“I hosted parties and starved my body,
Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.”
~Taylor Swift, You’re On Your Own, Kid
When the world was created, the Navajo goddess Spiderwoman emerged from the ink-blank nothingness to help humans weave a life of meaning. It is said that if you touch a dew-filled spider web just as the sun rises, allowing the dew to wet your fingers without breaking the silky strand of the gossamer maze, you shall be blessed with a life of peace.
Peace is promised, but perfection isn’t.
To this day, traditional Navajo weavers will twine a deliberate imperfection in every rug they design, a nod to the fact that perfection is only for the goddess and is not the stuff of human lives.
As a recovering perfectionist, I am enamored with the idea of peace over perfectionism. Perfectionism is a trauma response and a completely valid reaction to a world seemingly gone mad, a way for us to (seemingly) exert a sense of control.
It worked for me for many years. I studied my way into a 4.0 GPA. I exercised my body into submission (where perfect is a synonym for thin). I tackled every obstacle, from becoming a wife, then a mother, then a business owner, as a rock to roll up the mountain, Sisyphus on steroids. I gave up pasta and sleep and my insanity toward the ridiculous myth of perfection. I thought that if things looked perfect, then perhaps they would feel that way as well.
In a 1774 letter to his son, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, wrote, “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” Geez Philip. Chill out.
There are plenty of things that are worth doing poorly.
Now, there are things that I just naturally excel at.
I’m a good mom. I have been tested in ways no parenting book ever prepared me for, and I’ve shown up again and again.
I’m a really good yoga teacher. I know how to build community and help people cultivate more joy and peace in their lives.
I am a loyal, ride-or-die friend. If I choose you to be in my inner circle, there are few things I won’t do to ensure you know you’re deeply loved and cherished. I will trust you with my deepest secrets and hold yours in the vault of my heart.
But there are far more things I am just OK at, and I’m finally OK with that.
I’m a mediocre guitarist. I will probably never be more than a mediocre guitarist. But I enjoy strumming and singing, so who cares if I never master the solo on Stairway To Heaven?
I’m an apathetic cook. I probably could cook well if I gave more effort, but I am the definition of girl dinner, totally fine eating a handful of cheese and grapes straight from the fridge and calling it a meal.
I would like to think I am a great writer, but I’m pretty sure I’m barely average. Maybe that’s my imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head (I don’t have an MFA in Arts!), but maybe it’s also just courageous acceptance. I’m probably never going to be offered a publishing deal.
I’m a distracted driver (“oh my god, is that a hawk?!” she screams as she swerves into the other lane of oncoming traffic). I’m bad at math (if I am ever audited, I’m probably screwed and it’ll be completely unintentional). I’m incredibly bad at following Google Maps (what even is 900 feet?! I have consistently proven that I literally have no idea).
And it’s fine. Actually, it’s all better than fine. It’s such a relief to set down the banner of perfect. I spent far too many years striving for a bar that is simply unattainable. No matter how much we try to do things right, to plan for every imaginable outcome, most of what happens to us is out of our control. Each of us is a Navajo rug, a magic carpet that’s beautiful and messy and captivating and flawed and colorful and shabby in a myriad of ways.
I don’t want to be perfect. I just want to be peaceful. Peaceful, not perfect.