Perfectly Imperfect

The screams hit me when I entered the store. Perfectionism! It was everywhere. From the wrinkle-reducing serums and creams, to the perfectly-placed sweater on the perfectly-made model.

A society obsessed with perfectionism, a world searching for the unblemished, the unflawed, the unreal.

I can never live up to society’s standards, a world of plastic-molded women with perfectly placed body parts, measured by a machine, created by someone I don’t even know. Magazine covers, enhanced by photographers. Ads selling products to make us perfect, like the rest.

Remove blemishes! Ward away dimples! Soften your skin! Buy it all, and you will perfect.

As if you aren’t good enough the way you are.

Clothes formed to tuck-in tummies, hair products to keep every strand in place, lip colors to erase the blandness we think exists.

As if that wasn’t enough, our attitudes, the images of who we are, are to be perfect, too. No crying, no sobbing, no telling the world what we think. This is what I was taught, this is what I believed, to be stoic was to hold grace. It isn’t true.

Ads, society, tell us, we, our homes, our lives, should be in perfectly formed arrangement. But try as we might, it never will be.

We are flawed. Blemished. But good enough the way we are.

 

This has been my year of perfectionism, the year I am learning to let go.

Perfectionism has followed me my whole life, from the time I was a little girl with perfectly placed curls around my hair, decked out in a perfect little dress over my not-so-perfect body.

I turned into a teen and spent hours in the bathroom, trying to create perfect skin, perfectly shaved legs, and perfect hair. I grew so obsessed with perfectionism, I became anorexic, fooling everyone, even my parents.

As an adult, I maintained (or tried to) the perfect home, no dust, no dirt in sight. Nothing out of place. Everything cleaned, always put away.

But the world falls apart when you aim for perfection. Because perfectionism, it doesn’t exist. You, me, the world, we are flawed. No matter what the ads say. No matter what commercials tell you. No matter the promises creams and oils and lotions place on their bottles.

Perfectionism never has, and never will, exist.

One day, I knew I needed to change. Nothing around me felt right. I didn’t like how my home didn’t stay clean, how imperfect my relationships were, and how I could never finish a writing project that felt right.

I aimed for everything to be perfect, and when it didn’t turn out that way, I became tired, anxious, and a little depressed.

I stepped back and looked at life, saw what perfectionism had done to me, and decided I could never live up to what society, or I, expected of me.

I am letting go of perfectionism, no longer wanting to be a prisoner to a perfect world that never can be. To a world that held me captive.

A funny thing happens when you let go of perfectionism. You see beauty where you never saw it before. I saw it one day in a dying rose, and another, across an elderly woman’s wrinkly skin. Beauty is there, in the scars of the wounded, and the lines across faces of the weary.

Perfectionism isn’t beauty. Beauty is imperfect. Click To Tweet

Perfectionism is not beauty. Imperfectness is where the beauty lies. In cuts and gashes, in gray and receding hair.

Remember how beautiful you are. Show the world your flaws. You are wonderful. Amazing. Perfectly imperfect. Both you, and me.

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More of Others, Less of Me

“I will make someone’s life better today.” This was a promise I made to myself a long time ago. But somewhere along the line, I forgot that promise.

I’m not sure when it happened. It may have been the brain injury, which turned me from a talkative and slightly-extroverted person into someone who thought only of herself, and didn’t, and sometimes couldn’t, communicate.

Maybe it was before that, when my life was about accumulating stuff I selfishly thought I needed. Using money just for me. Giving less to others, more to myself.

Or it could have been when my life was a flash of movement, shopping and errands, chore after chore after chore. Bumping into people without saying a word. Ignoring others, drowning out voices.

At some point, I forgot the rest of the world existed. I thought I was the only one who mattered. Self-centered. Selfish. Greedy me.

One day, in the middle of a grocery store, I was reminded what life was about, and that I was not the center of it. My reminder arrived in the form of a hunched-over elderly woman.

Her gray hair was tied in a neat little bun. Wrinkles encased her eyes like rings around a tree, each one so elegantly displayed. She was dressed in a dark linen dress, yellow and white flowers sprinkled throughout. She approached me slowly.

“I can’t find the flax. Do you know where it is?”

I wanted to tell her no, walk away, let her figure it out. I was busy with chores to do, and places to go. But when I looked in her eyes, soft, questioning, I nearly stopped breathing.

She was old, and alone. With the voice of a quiet angel, and if possible, a heart displayed on her face. Sweet. Kind. I realized then how long it had been since I’d really looked at someone.

