Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Dark Eye of Perfection

I used to think that being a perfectionist was a good thing.  But nearly thirty years into my life – I've come to realize it isn't at all the thing I thought it to be.

As a child, I was often called “conscientious” by my teachers.  In fact, every teacher I can remember noted that on my report card from elementary school on.  I never really knew the meaning of the word until I finally looked it up in high school.  It basically means wanting to do what's right, and doing one's best.  The word certainly sums me up.  It might seem that such a description would bring one the satisfaction of knowing that others notice their drive for things to be right, to be just so, to be perfect.  My perfectionistic personality served me well through school and into the workforce, setting me apart from my peers who could complete papers and projects and not concern themselves with minor defects and flaws.  The things they so easily dismissed were the same things that crippled me.  I could never turn in something I knew wasn't perfect.  I just couldn't.

Becoming a parent has cast a dark shadow onto my need for perfection.  I see now how foolish the strive for perfection truly is.  It hurts to know that the core of who I am is what – in the end – tears my soul into pieces day by day.  You see, just because I know that perfection is unattainable doesn't make it any less my aim.  My heart knows better.  My heart says let it go.  My mind refuses.  My mind allows the ticks of real life to shatter my perception of what my life should look like.  The blocks scattered about the floor, the crayon marks on the walls, the smeared food on the table.  For some parents, most I think, those things represent a well-loved, lived-in, happy home.  For me, those things highlight my failures.  Every little out-of-place trinket reinforces the fact that I don't have it all under control, that I don't have anything under control at all.  I follow behind my children, cleaning up the path of destruction they leave like they are little tornadoes destroying my beautiful town, when I should be dancing in the storm along with them.

This might sound silly or superficial.  You'd probably tell me to get over it, get over myself.  I wish I could.  I beg myself all day long to just let go.  Just let go.  Let the mess happen.  Let the dishes pile up.  Let the laundry sit-in-wait.  Let it be.  It's not an easy thing to do.

My heart longs to see the beauty in the mess.  To accept that life is not a series of perfectly posed photos.  It is deep valleys and majestic peaks, and without the valleys, we wouldn't even notice the peaks.  Life is full of messy, unexpected, fragile, blissfully imperfect moments of madness.  And in that bounty is where the true majesty resides.

Perfection steals away reality.  It dulls the beauty that imperfection creates.  It hides me from the people who need to see me in all my shades.  I'm neurotic, obsessive, verging on manic at times.  Other days I'm light as a feather, free, open, relaxed.  I'm both sides of a mixed metal coin – when I let my authentic self shine through.

The desire for perfection haunts me.  It doesn't serve me or those I love.  It imprisons me – a demon that dances in my soul, darkening the light of my glorious life.  It's the root of my frustrations, my sadness, and my disappointments.

Perfection never allows me to fumble – but it also never releases me to fly.  I need to see both sides.  To relish in the darkness while anticipating the light – for it is in that place of twilight that my eyes see the beauty in the landscape of my life.

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