“Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.”
—Rebecca Solnit, in Hope in the Dark
I call myself a recovering perfectionist. People usually laugh when I say that, not realizing how serious I am. Perfectionism has robbed me of joy and kept me from being present in my life. I remember a chamber ensemble concert in high school, for example, when we played a challenging piece of Bach beautifully — yet afterwards I was in tears, distraught, because we hadn’t reached the soul-soaring heights of a previous concert.
When I look back on that moment now, my heart aches for my teenage self. I’ve worked hard over the years to let good enough be good enough. Sometimes, the universe forces the issue.
Recently, after enduring a couple of intense weeks, my life felt on the edge of coming apart. I knew that after writing and delivering one more sermon, I’d have a chance to come up for air. Instead, my body decided that Thursday night would be a swell time to get a sore throat, stuffy nose, achy muscles, and a loopiness that wasn’t exactly conducive to nuanced thought.
How am I going to do this?, I thought in a phlegm-stuffed panic. Friday is when I write, but I can’t even keep my head upright.
That’s when my sweetie reminded me of Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark — and took our kindergartner out for a full Saturday of activities so I could keep writing. Meanwhile, colleagues reminded me to take my human limitations seriously. Maybe I could give myself a break this time?
And so I put one word after the other, trying to weave the threads into something relatively cogent. Good enough would have to be good enough.
Every time I preach, my prayer is May I offer something they need. So afterwards, when people in the receiving line said, “That was just what I needed to hear today,” I knew my prayer had been answered. I knew I had been faithful in bringing the best I could — and it was, indeed, enough.
Spirit of Compassion, remind us that our task as humans is not perfection, but faithfulness. Help us to do all that we’re able and to remember that we’re surrounded by loved ones who can share the load. Amen and blessed be.