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Monday, July 15, 2013

thoughts on (not) being perfect

It occurred to me today as I was sewing a hem on a quilt that I am a perfectionist, in recovery, of sorts.

Hello. My name is Sara. I am a Perfectionist.

There. Now it's out.

For a long time I let the fear of the imperfect terrorize me. As a child I can remember trying to think in my head how I would draw a perfect picture of my mother. I saw my hand, in my mind, tracing each line perfectly smooth, the arch of her brow, the ear, her hairline, only to wake up the next morning and feel devastated that the actual attempt looked nothing like that drawing in my head.

Of course, I have mellowed (somewhat) as an adult.

Case in point.

More than ten years ago, before babies and such, dada and I lived with my parents for several months in between school gigs. While I was there I pieced together a quilt. Quilting is tough for a perfectionist. Especially a perfectionist that likes to GET THINGS DONE but with little patience for the tedious. It really does require perfection (and patience) to turn out right. The pieces have to fit together just so. The seams have to be the same width. I managed to get it all together, stick in a batting, and lay down a backing and then. Crap. Now I have to quilt this thing? I am never going to be able to do it just right! I choose instead to make it a tie quilt. Using yarn to secure the top and back in place. And then. Now I have to do the edging. HOW DO I DO THAT? By this point we had moved back east for school and I had no quilters to show me what was what. I bought some bias tape, thinking that was how you did it. But it would require basting and ironing and pinning. Millions of pins. Not my thing.

So the quilt sat. And sat. And sat.

A few years ago I pulled it out of a box, thinking hey, I could just fold over the edge of the backing that sticks out. So I should find (buy) the ironing board? (I don't iron. EVER) But then the millions of pins and etc.

And the quilt sat and sat and sat.

But then today. I decided it was high time baby dear have her own bed. We rearranged the tiny kids room, folded up a down mattress cover, but now, she needs a quilt. She has her own blankie (found at a the thrift store) but it's a small crib size one.

And then I remembered. The unfinished quilt.

I sat down at the machine. Folded in the hem as I sewed, tried to fold the corners into nice neat triangles (a few worked, one did not) and fifteen minutes later the quilt was done.

Why did I let this project plague me for literally A DECADE??

Fear of the imperfect.

I thank kids, and time, and a few grey hairs I suppose, for curing me of this. (I found some greys the other day. Time to buy the Sun-in. No seriously, I am going to.) Not "cure", because I certainly am not cured of it. I am able to overcome the tendency, most of the time.

Last night I sat up, after laying baby next to snoring dada, blipping all over the internet, from blog to blog, looking at all the amazing homeschooler moms out there. Reading lists of "how to do it" and "what your child should know by age six" and so on. After an hour of this downward spiral I was miserable and ready to wake up little man to quiz him, did he know the names of six birds, could he recite the story of the American Revolution by heart, OH, we need to memorize a poem in French! We only have 6 weeks until he isn't six anymore!!

Perfectionism, like a snarling beast, came out and took over. Why am I even trying to do this?? I have GOT TO DO BETTER!

But, as many in recovery, I recognized what was going on, took some valerian, and crawled into bed next to baby, hoping that tomorrow the beast would be back in its cage.

This sounds rather alarmist at this point. Keep in mind I barely slept last night. My point is coming, I promise.

Because, here is the thing, mommies. So many of us let this fear, fear of the imperfect, keep us from attempting things we want to try. This isn't just mommy culture thing, this is throughout society. I can only run a mile, why bother running at all? Or even the "expert" mentality. I don't know how to spin wool/make cheese/brew beer/fix a car/teach my kid, leave that to the experts!!

We are afraid we won't excel. So we don't even try. And its all over the place in our mommying universe. Ask the pediatrician when I should give my baby solids! Go to a craft class so someone who "knows what they are doing" can do a craft with my kids! Read a book where an expert can show me how to get my baby to sleep! Every Night! All Night Long!

We read blogs and sigh at the pretty pictures. We click through pinterest ideas and file them away on a "someday" board.

Painting with oils on canvas is another for me. It will look like crap. It will be a waste of time. I really should be doing laundry. (Yes, the oils dada got me for Mother's Day are still sitting, unopened, on a shelf.)

And here is my point. And really its the reason I started writing in this space, I just forget sometimes...




Plant a garden.

Learn how to spin wool, WITH your kid.

Write that book. And then SEND IT TO A PUBLISHER (here is looking at you Miss Sara.)

Make cheese.

Take that road trip with the kiddies piled in the back of the car. (I'd suggest investing in a portable DVD player however, HA HA HA)

Don't let the fear of the imperfect experience hold you back.

You might have a lovely day at the lake and be glad you attempted it, even though you were terrified of taking three kids to the lake by yourself. (Ahem. Sara.)

You might find out you really don't care for homemade soufflé. But you tried to make it anyway.

You might find someone who LOVES your book idea.

You might find out you don't actually WANT to be able to run a marathon.

You might find a bigger, bolder you under all that weight of the fear of the imperfect. And maybe, just maybe, that quilt with the crooked hem will lull your baby to sleep in her first big girl bed, crappy corner seams and all.


  1. Just wanted to say you lol for writing this it is sooooooo true of life and how i feel.sometimes most of the time I am a chilled out chilly bean.but boys sometimes the ugly monster shows it head and I struggle with what I think I am not doing right blah blah blah. Thanks to cut it shorter :-)

    1. thanks emma. its always good to know we aren't alone! :)


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