Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Imperfection

Photo by John Applebaugh

I’m having a pretty good day today. It’s funny to me how small the difference can be between a good day and a not so good day. Sometimes I just wake up feeling mostly happy and that just hangs on.

I’m a touch frustrated, though, because I don’t really know what to write. Some days I can write for hours. Other days I spend hours trying to write. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I have plenty of ideas. The problem is that I only have the ideas. I have no idea how to frame them or cushion them in any way that flows or makes sense. I think that all creative pursuits are probably like this, you start trying to create something and, then, you find yourself rolling up post-it notes into small little straws. Or whatever it is that you do. 

I’m sorry if my last few posts haven’t been as exciting, interesting, funny, or well written. I have been trying really hard, but it was, at times, physically very difficult to write. Rather like pulling something loose that did not want to give. My writing wasn’t very artful.

I am faced with a dilemma – do I wait to post anything until it is perfect, or do I do the best I can at any given time and then let the chips fall where they may?

I think that the medium I have chosen as my primary one is designed so that I throw things out there, be as honest as I can, and it go. Not everything I am going to write is going to be gold. It won’t be perfect. It won’t be perfect, but it will be done. Perfect is, after all, the enemy of done.

Photo by John Applebaugh
A lot of life is like that, I think. We can wait for the perfect moment or not put ourselves out in the world until whatever we are doing is perfect. There would be less risk that way. There would be less risk of criticism or judgment if we were to hold off doing something until it is “just so”. I think, though, that if I waited until everything was perfect, I probably wouldn’t do anything at all. I don’t know that I would ever think that anything I did, said, or thought was good enough. As I read and reread my work, for example, I virtually ALWAYS find something that I would change. Sometimes it is because I made an error, but a lot of the time it is just that, from one moment to the next, my preferences for words or phrases have changed. I start to change things back and forth and back again. I know that could continue on for eternity and I would never feel completely satisfied with it.  There would be no perfection, and there would be no post.

That is, really, why I don’t aim for perfection when I write. I aim for the best I can do at any given moment. I aim for honesty.

The simple fact is, I am not a perfect person. Not by a long shot. I make mistakes, large and small, in my day-to-day life and in my relationships. I would love it if everything I wrote and everything I did was done in the best possible way – I think that most of us would – but the truth is that I am just not that perfect. I am just me. I can only do the best that I can, and that is what I try to do.

And there it is again – the idea of trying. I don’t know that there is anyone out there who is perfect. I don’t know that anyone is ever going to be able to put out their very best work every day – or even every so often. Obtaining perfection is like chasing after a wind – it’s not something you can hold, but it’s something you can ride along with sometimes when you get lucky. Trying though, is a different animal altogether. Trying is something that we can all do every day. We can try our best and hope that, in doing so, our strain and struggle will reveal something true about ourselves or the human condition – not something perfect, but something real nonetheless.

In my head, I sometimes compare how I write with how I work out. I am not pretty when I work out. I am not the cute girl, “glowing” with perfectly coiffed hair as she glides like a gazelle. I am better compared to, say, a rhinoceros. Or maybe the Hip Hippo’s on Animaniacs (I am old, and my childhood was shaped by strange cartoons).  I do not look graceful as I work out. I look more like I am on fire than glowing. My hair immediately starts to frizz about in an Einsteinian way regardless of how I tie it back or how many “non-slip” hair bands I employ. I sweat. I am not attractive. Not at all attractive. The simple fact is, though, that I am there, doing the work and trying my best. That, ultimately, is what matters. That’s how I write, too. It isn’t always pretty, a lot of the time it is downright ugly, but I am there, doing the work, trying my hardest.
Photo by John Applebaugh

I think a lot of life is like that. So much of it is just about showing up. Being there. Trying your hardest. Doing the best you can.  Looking back, people won’t remember who looked the best at their birthday party, they’ll remember who tried to make them laugh and feel special. Professors won’t remember the person who never risked looking stupid because they never asked a question, they’ll remember the student who cared enough to try to understand even when it was hard for them. I couldn’t care less who won the latest dance and/or singing contest, but I remember the girl who danced with street musician outside of the National Zoo to have fun and make her friends laugh. These people succeed not because they waited until things were perfect, they succeeded because they kept trying.


I try. I don’t always get it just right, but I try. My life is better for it because it means that I am actually out here living my life, with all of it’s imperfections and scary workout hairdos. I think you should give it a try – I promise it will be more rewarding than waiting for perfection.



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2 comments:

Melanie said...

Love this. Love you. I am coming to a place of loving this message and needing it every day: show up, work hard, and practice joy.

JoAnne Applebaugh said...

I love you too. You're wonderful. Your best is more than enough. Your best has always blown me away. Heck, your "sorta good" is pretty extraordinary.

Just be Melanie, and you'll be perfect to me. :)

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