I like to think I am a spontaneous person – laid-back, up for anything, go with the flow – and I usually am until things don’t go perfectly, then I freak out.
Sure! Let’s go on a spontaneous trip….wait, you forgot what!
Sure! I love you….wait, you don’t organize everything?
Sure! I can go….wait, I need two hours to get ready!
Sure! I’ll (fill in the blank)…wait, life isn’t perfect?
There is no denying I’m a perfectionist. When I sit down to write a blog post, I spend just as much time, maybe more, editing the content as I do writing the content. I have to make sure every word and punctuation mark is exactly where it needs to be. I have to make sure every sentiment is applicable and every sentence is worthy of existing on the page. I comb and scour and question my writing for hours before I finally hit publish.
And it’s not just my blog that I try to perfect, it’s my entire life. Perfection creeps into everything from cooking and cleaning, to work and projects, to my appearance and relationships, to my faith.
Perfection is pervasive.
I used to think perfection was actually achievable, and that ultimately, if achieved, would lead to a better life. But, I’ve realized perfection is not achievable. In fact, perfection is the most time consuming thing to never exist. Literally, perfection does not exist and, yet, I spend most of my time trying to be perfect or create perfect scenarios. And I have a feeling I’m not alone.
We all know there is a difference between excellence and perfection. The former is a result of giving your best; the latter is insanity. Still, we opt for insanity most of the time knowing full well it only leads to grief.
Recently, though, I’ve started noticing the grief. I’ve noticed that trying to make everything “just so” is actually holding me back. I keep missing the real moments because I am consumed with an illusion.
A few years ago, my fiance had an idea on a Saturday afternoon to drive to a popular destination that was about four hours from where we were living. At first, I loved the idea. It was fun and spontaneous and would get us out of the house. Once we hit the road, however, and reality set in, I was anything but excited. I found myself disgruntled for most of our day-trip. Things were turning out much less perfect than I had always dreamed they would be. I had fantasized about taking a romantic weekend trip to this destination, and my dream was met with the reality this was not that trip. This trip was inherently going to be imperfect because we hadn’t planned or prepared, and we had limited time, but I still couldn’t accept it for what it was. So, I sank into my disappointment instead of enjoying the ride. Now, I live with the regret that I ruined a perfectly good excursion all on account of my perfectionism.
When we pursue perfection, we are not living in reality. We are wide awake in a dream instead of wide awake in our real lives.
Imperfect is the good stuff, the meat on the bones, the parts we’ll never forget. Imperfect is where our children come from and where we meet our best friends and learn lessons and find our favorite spots where flowers bloom between the weeds.
Imperfect is what we long for in the late hours of the night because we are tired. We are tired of the pursuit of nothing. We are tired of the perfection that keeps us up at night, only to let us down in the morning. We are tired of the disappointment, resentment and unhappiness.
So, you and I, we aren’t going to be perfect anymore. We are going to rest in the imperfect. We are going to leave perfect in our dreams, where it belongs, and we are going to wake up and go out and pursue an imperfect life. We are going to take those day-trips without expectation, and love the people that get under our skin, and take risks, and hit publish, and “do it anyway,” and believe that our best is good enough and our worst is probably not as bad as we think.
And, some day, we are going to laugh when we realize imperfect is the closest thing to perfect after all.