I led her down the aisle, pulled the flax off the shelf, and set it in her cart. The truth was, I really wasn’t that busy. My chores were nearly done, and even if they hadn’t been, this life before me, this woman, was more important than me.

“Thank you,” she said, “I couldn’t have found it without you.”

I looked at her, a giant in a small frame, a woman who, in two minutes of my time, changed my life.

I may have helped her that day, but in reality, she helped me. She reminded me what life is. More of Others, Less of Me.

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Creating Laughable Moments

I grew up in a family of jokesters. Aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents, who joked and played tricks on one another. Sometimes on other people, too. Like the time my uncle Darrel and I were at the mall.

My uncle had been the victim of a factory accident, which tragically cut off two of his fingers. One day while at the mall we stopped inside the pet store. My uncle saw a little boy peering into a cage and walked over to him.

“Don’t get too close,” my uncle said, “Look what that lizard did to me.” He produced two stubby fingers, which sent a wild-eyed child running to his mom. We had a good laugh.

The prankster gene ran through the whole family, down to my little brother, who once taped the handle of a kitchen sprayer, aiming it in just the right spot, so when my mom turned the faucet on, she was soaked.

As my brother got older, even after I was married, we played jokes together. One time we buried a box with a random selection of things – paper, rock, deck of cards – and placed them in a hole in the garden where my husband was going to dig. He was very confused when he found it.

I taught my children to be pranksters. They learned quickly, once placing red Kool-Aid in the faucet, telling their dad it was rust. It’s a good thing my husband caught on to my humor, since I played more than one joke on him.

My dad wasn’t a prankster so much as a joke teller, though I often didn’t understand his jokes, perhaps because he was laughing so hard I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. His belly shook, and he sounded like one of those toy novelty boxes with that goofy, contagious laughter.

As for my mom, she was the story-teller, rambling on about her life in Sweden (which never happened, but many people believed it did), even reciting an authentic Swedish prayer.

It is from my mom that I learned the art of story-telling. It is from my whole family I learned to joke and laugh at life.

My husband and I have created our own funny moments, like the time we played restaurant when our kids were little, applying accents to our Midwestern voices, handing our children menus and serving them food. Even now, with children gone, we laugh and get silly, doing things others would probably never understand.

None of the jokes matter, none of the incidents anything special. Yet they live, forming a bond that can’t be broken, one we can never forget.

It is in those moments when we least expect it that memories live. The goofy, unexpected, laughable moments. The ties that bring us together.

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The Simple Pleasure of Non-Committing

Do you ever make one of those commitments to yourself that later you regret? You look back and wonder what you were thinking? That’s what I did at the beginning of the year, and I’m just figuring out what a stupid idea it was.

In January, I made a goal of reading one book a week, fifty-two in a year.

At first, all went well. I picked up book after book, turned pages in eager anticipation, completing one book after another.

I was excited to add to my list, a little proud of my accomplishments. But pride sometimes gets in the way of reality. Because the truth is, in all the books I read, not one stands out. I can barely remember the plots of any, let alone the titles. It seems in my eagerness to complete my goal, I was so busy looking ahead to the next book, I wasn’t enjoying where I was at. It’s like driving twenty new cars in one day, and by the end, they all blur together.

Lately, I’ve noticed something else, too. I am bored. In all the millions of books on this earth, I can’t find one I like. How is that possible?

It happened when I took a joy and turned it into a chore. When passion became a duty.

I couldn’t tell you what prompted me to attempt this lofty goal, or what I was trying to achieve. Whether to impress others, or trying to prove something to myself, I am not certain. But I can tell you this, I am no longer counting the books I am reading. It doesn’t matter.

Reading isn’t a competition.

Passions and joys should be something we hold dear. I know that now. Not everything we do in life requires a commitment. Sometimes it is in the non-committing where we find the simplest pleasures.

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A Simple Thought for the Day

Though the following advice was given to writers, it is, in fact, advice we all should take.

“The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” – -William Saroyan

I love this advice! A simple reminder in being mindful in all we do.

Live and be alive,
While you can.
Experience life,
A crisp summer morning,
The sweet, sour, and bitter of each bite of food.
Feel sand upon a beach,
Dew on your cheeks.
Memorize the details
Of everything you do.
Remember where you are.
Be mindful,
Be complete.
And when they day is over,
Sleep full and deep.
Live,
And be alive.

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