Saturday, January 1, 2011

Conscious Imperfction

*pokes head up like a groundhog*

Is it safe to come out now? Is everyone gone?

It's so strange to be writing here again after all these months. At first I just planned to be away for a few days. (Or, more likely, I didn't plan to be away at all ... just got busy with other things.) But the longer I stayed away, the harder it became to come back, until I thought maybe it'd be best just to let this go.

It's a new year, though, and I have a new idea. It came out of a conversation I was having the other day, sharing some of my pre-holiday stress that comes from wanting everything to look just right, wanting everything to be ... perfect.

My friend suggested that whenever I felt that familiar anxiety that comes from wanting things to be perfect, I could do the opposite: fly in the face of perfectionism. An image sprang to mind immediately: Instead of the scrubbed, shining holiday table, with its matching cutlery and store-bought centerpiece, always falling short of my Martha Stewart intentions ... a crazy holiday table with all mismatched plates, placemats, and silverware. The image made me giggle. It felt warm and friendly. To my surprise, I liked it.

I started to think about all of the other ways that being consciously imperfect might feel warmer, friendlier than the alternative. Which is not perfection, of course -- because perfection is impossible for us humans -- but unconscious imperfection. Striving for perfection, and falling short. That striving feels tight, like a smile when you don't mean it. Conscious imperfection feels like a belly laugh.

What does it look like in practice? I honestly have no idea. I've spent so much of my (almost) 40 years practicing unconscious imperfection, that I can barely wrap my head around what the opposite would be like. So I'm making it my mission to explore this in 2011. Maybe it's as simple as ... Messing up the dance steps in Zumba, because my way seems like more fun. Leaving the dinner dishes overnight, so I have more time to play. Hitting "publish" on a blog post before I've edited the life out of it. Ordering dessert first, eating it with my fingers, and getting the tip wrong.

Doing something--anything--instead of being paralyzed by the fear of doing the wrong thing. Knowing that I'll get it wrong, but missteps are still steps, they usually lead you somewhere you need to be, and hell: life ain't about standing still.

When I thought of blogging about this, my first impulse was that announcing my plan was a bad idea. I'm too inconsistent, I thought. I lack follow-through. Why start something (again) I might not get around to finishing? But then I thought ... Perfect!

The goal is imperfection. How can I fail?


  1. You can do it! Err... You can't do it! Um... Let's see here...

    (Oh, I can relate so thoroughly to this, Jill. I am constantly attempting to control an out-of-control life through these tiny perfections--the most deadly kind. I am not perfect. I don't have to be. I can understand this, but it's so hard to act on it.)

    One thing I'm going to try more of: laughing at myself. A lot. Because I'm hilarious. :)

  2. Sounds like a good step. When I feel stressed out by trying to get all the details right and realize I'm not enjoying what I'm doing, I try to step back and think about what's really important.

    Inevitably, what matters is love for other people. That's it. Easier said than done, of course.

  3. Hey Jill, you are an early bloomer! It has taken me 70 years to realize that I rode that old nag Perfection to hell and back when all I needed to do was climb down and just enjoy the walk. You are so right that it is much more fun this way. Here's to a new year, full of giggles, mismatched silverware and saying goodbye to Martha.