This is me, at about 6:45 on Tuesday evening. I was trying (again) to do too many things at once. I wanted to run a bath, eat a snack, and take a somewhat decent picture for the perfect protest. I am (again) late for the party, having finally decided to write something about perfection after reading about it on Ali Edwards’ blog and Andrea Scher’s blog. But I didn’t know what I wanted to say, until I had to enter Ali’s giveaway and complete the following sentence: “I am too______to be perfect.”
It came to me quickly: I am too in progress to be perfect.
I have been a perfectionist for most of my adult life. You may not know it to look at me, because I turn my perfectionist eye towards a few things. For instance, I will not care if my nails are done or if my house is spotless, because they rarely are. Instead, I care whether I use “this” or “a” as an article in a final draft of a poem. I care if I do everything exactly right at work. My laundry can wait, but I will spend extra time and energy on projects that are near and dear to me.
I (wrongly) think that this is a sign of care, as in I care enough to make it perfect. But, I know deep down that I am flawed, as we are all flawed. I am incapable of making something perfect, because I am human. I am capable of making imperfect beauty and not-quite-right solutions.
I also know that my quest for perfection prevents me from completion. I recognized this on Tuesday morning as I edited my manuscript. I haven’t read this manuscript in about a year, and the work itself is five years old. I had lost some of the intimacy with the poems that I had developed while writing and editing the work. Now that I was in the middle of reading the manuscript, I was doubting whether this book was good enough to put out in the world. Is it finished yet? Is it perfect?
I know that it will never be perfect, because I made it. It contains good poems, none of which are perfect. Several of them are downright broken. But they reflect a real part of my work and my life. These poems, and this manuscript, are drafts. They are in progress. When it comes down to it, I realized instinctively when I filled in the blank that I will be forever a work in progress. And that is much better (and much more beautiful) than being perfect.