Recovering Perfectionist

Recovering Perfectionist

This post is related to the last one I wrote, more than two months ago now. It was about procrastination. Sure, I’ve been busy. Who isn’t? It went something like this: Finding the Words? I’ll Look for Them Later…. And that was about it.

If I go looking for the perfect words, then I might as well put it off. Indefinitely. I’ll never find them. I will also never be in perfect shape. Kagán is not a perfectly shiny boat. I do not have a tidily perfect library to write in. Most days, I don’t even come close to crossing everything off my list of things to do, which in a perfect world I would. Every day.

Perfection is unattainable. Pursuing it, I’ll fail every time. Procrastination is a reasonable response to seeking it; why push for ultimate failure? The problem is that not only do things not get done perfectly, they don’t get done at all. I know all this intellectually. But clearing the hurdle I set up for myself, in order to pursue excellence rather than perfection, well, that’s another matter.

I’ve been this way as long as I can remember being any way at all. I was the goodie-two-shoes of my family from the time I stepped into my first pair of shoes. And I wore out pair after pair chasing perfection; as a kid, to please my parents, which I did (so I was amply rewarded for the chase). And as an adult, to please myself. Except I’m never pleased enough. And this chase is awfully tiring.

When I reflect on this in a deep way, I must admit that the perfectionist part of me thinks completely unreasonable things. Like I could have kept my sweet old dog, Sandy, from dying last month if I’d been a better dog mom. Even though Sandy lived well over 15 years, overcoming laryngeal paralysis, thriving because of how well cared for and loved he was. He was happily, if wobbily, walking in the desert with me just days before his system shut down and he passed peacefully at home. Can I really think that wasn’t good enough? Can I not simply be grateful for how long and healthy and happy his life was?

Here’s one that’s even harder to admit, front and center in my heart, mind, and memory these days. Twenty-one years ago yesterday, my late husband’s plane, with his body beside it, was found in the Texas hill country after a month-long search. For years, I struggled, not only with the depth of my loss, but with a belief that if I’d somehow been a better wife that he would not have died in that accident.
.Norman and his plane

Not only do those thoughts not make sense (the convoluted logic being if I was perfect, I’d be completely in control, not only of myself, but of others and every situation), frankly, they’re absurd, and incredibly egotistical.

So, I continue to steer myself away from the dead-end path of perfectionism. My step for today – to post this essay, though it is far from perfect (for one thing, there are way too many adverbs in it). But maybe, just maybe, letting go of trying to be in control of it all, whether it’s the right word choice or comma placement, or letting those I love live, and die, as they must, will be exactly what I need to live into and learn from today. And every day.

What are your hardest lessons?