Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't Let the Perfect Get in the Way of the Good

This picture has precious little to do with the topic of my blog entry today -- it's just a quiet little reminder to vote.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program:

This morning I was privy to a conversation between Dreamy Gallery Owner and a gentleman named Tom who owns the Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park. At one point, Tom said that one of the tenets at the Heartland is, "Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good." I would like you to read that again. Go ahead -- it's good for you. I'll wait.

Perfectionism is such a dangerous obstacle in an artistic life. We pull out row after row of a knit or crochet project because there's one stitch that's not quite right. We edit and re-edit a line of a story until none of it makes sense. We erase and re-draw the shoulder of a figure drawing until the whole piece is smudged and torn. We rehearse that monologue until there's absolutely no possibility of discovery or authenticity. Perfectionism is the busywork version of procrastination. "I'm not procrastinating -- I'm working!!" Working on self-sabotage!!

When I first started crocheting in earnest, my Michael told me that when the Tibetans make rugs, they purposely put a flaw in every one because they believe that only their god is perfect. He instructed me to follow this practice in my crocheting. I continue to do this. Why? Because only God is perfect. So I stitch in a little flaw. It's liberating, it's humbling, and it allows me to happily finish projects and to avoid the frustration of constant frogging. You know what frogging is, right? It's when one is knitting or crocheting and tears out multitudes of stitches to eliminate an error. Get it? Rip it! Rip it! Stitching in an error also provides a little game for the recipient to see if they can spot the flaw.

I find my own struggle with perfectionism takes me out of the joy of the present moment. I've recently started paying attention to my tendency to veer into nostalgia for seemingly perfect moments of the past or dreaming of the potential perfection of the future when the real, important, flawed and beautiful present is where my focus should be. Lately when my mind wanders, I consciously focusing on bringing my attention back to the present. Don't get me wrong -- nostalgia and dreaming are both lovely and definitely have their place in a happy life. But it's when we miss out on the glorious fallibility of the present that we're cheating ourselves.

An example: I went camping with Dreamy Gallery Owner and three of our friends a few months ago. I cannot function without coffee in the morning, so I brought Starbucks VIA (magical instant coffee -- the only Starbucks product of which I fully approve) with me. VIA dissolves in any fluid at any temperature, so in an emergency situation I can just dump one in a bottle of water. In the morning, everyone awoke to a strong desire for coffee. Hot coffee. So Dreamy Gallery Owner rinsed out some soda cans from the night before, filled them with water, pulled up the tabs so he could fit a stick through them, and put the cans over the fire. When the water was hot, he put that stick through the tabs of the cans and pulled them off the fire. We dumped the water and the VIA into a bowl, mixed it, and put the coffee back into the soda cans. Combination coffee cup and hand warmer!! Was that a perfect way to make coffee? No, but it was the most wonderful, most memorable cup of coffee I've ever had!!

Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good. Sometimes good is good enough. I'll have more news for you on Friday. Peace, love and yarn, darlings!


  1. Am I to understand, then, that the lovely scarf you crocheted me last year has a *flaw* in it?

    *huff* *puff* *huff* *puff*


  2. The glorious fallibility of the present.....

    Yeah. Thank you for that. Imma be chewing on that one for a while.