Yesterday my 7-year-old daughter stood crying in her bathroom. “Why do I take so long to shower?” Who knows what goes on within an exhausted and hungry 7-year old mind? Scientists! Forget the gravitational waves, genetic sequences, circadian rhythms, cell regrowth. The real challenge is trying to understanding a child’s emotion-fueled actions. My little girl’s tirade ended with “I will never be perfect!” My “be-who-you-are, love-who-you-are” instinct went on alert instantly. I hugged my little girl and told her nobody is perfect but we must try to always be our best, do our best.
Why are we so hung up on perfection? And what is perfection by the way? Is it Tartine’s sourdough? A sunny day at the beach? Kids snug in bed at 7.30pm? Burrata from Puglia? The third Brandenburg concerto? The structure and design of a single leaf? The beauty of the Himalayas? A girls’ night out complete with a party bus? Mom’s dal? Flight sequences in films by Hayao Miyazaki? A home cooked meal shared with friends? Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album? The Harry Potter books? The silence after snowfall? A coral wall?
Inspired by my daughter I went exploring on what people had to say about perfection. I guess the most famous quote belongs to Vince Lombardi – “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Hmm… I would settle for excellence any day.
Dali was a bit more severe. He said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
Some felt perfection was in the realm of the Gods (Carolina Herrera, Michael J. Fox), some felt perfection takes time and cannot be rushed (Voltaire, Alexander Wang). Some focused on the fallacy of physical perfection (Kate Winslet, Tracee Ellis Ross, Mila Kunis).
Nobody probably knows about perfection more than Nadia Comaneci and she says she never thought of the score. If she did, she probably would have messed up. She just aimed for perfection.
I belong to the group that believes perfection is an illusion and what matters is hard work (Drake). As Margaret Atwood says, “If I waited for perfection I wouldn’t write a word. But I would like to think I worked my hardest and gave it my best.”
I recently found myself in need of some fool-proof and positive coping mechanisms in my life. Ways in which I could independently deal with the physical, emotional and spiritual after effects of an unexpected life event. I realized that I need to have more than one way of dealing with stress/sadness/loss/ or any other unwelcome negative feelings. Also, that I needed to do this myself. I may have amazing friends and family to lean on but I would have to carry the responsibility for my own recovery and wellness.
I didn’t cry even though I felt it would help me. I didn’t lash out because really there was no one and nothing to blame, sometimes life just does what it wants to do irrespective of your plans, thoughts and feelings. I was surely in denial for two whole days and acceptance came slowly but when it did I was ready with a plan to move on. Here are somethings that worked for me.
- Do a physical activity – the options are endless. Now would not be the time to try something new like learning to roller blade. Just do an activity you enjoy, something that feels normal.
- Reach out to friends and family – a phone call or a coffee with someone with whom you can be honest and vulnerable. A meetup with a friend or colleague not associated with your current situation who can help take your mind off matters and who makes you laugh.
- Do something creative – bring out that adult coloring book and pencils, bake bread, or cook chili, dance (even if it’s front of the mirror), bead or knit. Anything that connects you to your creative side. It’s all about taking the negative emotions and channeling them towards something positive.
- Pray – pray to whomever or whatever you believe in. And trust in the timing of your life.
- Allow yourself to lose control and indulge for one day – shop, watch TV, eat ice cream, open up a bottle of wine, read TMZ or People, spend hours on FB or Instagram. Know that all of these are most definitely going to make you sick in some way or another at the end of the day.
- Do small home projects – reorganize your wardrobe, clean out the storage closet, refresh bed linens, rearrange furniture. I like to take out all my pretty jewelry, reorganize it and admire my good taste.
- Make some plans for the near future – make a list of home improvements needed, imagine a future holiday, plan a dinner party or a movie night with friends, register for an online course at Udemy or edX, or Coursera. Take some form of action on long wished-for events – look up real estate if you have been wanting to move, browse job postings if you have been wanting to change jobs, look for ways to save for your retirement, or just plain find some hacks to save money.
This by no means an exhaustive list, just a few things that worked for me. Look out for the positive things that can help you deal with the uncertainty in life and the chaos it can bring.
Shit happens. On Tuesday night I was supposed to flying to Prague for a 6-day holiday with my two oldest and dearest friends. This plan, a celebration of our entrance into our 40s, had taken two years of planning and hoping. Instead of checking in for my flight, I was at the airline counter canceling my flight. My husband had to fly to Mumbai to attend to his hospitalized mother leaving no one to care for our kids, so I had to cancel my plans. As I said, shit happens.
I spent the next two days feeling out of place. It was unreal; I was supposed to be in Prague eating tredlnik and drinking pilsner beers and not packing school lunches and arguing with grumpy 7-year olds. As my friends posted pictures of their Prague experiences, I felt their restraint. My husband promised a holiday in Europe soon. But it is not the holiday or the city that is important, it is the time spent with friends. The time to make new memories and share experiences that keep decades-old friendships going. What I felt is a sense of loss. And this feeling of just plain sadness was a new experience and I needed to learn some coping mechanisms quickly. I guess this is what I have to look forward to in my 40s – acknowledging my emotions and finding healthy ways to deal with them.
When you are of a certain age, with a certain number of years of marriage under your belt, with children of a certain age, it is inevitable that a certain auntieness will creep in.
Auntieness? Some of you ask me. Some of you know exactly what I mean. Read More
I love lists. My life is oragnized in lists:
- Daily and weekly to-dos neatly categorized by topic
- Contacts (because who remembers phone numbers anymore?)
- FB friends
- Recipes that I have reviewed and want to cook
- Books I want read
- Playlists on Spotify
- “My List” on Netflix
- Travel bucket list
- Affirmations and intentions
- Wish lists
- The never-ending grocery lists
I also take great pleasure in reading a good list. I recently found a list, written by Dr. Watson describing Sherlock Holmes, that appeared in A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. Can you see the essence of their entire relationship captured in this list? Read More