Just perfect

March 14, 2009

I used to say that I wasn’t a perfectionist, because no matter how good something was, it could always be better, so to aim for perfection was selling myself short.  Wow.  Now there’s a recipe for an ulcer. 

Perfectionism is a disease, like botulism or an aneurysm or hypothyroidism.  It infects your heart and your mind and your soul.  Recovery is rare, and difficult to treat.  Usually, shock therapy is the only cure.  Fortunately for me, I received treatment before it was too late.

Over the course of the last two years, a handful of careful practitioners provided me with the lifesaving jolts necessary to bring me back to health.  Treatment was painful and grueling, but I will always be thankful to those individuals who turned my world on its head. 

Whoever coined the phrase, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” must have undergone the same treatment regime.

Once the disease of perfectionism is put into remission, it must be treated with preventative medicine, to avoid a relapse.  A heavy dose of reality, combined with rest and constant appreciation for the little things is the only known method for staving off perfectionistic regression. 

And ultimately, the true test of a full recovery is a complete shift in the former perfectionist’s definition of ‘perfection.’  The definition is different for everyone.  Mine is ever evolving – growing as life proves to me anew each day that the world truly is a perfectly imperfect place.  Today, I define perfection this way:

Perfection is pin curls on the head of someone I love.  It’s a two-year-old’s breath on a cold window.  Perfection is crisply ironed pants, and rumpled pjs.  Perfection is fresh squeezed lemonade and hot chocolate with homemade whip cream. 

Perfection is a good book and a box of chocolates.  It is not having time to read that book because someone more important wants me to read Curious George and the Firefighters for the five-thousandth time. 

Perfection is yellow roses, and sun shining through the stained glass windows at church.  Perfection is my son’s version of Itsy Bitsy Spider. 

Perfection is pulling my hair into a pony tail at the end of a long day, and the sound of rain on the window.  Perfection is Aretha Franklin singing Amazing Grace.

It is sleeping in, and 700 thread count sheets.  It is being awakened by a two-year-old tapping on my forehead.

Perfection is laughing until I cry, and the person who told the joke that funny.  Perfection is McDonald’s french fries and chocolate milk shakes. 

Perfection is many things.  But it is not perfect.  Perfection is attained when a person finally gives up searching for perfect, and accepts that whatever is happening right now, with all its flaws and deficiencies, is what is supposed to be happening at that very moment. 

The overachiever in me will always aim to do more, be more.  But I hope if I can stay on course with my treatment plan, I will never again slip into perfectionism. 

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  I never again want to miss all the perfection around me because I’m trying so hard to be perfect.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on March 14, 2009.