Friday, August 12, 2011

Letting Go of "Perfection"

picture of the orchid in my bathroom

First of all let me preface this by saying, I'm not sure I believe in perfection. What does the word mean anyway? Let's ask Webster, shall we?


Perfection : the quality or state of being perfect: as a : freedom from fault or defect : flawlessness b : maturity c : the quality or state of being saintly
a : an exemplification of supreme excellence b : an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence

Hmmm. Flawless? Freedom from fault or defect? Saintly?! Unsurpassable excellence?! Uh whoa sounds religious to me. Prelapsarian religious to be exact. 'Prelapsarian' is a cool term I throw around to look smart on the 'ole blog here. It's a term I learned in my sophomore year British Literature class when we read Milton's "Paradise Lost" which is a reeeaaaalllly long poem about Adam & Eve eating the forbidden fruits in Paradise and thus "falling" from God's grace and therefore becoming sinful human beings with free will and somehow creating the necessity of having Jesus come around just so that he could die for us... (and some Catholics think that other religions don't make sense?) Lapse = Fall. Pre = Before. So Prelapsarian means before the fall, or before that sinful, indulgent and untrustworhy feminine impulse of Eve led her to eat the fruit. So the entire basis of our creation story has to do with a woman eating something she shouldn't have eaten? Um, how can you not have food issues if you are raised Catholic?

I'm being funny. But also I'm not. The history of the Catholic Church is wrought with guilt, shame, punishment, self-flagellation, mass genocide (what's up Spanish Inquisition?) and has a pretty awful track record when it comes to claiming that all things sexual and sensual (related to any of the senses) are "sinful" and that the female body and the female must be controlled, suppressed and made to feel ashamed. The idol of the Church is the Virgin Mother Mary who concieved without sex. So basically the woman you are supposed to look up to didn't have sex? And the woman you are supposed to blame for having caused this whole debacle ate something sweet and delicious when she wasn't supposed to? Just let that sink in for a moment.

So Mary the Virgin was "perfect," and a prelapsarian Eve was "perfect." I don't know about you but "perfect" isn't sounding like a lot of fun to me right now - or even humanly possible. One could argue that the entire definition of perfection is a little skewed. Maybe the true definition of perfection is nature itself - perfectly imperfect. The way flowers die and regrow even after a city has been bombed. The way that animals intrinsically know that when they are hurt, they need to go to a quiet and safe place to rest and be alone. The way that the tides move in and out at their own rhythm and pace. The way the seasons work, the way things die so that other things can be reborn. Perfection, to me, is the natural harmony of things and it is embodied in the natural give and take the way that the natural world balances itself out without the force of man. (ACTUALLY, man is kind of out what kills the natural balance of nature and kills nature.)

Regardless of whether perfection truly exists (because maybe we are already perfect as is, right now without changing anything?) or not, I have always tried to force myself to be "perfect" - or better yet to be like the Virgin Mary, the Prelapsarian Eve or this generally strange homogenized mixture of what I think I am supposed to be based on TV, magazines and my peers. As a little girl I would tear my shoes off if the thread line on my socks didn't match up to my toes. I would rip my pony-tail out if there were any "frumps" (also known as "bumps" by normal people.) I needed to have the right color socks. I needed everything to be tight and suction-cupped to my body. Nowadays my obsession with perfection has to do with things like my hair looking right, having the right job, making a certain amount of money, making sure my body looks like everyone else's, making sure my clothes are trendy etc. etc. etc, ad nauseaum.


My pursuit for "perfection" has been in vain because life has a way of coming in, messing things up and usually confusing the hell out of me. So what's a girl to do? There is no other choice but to let go and allow things to flow as they naturally would. The way that water flows in a container and forms to the shape of whatever it is in, so too must we allow ourselves to be molded and shaped into the life, the body and the world we are given. Or, as my favorite quote says from the book The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich,

"Why fight the joke, why rush the moment? Who the hell knows how it all turns out?"

Sometimes we have to relinquish control in order to be able to fully take life in. Sometimes we just have to trust in something deeper than ourselves and our rational, logical minds. Sometimes we have to let ourselves eat the juicy sweet fruit and NOT beat ourselves up over it. Sometimes we just have to let ourselves be - imperfections and all - and trust that we will be loved and that, in the words of T.S. Eliot, "all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."

P.S. - For more to read on letting go of perfection:

Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen (Commencement Speech for Mount Holyoke College, May 23, 1999)

P.P.S. - If this post didn't make sense or was scatter-brained, I blame it on the Nyquil I took at 3 am last night to soothe a terrible sore throat. *Note to self: Never take Nyquil 3 hours before you have to wake up - you will not wake up. You will sleep through 3 alarms, fall over while brushing your teeth, almost get hit by a car crossing the street and be out of it all day. But I'm going to post this post anyway because if I wait until it's perfect, it would never be finished. ;-)

1 comment:

Aly Debbas said...

Blame it on the nyquil haha ... they should pay you for all the endorsing you've been doing. this made sense, probably because everything you say makes sense to me, but really.. well done.