Photo of three hangers, each hanging from the otherRaised by woman who spent three years of her early adulthood preparing to be a nun, there are many things I learned to be true:

1. There’s only one right way to do many things: folding towels and cutting onions are among them. Now chances are pretty good that a couple of moms would fold towels the same way that I do, but onions? I cut them the same way every time. And I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that my mother, who lives 2,000 miles away, is cutting them the same as I am.

2. There’s a place for everything and everything should be in its place. No exceptions.

3. Floors should be mopped / vacuumed every single day. Garbage cans from every room should be emptied every single day. Bathtubs and/or showers should be thoroughly cleaned after use. And, the gunk that accumulates on the bottom of an electric skillet? It would never accumulate if you used an SOS pad every time you washed it.

4. I was an A student in school, all the way through college. (Sad, isn’t it?)

5. The clothes in my closet all face the same way and are arranged by both item and color.

As you can imagine, I could go on and on. You might also imagine that I spent my early twenties frantic to achieve this expected perfection. By the time I turned 30, I was an exhausted mother of two with an immaculate kitchen floor and three months’ worth of home-cooked meals in the freezer.

And I was miserable.

While many people think of me as well-organized and clean, those who “knew me when” have hopefully noticed the difference. I let things go. I rely more on my family for help. I try to walk away when they’re doing and fine job but not doing it the way I’d do it.

The best lesson in perfection I learned while visiting my sister in Morocco. There are those who believe that Islamic artists make deliberate errors in their work on the grounds that Only God Is Perfect. While respected authorities continue to debate the accuracy of the statement (after all what better way to defend an imperfection than to say that it was deliberate?), I have found much comfort in this theory. “It’s OK. It’s not perfect, but if it’s good enough for an Islamic artist, it’s good enough for me.”

But sometimes I just can’t help myself. I have to turn those canned food labels forward. I just have to.

3 Responses

  1. I completely relate! I have had to let a lot of things go, and realize I just couldn’t do it all without being a miserable person. For me it’s a matter of where I want to spend my energy: having an immaculately clean house or a happy life with rich relationships and wonderful memories. For me, vacuuming everyday takes time away from playing games and going to the park. And the dirt will keep 😉

  2. Oh my, you scare me!!! 🙂 My own perfectionism exists in very small and embarrassing ways. I shall not elaborate. Generally though I’m the Queen of Chaos. I hold the title with pride. 🙂

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