Wow. Perfection. I think I could write a book about this word. But I won’t.
Somewhere along the line, the word excellence got confused with the word perfection. And that small mistake had a huge impact. Striving for excellence is attainable. We can all try to do our best. Try to excel. And our excellence is personal. It is not one-size-fits-all. Perfection, on the other hand, is usually qualified by someone else. It has no consideration for individuality. It is cookie-cutter and unattainable.
Maybe it started with teachers using the word to encourage us. ‘That’s perfect, Susie Q’. If you’re a kid, and someone tells you something is perfect, it’s hard to settle for ‘Isn’t that nice’. Then Martha Stewart came along and used that word until nothing else was acceptable. I jumped on that bandwagon happily, and thus joined the hoards of dissatisfied minions who could never match the pictures in our heads or on the glossy pages of her magazine.
I once decided that I would decorate a Thomas the Tank Engine cake for my godsons birthday. I was artistic, after all. It would be perfect. Except that the morning I was to create this masterpiece followed an evening that included a huge birthday party for a boss I had. One that included an open bar. So I was hung-over and suffering from lack of sleep. But I kept going. Mistake No.1. Should’ve just baked a nice round one with chocolate icing. Or gone to Loblaw’s. But no. My shaky hands squeezed star after star of creamy icing onto this cake. So far, so good. Then I got to Thomas’s eyes. That’s when Thomas became his evil twin Terry. I couldn’t see the humour. Couldn’t see that a one year old kid didn’t even know who Thomas was. All I could see was my failure. All I could see was the looks on the other guests faces when they looked at my cake, and saw my flaws. Like a squiggly line gave them a view into my soul. So I cried over my cake. I cried, and howled over my cake. Truth be told, I was possibly still a little drunk. My lovely, calm husband came to my rescue. Actually finished decorating evil Terry. There was just no saving those eyes. And he took that cake to my best friend’s house without me, because I couldn’t show my face after letting her down so badly. It never occurred to me that she would rather have me there than the cake. I couldn’t see past my imperfection.
I’m much older now, and oh so happy that I have learned my lesson. Martha went to jail, and I woke up. I realized that being human is messy. It’s imperfect, by its very nature. And I’m good with that. I can do that.