Posted in Life As I Know It

Perfect Imperfection

It may be fair to say that I have a teensy bit of a tendency to be a perfectionist. It may also be fair to say that the older I get, the more I realize what a futile situation I create for myself in striving to do things perfectly.

I have, however, found one thing I am absolutely perfect at: imperfection. I’ve got it nailed. Fall short every day? Check. Lack discipline? Check. Disappoint people? Check. Miss the mark? Check. Make mistakes? Check.

I’m all over this imperfection thing.

If I would have known how perfect I could be at imperfection when I was in my 20s and 30s, I could have saved myself a whole lot of struggle.

As life turns knowledge into wisdom, I have learned that the desire for perfection is actually quite evil. It is what undercuts effort due to fear of failure. Creative sparks die in the wind of perfection. Dreams get minimized if they seem unattainable…and minimized dreams are not dreams at all, but consolation prizes.

To be clear, I’m not embracing purposefully doing things poorly, but I am embracing the idea that fearing you might do something poorly is no reason not to try. I’ve failed a lot lately, and…I’m still here. That alone speaks to the myth of perfectionism. Perhaps perfectionism is just ego wrapped up in a pretty package.

 

No longer perfect, but still serves its purpose
No longer perfect, but still serves its purpose

 

As I think about this, I am reminded of my days on my college softball team. Now there is a lesson in embracing imperfection.

To set the scene just a bit, the transition from slow pitch to fast pitch for girls’ softball happened when I began high school. That meant that until I was a freshman, the only softball I had ever played was slow pitch. When I went to the orientation meeting for my high school team, I was so put off by the coach that I decided I didn’t even want to try out for the team…so I never learned to play fast pitch. (By the way—deciding to let the coach’s personality be the reason I didn’t try out was a stupid, short-sighted decision on my part. Ah, youth…)

Fast forward to college. Some girls from the school’s softball team were encouraging me to try out for the coming season’s team. I told them that I had no experience with fast pitch, but they said it didn’t matter—that no one would be cut from tryouts because they simply needed enough girls to form a team and let the university fulfill its Division I status. No risk in that, right? So I decided to go to tryouts…where there had to be at least one hundred girls attempting to make the team. So much for no cuts.

 

mitt

 

As long as I was there, I thought, what the heck? I’ll give it a shot. Thankfully, my old abilities came back to me, and my fielding skills were pretty tight. But next was batting…

Since tryouts were in late winter, they were indoors. This meant that the batting portion of the tryouts was a pitching machine firing out whiffle softballs…and…I crushed them. I mean…I impressed myself. Piece of cake, I thought. Maybe this fast pitch wasn’t so hard after all.

And then spring came.

My first at bat in the lovely outdoors went something like this: I stood in the batter’s box and waited for the pitcher to throw the ball…only she already had. It was so fast, I barely computed its whizzing by me. And whizzing by me. And whizzing by me. I would try to swing and be so behind the pitch it was laughable—except to my coach. He looked at me with a “please tell me you aren’t seriously this bad/how did you get on the team/there is no way I can remediate you at this point” look on his face.

I did, however, achieve perfection that season—a perfect .000 for my batting average. The coach did use me as a utility player when he needed one, but if my memory serves me correctly, I struck out every time at bat. Every. Time.

 

bat 2

 

At tryouts, I had no idea how poor of a fast pitch batter I would be. I had no idea how quickly I was barreling toward gaping imperfection. I had no idea how humbling it would be to go from a worthy player to one who pretty much accidentally made the team.

But I survived, and so did the team. And we had a whole lot of fun that season.

And I would do it all over again.

Of course, back then, I didn’t have the perspective of this lesson of imperfection. I just had the frustration of sucking at batting. But it was an important piece of the puzzle that would help me to eventually realize that I would have rather been on the team and struggled than not have been on the team at all.

Being perfect at imperfection is freeing. It takes the pressure off. It opens up possibilities because you know that if you strike out, you’ll live to play another day. And who doesn’t want to play another day?

