“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”
I read this statement one day on a poster in the front lobby of a dry-cleaning shop, of all places. It hit me like a ton of bricks. You mean, I have permission to be happy without every little thing in my life being in place? Hmm. That was a real thought provoker. So, I took it to heart and started practicing it. When I would feel the stress level rising because things felt out of my control, I just repeated this mantra in my head and let go of the idea of how things had to be.
Perfectionism is a prison. It holds us back from fully enjoying life. It whispers that if we could just be like so – have the perfect this or that, eat the perfect meal, engage in the perfect relationship or conversation – that we somehow win. It’s taken me one day at a time to try to unwind from decades of feeling the need to control every detail in my life, from my physical fitness to my marriage, to my cat not throwing up directly after feeding her. Once we can learn to loosen our grip on needing everything to go the way we think it should, life becomes much easier and more fun. It’s mastering the ability to laugh when you want to scream or cry; to see the scene as a comedy instead of a tragedy.
If you’re struggling with trying to put all the pieces together exactly so, just know that it’s not necessary to be perfect before you can enjoy life. In fact, it’s a lie that things will ever be perfect. There isn’t such a thing! If you’re a perfectionist (or a recovering one, like me) the challenge is learning to embrace and be OK with some imperfection. Stop waiting for life to be your version of perfect before you allow yourself to feel happiness.
An anecdote: I love keeping a clean and tidy home. I salivate over the perfectly staged rooms in gorgeous home magazines. I used to feel stressed if my home accessories were mismatched or out of place and desperately wanted to leave behind the days of college decor and graduate into a Pottery Barn picture-perfect home. If we were going to have people over, it would take me days to clean our already pretty clean house, just to ensure that everything was in its place. It was a huge stress-ball flurry of activity to get things organized before the event. Why did I put so much pressure on myself about this? Did I think someone would judge me for not taking out the trash, for example?
Fast forward four or so years and we’ve relocated to a different part of the state. I’ve joined up with a group that occasionally meets in members’ homes. One day, I went to an afternoon event with the group. The host’s house was immaculate! Every picture frame in place, windows cleaned, every chair was perfectly pushed in. The coffee and tea station was exactly as I would have prepared it, with selections of black, green and herbal tea, caff and decaf coffee pods, mugs and spoons and four kinds of sugar, plus two creams for whatever anyone’s taste might require. Room temperature and ice water was served. You’d think I would have died and gone to perfectionist hosting heaven! I was peeking into the future, seeing myself 30 years from now. Instead, it gut-checked me a bit.
While I dearly appreciated the effort, I realized I was just the slightest bit uncomfortable with all the perfection. I was a bit nervous that I would somehow err, knock something over or eat too loudly, or have mud on my shoes and not know it. It opened my eyes to see that having everything in place doesn’t necessarily equal a totally relaxed environment for your guests. Allowing for some quirkiness, some uniqueness says, “Hey, what the heck, I’m human, too. I might not have all my ducks in a row, or my ducks are in a different order than you might put them, but I’ve invited you to spend time with me and I offer you the best version of what I am and what I have today, in heart and home.”
Life is wonderful, with all of its quirks and unexpected twists in the road. There are so many things to be grateful for. Can you name three things in your life that bring you joy? I’m guessing “clean bathroom baseboards” didn’t make the list (close though, for me…the thought of clean baseboards does makes my heart flutter…sigh). Create space to enjoy life throughout your daily routine. Even when the laundry is waiting to be washed and folded and there’s a pile of dishes in the sink, you’re allowed to step away from it all for a few minutes to do something that reenergizes your soul.
I’m always amused at how the universe gets a message to me in the most random ways. If you keep your eyes open, the words are there when you need them, and might come from the most unlikely of places.