Perfection (Re)Defined

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As a scrawny, buck-toothed twelve year old, I slowly filled my piggy bank with wages earned babysitting. One of my regular gigs took me to a home where five sticky kids ate on paper plates, and the living room furniture remained in perfectly new condition, covered in plastic.

I tell you this because the other night I dreamed that the mother of my babysitting family died suddenly. I woke up panicked, Did she ever use her living room furniture?

I thought about aspects of my life that I keep perfectly new, safely shrink-wrapped.
Safe from dirty hands.
Safe from rips and tears.
Safe from jumping feet.
Safe from needing care, cleaning, repairing, and rearranging.
Safe, Perfect, and Unused.

The following excerpt comes from one of my best teachers of creativity:

“I loved the artificial flowers my mother-in-law had given me. They didn’t need water, had no aphids, would never wilt. Hating the bother of caring for real flowers, I was therefore annoyed when my husband planted rose bushes in our garden.
But finally the day came when he brought me the first bloom. Reluctantly I took the artificial roses from the vase on the television set and replaced them with the one single flower.
For three day I casually watched the red velvet rose unfold. Once, passing nearby, its delightful fragrance stopped me.
I paused–and in that moment a poignant truth overwhelmed me; something alive, something growing, evens something dying is wondrous and beautiful indeed. Instinctively, we love that which we must care for and protect; a child, an animal…a red rose that drinks from a crystal vase.”

The quest for perfection is a road of exhaustion, misery, irritability and a constant awareness of not having, doing, or being enough.

Finding perfection would be like finding the fountain of youth, once attained, you’d want to give it right back; because, after all, the appeal of youth is riddled with inexperience. And after achieving perfection, what then? I think of perfection as something frozen and unchanging, like a botoxed face. “Perfect” implies a final destination – done, complete, finito. No improvement, no growth, no change. Think of being stuck with one “perfect” hair style forever. Aaaaahhhhh. That is scary.

Let’s try on this definition of perfection from the World English Dictionary: “Perfect – having all essential elements.”

Hmmm, I like that idea. Perfect is having what is essential. So…

A perfect family might include sticky hand prints, chaotic mealtimes, and dishes left undone while dad launches sofa cushion missiles at popsicle-licking children.

A perfect gift might be the one thing you needed most – nothing at all.

The face of beauty would be carved with deep lines of experience, courage, indecision, sorrow, laughter, perseverance, emptiness, loneliness, happiness, and love – for these are essential elements for a perfect life.

One thing I know for sure, the perfection label cannot be applied to anything that does not exist, even if the model looks perfect on the magazine cover. Even if my novel reads perfectly in my head.

Something perfect must live. Perfection is a state of being.

For me the living, growing, learning, and changing processes are the essential elements. The process of perfection is more desirable than the end result.

A perfect manuscript might need all the raw, choppy, emotional words barfed up in puddles of chunky, broken sentences, faulty grammar, and horific speling.

The process of perfection connotes creation, bringing into existence something of beauty and worth that did not exist before – something that grows, changes, and needs my attention.

The perfect appearance of silk flowers pales without the scent of life. A plastic protected couch is denied its place as the family cushioner, its chance to feel a weary body slump into its pillowy softness, to prop up tired, dusty feet for a twenty minute power nap. Pinochio, tg.he perfect puppet, longed to be a real boy.

The stillness of perfection is not what we seek, but the process of gathering all the essential elements. Living. Growing. Changing. Needing.

Postscript: The rose pictured is not a random google image, but a real valentine rose given to me and captured in perfect still life photography by my J.

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