Perfection. That unattainable goal that dangles in front of us and slips through our fingers just as we think we have a grasp on it.
It’s kept me grovelling, on my knees, reaching out like a beggar on a street. Please! Please! Let this time fit the bill!
Perfection has been my nemesis. It will either take over my actions, trying to force a flawless outcome. Or it will stop me from taking any action, because there’s too much risk of failure in the attempt.
I’ve been aware of this for awhile and so have slowly been embracing the imperfect. I’ve started to change how I live… evident by the mess in the kitchen, the garden that needs weeding, and the business that could have more of a financial cushion.
And while I thought I had put to bed my struggle with perfection 18 months ago, something’s been niggling at me since then.
Sometimes letting go of perfection feels like settling. Shouldn’t I strive for better? Shouldn’t I be working harder to get the results I know I’m capable of?
And so this tug of war between getting it right and letting it go continues on.
A week ago I opened an email that stopped me in my tracks. One of Richard Rohr’s daily meditations. They hit my inbox roughly around 7:12 am, just in time for my 2nd alarm of the day to go off (my imperfect start to my day).
I read this:
“If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially in ourselves.
A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection.”
I’ve been reading and re-reading and re-reading this over, letting it all sink in.
So basically, thinking that I bagged the ‘perfectionism’ mountain, actually isn’t the point. Declaring to the world, I’m not perfect and I’m OK with that, sure that’s a start… acknowledge and accept, right? But had I forgiven and included imperfection?
Not sure I can say I have been. I’ve still be trying to find the Override button.
So what exactly is the freedom RR is offering me?
Today my answer came in another email of his, this time at 7:15 on the dot:
“The only perfection available to us humans is the ability to include and forgive our imperfection. But the ego doesn’t want to believe that. The ego doesn’t want to surrender to its inherent brokenness and poverty. Yet the truth is, realizing your imperfection is the beginning of freedom and grace. There is such freedom in no longer pretending to be something we’re not.”
Here’s my word for that: Vulnerability.
It’s beyond ‘Hey world, I’m not perfect!’. It’s spelling that out a little bit more.
I have flaws. I make mistakes. I don’t get it right all the time. I need help. I have no clue what I’m doing sometimes. I’m the blind leading the blind. I’m giving it my best shot. Sometimes my best doesn’t reach the mark I was aiming for. Sometimes my best tires me out and so I need to take a nap. Sometimes my best is so far below the world’s standards that I ask why try in the first place.
My ego fights hard not to admit all that. My ego wants you to think I have my act together 100% of the time, (even though ‘I know’ I’m not perfect…) and the blips are only there because ‘It’s not my fault! I didn’t know better!’. Sometimes my ego likes to play the victim.
I find it’s hard for me to shake the perfection when I’m looking around me, comparing my best to someone else’s, assuming that I should be further along.
It’s even harder when pesky little fears sneak in… what if they find out? What if my best is never good enough? What if I am doomed to always get it wrong?
But that’s not the picture that got painted by Richard Rohr. What he pointed out to me is this:
I am doomed to get it wrong.
But that’s only a big deal when I can’t accept the fact that I will get it wrong.
Accept the fact that I will get it wrong? Now I can relax, stop fighting it, melt into the sweet grace that I am whole anyway.
That gives me permission to give it all my best shot AND be OK with my best is not always getting the ‘perfect’ result…. It’s going to get the perfectly imperfect result instead.
For some reason the only way I could understand this seeming contradiction was as I contemplated the existence of Black and White Cookies.
You know those cookies? They’re big and round with chocolate icing painted on one half and white icing painted on the other?
Perfection is like wanting a 100% black cookie or a 100% white cookie.
Perfectly Imperfect is saying, that the cookie is still a cookie with only half black and half white. Heck, it’s still a cookie with a 75/25 split. It’s still a cookie with jagged icing edges instead of smooth ones. It’s even still a cookie with a bite taken out of it.
And a damn good one at that.
We all have our flaws, our imperfections, and our egos that work really hard to cover them up AND want a guarantee of safety before taking any action outside the comfort zone of ‘I know I can land this one’.
Maybe it’s time to accept I’m a black and white cookie… you’re a black and white cookie…
Even with bites taken out …we’re still pretty awesome just as we are.