I’ve wanted to be closer to perfect, clung to the hope that if I persevered I might be able to keep certain parts of myself as a mother and as a professional free from the ripples of failure and imperfection. I don’t mean my newlywed version of perfect; conquering the manicured nail mountain or even the ideal of keeping the kitchen clean and the pantry perfectly stocked. I mean sending in papers to the school office without water stains or scribbles from my harried attempts to scrawl the words on our way out the door. My hope has been to one day have the wherewithal to hold my tongue when it’s politically savvy or let something pass over me like water off a duck’s back.
The thing is I am here. My one day is right now. I thought it would be different, I really thought that there would come a moment when I either grew up or slipped seamlessly into that elusive gear that lets you juggle being organized, feeling and appearing rested, and cultivating hobbies and pursuits that don’t eat into family or couple time.
Go ahead, I’ll wait while you chuckle.
So here I am smack in the middle of one day. The notes do go in to school dog-eared and I do get flushed and hurt when people do ridiculous things. I am intermittently, fashionable. Mostly I paw through sloping stacks of things in my closet that were bought without much more thought than, “Crap, I have that thing and I need a button down shirt for it.” All the hopes of living with intention seem to get lost in the haphazard race to just live.
The other day I was in what felt like the last leg of a long relay, when really it wasn’t even lunch time. I’d spent the morning having my reserves bled through a series of email he-said/she-said and other back channel machinations, it was like 7th grade all over again, but it was my livelihood and my reputation on the line, not an invite the a party. I’d been trying so hard to keep the peace and play the game. My feet ached from the shoes I’d jammed myself into as I raced out the door and much of my to-do list hinged on getting an answer from someone who’d been avoiding me. I had, up until that day, been savoring the heady triumph of an amazing experience. So much had been given to me, both in words and wonder, I wanted to hold onto it.
I looked up at the magnetic silver board above my desk—pictures of the girls cover most of it, along with a fortune cookie pearl: “Humor usually works in the moment of awkwardness,” and a crisp sheet of paper ripped from a spiral bound notebook with nothing but this:
I realized that I’d come face-to-face with my limit; as in no more. It’s no surprise that I have a limit or that I’m not perfect, but the breaking point (starting point?) was a shock. It was also massively liberating. Perfect isn’t appearance and it isn’t being organized and prepared. Whatever part of perfect that may actually be attainable is closely related to knowing that one action can undo or reinforce another.
We can let things sit.
We can let things fester.
We can take the reins.
We can choose not to play a game.
We can decide to change the rules.
We can loathe ourselves or we can acknowledge our strengths.
Perfection is in the understanding that we decide.
I am ok with water stains, wrinkly pants and sticky floors, it’s allowing myself to get stuck in the morass of other people’s ineffectiveness that I can’t do.
Forget what you used to think about perfection, spend your time being closer to true.
Wear what feels right.
Keep your word.
Rub backs, don’t stab them.