In fact…I think a brand new game is starting…

 

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Posted in Life As I Know It

Don’t Duck, Goose!

While I was in the bathroom yesterday morning, my son came knocking with a, “Mom! What do you feed a baby goose?!” Of course, I wondered why this question was of such urgency, and he informed me that there was a baby goose in our front yard.

I’m sure most moms know the next line of this script: “I’ll be right out,” I told him.

 

purple cropped_tag

 

In the couple minutes it took me to get to the yard, our little feathered friend had moved to the next yard over—which was being mowed by big landscaper mowers. My husband pointed me in the right direction, and I could already hear the little one’s cries over the white noise of the mower.

The landscaper knew we were trying to help the little bugger who, for simplicity’s sake, I will now refer to as Gus. Gus the Goose. He wasn’t quite a baby goose, though, more like a toddler or tween (beyond “gosling”—and I don’t mean Ryan—I am not up on my goose terminology). So the landscaper scooped up Gus, who was ensnared in some tall weeds, and gently set him down on our side of the fence.

Little Gus freaked.

He cried and ran around, well—for lack of an appropriate goose cliché—like a chicken with his head cut off.

No matter how slowly we moved or sweetly we cooed to him, he wanted nothing to do with us. The trouble was, he couldn’t fly, and unless he wanted to live in our yard until that day where his wings would lift him, he needed our help.

Unlike the wonderful nature shows filled with men and women who are extremely knowledgeable about wildlife, our little group’s best instinct was to offer water and some sunflower seeds along with some calming and reassuring voices.

Shockingly, Gus did not speak English. If we approached two steps, Gus frantically waddled seventy.

Eventually he resigned himself to his panic and fear and the seeming futility of it all. He waddled to the corner of our house by the glider door, nestled down, and ducked his little beak under a row of siding.

 

Vito and Gus

 

Our dog, Vito, as you can see, offered up a welcoming committee that Gus denied.

Here he was, needing help, having people want to help him, and all he could do was poop on our deck.

After he rested a few, we planned to pick him up and put him over our fence to set him free.

Still not speaking English, Gus freaked again.

He ran to the far corner of our yard, which has a compost hill, and climbed it. It wasn’t tall enough for him to make his escape, though, and while my husband moved in to scoop him up, poor Gus just jammed his head through the hole of the chain-link fence—as if maybe if he tried hard enough, his whole body would pop through.

He pretty much looked like a tween goose in the stockade.

 

Vito close_tag

 

But while he was in his own self-imposed stocks, my husband scooped him up and set him out of our yard.

Now he had his freedom, but…what would that mean? Little Gus on his own? My son and husband jumped the fence to follow Gus and make sure he could find his way to our nearby lake.

Within minutes, they came back and shared that they hadn’t made it to the lake because on the way, there was a group of adult geese that Gus ran into. It didn’t seem like his family, they said, because the geese didn’t exactly welcome him. No, first…they pecked him. I guess there is actual meaning behind the term “pecking order”! And once they pecked him a couple of times, they let him stay.

Now, I don’t speak Goose, just like Gus didn’t know English, but I’d like to think that that was their way of saying, “You can stick with us, just know your place,” because my guys said that after that, they all just kept on waddling.

 

bird feeder_tag

 

It was time to exhale. Our little Gus had found his adoptive family, or at least picked up with a group that might show him the way back home.

After all of the excitement, I got to thinking—how many times had I, like Gus, been unable to see the helping hand extended to me? How many times had I ducked my figurative beak into a wall and hoped the problem would go away?

Gus was offered help all along—from the kind landscaper to our clumsy family—but he was too scared to be able to trust the offer. How many times and in how many ways have I been running around squawking and essentially running away from help, just like our little goose?

Someday Gus will make it to flight stage. He will be able to soar and swoop and see the world in a whole new way. I doubt that he’ll remember that before he could fly, he needed a little lift from a family of strangers…but I’d like to think that somewhere in his birdbrain he does have a little less fear and a slightly better understanding of the world around him.

Just like me.