A long time ago I read Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer, and I've never forgotten a line from that book. Paraphrasing, it went something like . . .
If you expect perfection or nothing, you will get nothing every time.
I've thought of this quote so often over the years. I definitely have perfectionist tendencies. And, by the way, sometimes perfectionism is a good thing. If I need brain surgery, I sure hope my surgeon is a perfectionist! And being a perfectionist certainly was an asset in my career as a technical writer and editor. I had to be in order to spot punctuation and spellings errors. Being a perfectionist enabled me to do my job well.
But perfectionism, when applied to the daily habits of life, can be exhausting. And unnecessary.
I discovered that I wasn't doing certain chores because I didn't have time to do them perfectly. For example, the bathroom needs to be cleaned. But I don't clean it because I know I'll need X amount of time to make it perfectly spotless and shiny. I don't make my bed because I don't have time to smooth everything out, square up the corners, and bounce a coin off the top!
I think having children and homeschooling them finally put the kibosh on my ultra-perfectionism. There just wasn't time. And I do not have unlimited energy. And, being susceptible to depression, I learned the hard way that I had to go easy on myself.
And Edith Schaeffer's quote ran through my head so many times during those years that I finally started living it.
After all, it's better to spend 15 minutes in the bathroom doing some cleaning than neglecting it altogether. If I don't have two hours to scour it from top to bottom I can at least spend 15 minutes and get it 80% done.
Perfection or nothing? 80% is better than nothing, and still pretty close to pretty good.
I'm not totally over it. I love beauty and beautiful things. I like making things look pretty. It's a balancing act.
And while Pinterest and Instagram can be inspiring and provide lots of wonderful ideas, they can also put extra pressure on us to have our lives look picture perfect.
I ran into this disconnect between perfect images and reality this past week.
I've been re-learning to knit, and am making socks and fingerless gloves, and a few things beyond my small repertoire of dishcloths and simple afghans. While finishing up a glove, I tried to listen to an audio book, and missed a whole row. I finished the glove before noticing. So one glove is one row shorter than the other. It also has a slightly different pattern at the top than the other.
Now, no one would notice. Even when I put both my hands together I have to look closely to see the difference. But it was hard not to feel that I had "failed." My gloves aren't perfect.
Why had I bothered? I could have bought a pair of machine-made gloves that were perfect, and saved myself the trouble.
I made a cheesecake this past weekend. I've only made cheesecake a few times in my life. But I know that cracks are anathema to the cheesecake "police." And sure enough, my cheesecake had a major crack right across the top.
I made a homemade caramel sauce to go over it, and also some strawberry topping. It was delicious.
But I couldn't help that disappointed feeling that it wasn't "perfect." Again, why did I bother? I could have just bought a "perfect" cheesecake and had a lot less trouble.
But I had to remind myself that perfection in many things is highly overrated. My life isn't supposed to be Pinterest-perfect.
When I'm tempted to think it doesn't count because it isn't perfect or that my efforts have been wasted, I have to remind myself . . .
It's supposed to be about love and kindness and offering up the work of my hands, cheesecake cracks and knitting mistakes and imperfectly cleaned home and all.
So when it comes to perfection or nothing, I'll aim for the best I can do, and be content with that.
And . . . this will horrify you. Remember my stink bug infestation this past fall? Well, I did get rid of all the ones that I could find. But I knew that they can hide out in attic and crawl spaces during the winter, and sometimes come out on sunny days. I have dreaded that. But since Christmas I have only seen about 4 or 5 of them, and I quickly disposed of them. Okay, no big deal. I was coping.
Then last week I was going to unplug my toaster and put it back in a cupboard after my morning toast. And there, in front of my unbelieving eyes, I saw a stink bug crawl right out of my toaster!!!
I can't even . . .