After an exhausting and almost manic search through an online real estate site, I turned to my husband in despair. We’re never going to find the perfect house. He wondered what was wrong with the house we currently had.
To me, everything has always been a work in progress, or something that’s on its way to something else.
Much of my free time is spent thinking about how I can perfect things: my body, my house, sometimes even my husband.
Try as I might, I can say with certainty that I’ve yet to come close to perfection in any category (other than one school report card, and it takes restraint not to turn into a wall paper for my house).
There are times in which the absurdity of it all is undeniable. Once, at a restaurant, my friend noticed that I had lost some weight and she asked me how I did it. I said, ‘oh, you know, it was one of those rare phases where I had will power. I just went with it for as long as it lasted.’
Sitting at that table I realized, oh my god, this is never going to stop. I will cycle through periods of will power, followed by pigging out, FOREVER.
If that was true then reaching my target weight would likely be a temporary state, but the obsession with it probably would not be.
Similarly, an organized house was destined to become untidy again. My husband, try as he might, would never be perfect either (although he really is quite perfect in his imperfection).
There was to be no moment in which I would exhale and say, ‘Great! Everything is as it should be; now I can think about other things’.
The closest I’ve ever come to that moment is when something terrible happens. Someone gets sick, like really sick, and my thinking comes to a grinding halt. Suddenly my pot belly does not matter. My husband is a blessing. There’s a roof over my head. I’m safe and I’m free. I vow not to be so petty. And then I slip back into it.
At a potluck brunch, hosted by a mutual friend, we met a couple who really did seem perfect…at first. They were world travelers with kids that were so easy going they were able to bring them everywhere. She had a very successful career and her homemade croissants had been folded no less than 23 times. They really seemed to have it figured out.
When we got home, we joked about them being better versions of us, but eventually our conversation evolved to noting that they had made us feel a bit uncomfortable. Actually, I couldn’t stop thinking about them — her in particular. She appeared to have it all together, but she also seemed to really need people to think that. And, at one point, her partner had walked away from my husband without even registering that they were in mid conversation.
It was like all of their energy was poured into surface things and they didn’t notice how they were making other people feel. There was an unsettling sense that they were concerned only with how people made them feel. Their veneer of perfection made them largely unrelatable — except that I could relate to the desire to present that way. More than anything I felt bad for her. And maybe for me too.
Just like in that moment out to dinner with my friend, suddenly it all just seemed so silly. Why on earth would I want to strive for perfection if perfection might alienate people and take my attention away from the things that really matter?
And no one but me cared if my house was clean enough that it looked unlived in. In fact, maybe, if anything, it made people feel uncomfortable for it to be that way.
So, it was yet another wakeup call to realize that if I actually want to live in my house, then it wouldn’t be perfect-looking all the time. The same, of course, was true for my body. If I want to really live in it – and I definitely do – then it’s going to have to show a little wear and tear too.
Maybe I was right about one thing: everything is a work in progress, but it’s a waste of time to think that the end goal is perfection. It’s a cliché, but no one’s perfect, and chasing something that you can’t catch – and might not want even if you did catch it – can only distract from what’s really important.