Thursday, December 26, 2013

Progress > Perfection

A big burden for a simple word.

Perfect.  A word that is capable of making me feel weak, worthless, anxious and incapable. Desiring to do things perfectly, say things well, give off that "perfect" impression is certainly one of my biggest flaws.

...I mean, who doesn't want to be the Mary Poppins of their household or social group?  --A capable, well-spoken, woman (flawless in heart, and mind, and beauty) who never uses commas or  parenthesis or ellipsis incorrectly ;) and who's "golden touch" makes everything wonderful, and lovely, and well-behaved. 

While my perfectionist ways often lead me towards doing my very best, they hinder me in so many ways. Compulsive organizing and the need to be neat, gift giving, craft projects and relationships are all often run by this strong desire for perfection. --Perfectly clean, the perfect present for so-and-so, the flawless craft project that looks professional, perfect communication.  -- Totally do-able right?  Not so much.
Whether is spurs from the need to control or some egotistical problem with the heart, I can't easily escape it.  Somewhere along the line, I started believing that the more organized, the more active, the more studious, the more crafty, the more independent I was... the more valuable I became.  While this mentality often works well in educational and career realms (with grades and promotions for hard work and long hours etc.) it doesn't help the heart much. 

I've been working on some homemade Christmas projects for family and friends over the past few weeks. It's the first time, perhaps since elementary school, that I've felt the urge to be crafty AND decided that it was worth potentially failing in order to give something that took time and energy and meant something special.

A few nights ago, while attempting to direct my noncompliant paintbrush over a canvas,  I was overwhelmed with anxiety. Disobedient paintbrush decided to flick paint beside a line that was supposed to be perfectly straight.  Immediately tears came to my eyes and my heart sank. Then my unruly hand brushed against wet paint and made little paint scuffs across my crisp white background. Noooooooo!  

I was seriously distressed. My heart fell somewhere between disappointed and devastated.  And in that brief moment, when I was contemplating lighting my canvas on fire or throwing it in the lake, I realized how utterly ridiculous that feeling was.  I wanted it to be perfect so badly that it felt like a 'loss' when it wasn't going to turn out the way I had hoped.  It wasn't because I was wanting to be world's best painter, it was because (in my mind) anything less than perfect wasn't worth giving away.

As I sat there staring at my now "mess" of a project, I thought... "If it's not going to be perfect, then it's not worth doing".


I think this same thing all. the. time. When since did gifts have to be absolutely perfect? When did friendships and conversations and meals and organizing have to be perfect for them to be "worth it"?

I don't know if anyone gets stuck in this rut as much as I do, but I assume that we all have these tendencies (especially when something is important to us).  And I just thought, seeing as it's the season of giving, that perhaps we all need a little bit of grace in this area.

I apologize in advance for those of you who will receive a canvas with a smudgy letter or to those that have to endure my less than perfect cooking or singing or not quite clean house. ;)  I'm trying to learn to put my value in the progress (and passion) and not perfection.

I'm not going to get all philosophical here today but that 'ah-ha' moment of mine really made an impact.  I already gave away a couple of things I wasn't completely satisfied with. And that's a big deal.  I've crafted and knitted and attempted things before but, until now, always gave up and threw away the things that didn't meet the mark. (aka all of them) But my mark is changing, with a lot of effort, and humility, and apologies. ;) --and not just with gift giving-- things are changing in my heart, in my values and  in my views of who I am and who I want to be.

I don't want to be known as the person who's always perfect... because I won't try anything that I won't succeed at.  I want to be know as the person that puts her heart into things even when failure is a great possibility.  Will anyone else work on this with me this year? 

  <3 Lauren