Theresa, you want all your ducks in order. And you can’t quite get them. You get close, but you never get there.
He nailed it. Close, but not quite. Almost, but never there. It’s the world I live in and the way I all too often feel. I’ve managed to mold two toddlers to the same schedule while simultaneously being bothered by the imperfections in the moments of our days that don’t match up. We’re doing well, but we could be a bit better. If I could only add this piece to my closet, that potion to my beauty routine, or that commitment to my calendar. If, if, if…
Perfection has stolen so much. Mostly, it has stolen my ability to find fulfillment in the present. Instead of engaging the imperfection that makes me, my boys, my family and my days so wholly human, I fool myself into thinking I can fix me, fix them, fix all of it. Even more sad than the exhaustion and incompleteness I feel in the aftermath of that approach is the moments I miss because I was captivated by something better, something more, something that much closer to the allure of the impossible.
I’m finding even more than compelling conversations on managing upcoming transitions and preparing for new milestones what I really crave is conversation about noticing what is right now. Ironically even after all the planning, I often end up losing the future-turned-present in the name of, once again, preparing for what is just on the horizon. Because by the time “the time” rolls around, I’m already busy in body, but more so in mind, for what will be.
There has to be a middle ground. There must be a place between list and compulsion, between being blind to the future and entirely existing in it. And that’s the balance I’m attempting to strike. My personality operates as such that I don’t need to worry too much about whether I’ll spend adequate effort in ordering future affairs or working toward the next best version of whatever. That’s threaded deeply into the fabric of who I am. It’s much easier for me to pour sweat equity into improving something than it is for me to sit still in appreciation of the present in all its incompleteness. That’s the challenge though. To fully engage in now. Contrary to the lie that living somewhere in an elusive future tells, being present is the key to contentedness. Fulfillment is found nowhere but where my feet are firmly planted.
We lose, not when we imagine ourselves an improved future, but when we forsake the joy of our right-now moments for it. Inconsistent to what I always thought, perfectionists are not the dreamers, doers, visionaries or voices of our day. No, perfectionists are typically the sidelined — too scared to start for fear of impending failure, and if they happen to hop that initial hurdle, they will likely fall, never to get back up when they realize the perfect score of their lives has been compromised. I don’t want that disillusioned utopia. That’s not living.
I’ve found remaining alert, open and soft to my life’s right now stuff is harder, holier and ultimately more rewarding than my best intentions for an unblemished tomorrow. It’s more difficult to find joy in the reality of a broken present than to hope for a someday soon off. It’s harder to be present in the mess of everyday life than it is to escape to imaginary blue skies. It takes effort to stake boundaries on my thoughts and put confines on my mind. It takes an observant eye to find moments of grace amidst minutes of ordinary. But that’s the compelling case for turning the fragmented pieces of an imperfect life into a meaningful mosaic where fulfillment can be found.
So I wonder if in the wake of perfection lies more grief than growth? If so, then maybe discipline looks less like preparing for a perfect future and more like sinking fully into a less than perfect present.
Perhaps it all boils down to this. Perfection’s partner in crime is time. They steal away life faster than the second hand. Time passes too quickly and, despite its promises, perfection never comes at all. Both leave our lives untapped if we let them. I want to squeeze the last drops out of life, and there’s no other place that can happen than right here. Wherever right here has me. So it’s out of commitment for really living that I embrace imperfection. And it’s out of a deep conviction for a better life that I let go of a perfect one.