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I’m notorious for not listening. Every single day I am nudged by that tiny voice inside that says, “Hey, listen up.” So being the self-aware person that I am, I will admit that there are lots of times I turn down the volume. I’m too busy to listen. The dirty dishes are calling or the dog’s toys need picking up. I can think of lots of reasons not to listen. It’s a habit. Worse yet, I don’t even get that I’m not listening until the moment where the tiny voice get smug and says, “I told you so.”

The funniest part of all is that I generally trust my gut, but I let my head make the decisions.

Lately that little voice has been getting louder and it’s saying, “Perfectionism is overrated. Knock it off.” So being the self-aware person that I am I have to take a look at my life and respond with a “You must be kidding.”

If there is one thing that has always defined me it’s my perfectionism. And I’m not sure where it began, unless it was winning that statue of St. Jude when I was in first grade for perfect attendance and the approving smile of Sister Jude Thaddeus who I loved with all my heart. Despite her obvious disdain for astrology, I have embraced the Virgo in me and knit that little bit of craziness into my very cells.

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Unable to cope with mediocrity, I played only sports in which I excelled and indulged in The Arts. I was good at The Arts. I could write a decent poem, handle a calligraphy pen with grace and sketch a better-than-average still life.

In the midst of a failing marriage I didn’t fall apart. If I couldn’t have a perfect marriage I would have a perfect divorce. I handled my depression with grace and was a textbook example illustrating with perfection the stages of grief. Then I came out the other side with another chance at perfect.

Eight years and one second husband later, I have a great six year old who has embraced – to my absolute horror – perfectionism.

I feel his pain when he slips up. A crayon that misbehaves is cause for starting over. A spot of chocolate that landed on a white shirt on a Saturday afternoon is not acceptable. And a pair of boots forgotten at school the night before a snowstorm – a crisis. I know this pain.

He has become the tiny voice that shouts at me every single day and this time I’m listening.

I don’t quite know how to get there, but I have a plan and it starts with accepting that my view of perfection is imperfect. Perfect isn’t being the best, being right, knowing the answers, cleaning up all the dog toys before bedtime. Perfect is the attitude that life, with all its incomplete projects and dirty dishes and temper tantrums and cold weather in April, is perfect just as it is. There is beauty and goodness in laughing at our imperfect wonderful lives and knowing that we wouldn’t have them any other way.

 

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