrown it together, and went in the direction it wanted to go. It wasn’t long-term perfect, but in the time frame we were given it was perfect. Of course, she was correct, and was granted a close-to-perfect 98%. I on the other hand, the one who tossed the other pieces as they were not conforming to my ideals, was given a mere 79%.
Later in life I learned that some of the best art comes from a mistake, or working with a mistake. I still find this difficult, but I forced my students to work without an eraser for many months. I watched them, frustrated by their ideas being morphed into new beings.
I am still learning this. I have started to apply it to all arenas of my life. I still paint and draw. I still get frustrated by that mind-to-paper translation fail. I still struggle with letting my ideals go to the place they want to go. I can venture to say that I have these unrealistic expectations so ingrained, that letting go is by far the most difficult aspect of my life. It’s also where a lot joy is sucked out. Since it’s not how I wanted it be, or go, I get internally pouty and shut down.
Before I was married and had my littles I was like all other single people with these bold statements “My children won’t watch TV, unless they’re sick.” or “I won’t sit around in my pjs all day.” or “I will always be that happy wife, and treat my hubby with only love.” or “All my meals will be well balanced, and my children will be adventerous eaters. I won’t be one of those that makes a second meal just for the kids.” or “I’ll still make time for Yoga everyday.” or “I’ll run my own business, and the children will learn from this.” Yes – a lot of ideals. If I were to grade myself on any of these perfections I would be failing miserably. Most days the TV is on, more for my sanity than their entertainment. I am slowly weaning all of us off of it. I end up in my pjs many days because my hubby is sleeping in our darkened room before I have a chance to go in and get dressed. Poor excuse maybe, but it is the truth. Meals are what they are – edible. I am certainly not the happy wife I wanted to be, and to fit in Yoga could possibly mean only 5 hours of sleep. I know, writing takes up a lot of precious time etc. etc. but this is my avenue to feeling better about myself. Now if I could only figure out how to type and stretch at the same time. I would like to improve these things, but I have made a promise that I won’t beat myself up for allowing my life to go where it needs to go. I don’t want every meal to be an argument, so I give in, within reason. Maybe Yoga doesn’t have to be a daily thing, or so long that it takes a whole hour. Little by little I am finding that letting go of perfection is one of my life lessons. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing what is perfect to you and standing by it, learning from it and trying again, and again.
My goal is to stop reaching for perfect all the time. There’s nothing wrong with setting your goals high, but perfect isn’t high – it’s unattainable.