Some people are perfectionists. I have never been accused of such a thing. I’m very comfortable knowing there’s no such thing as perfect. “Good enough” works for me. Cooking, cleaning, writing, even driving. Mostly doing it right? No one gets hurt from meat that cooked a bit too long or the layer of dust on my baseboards.
When my mother taught me to sew, my disinterest in perfection was a big problem. Basically it drove her crazy. Why pin every few inches? That seemed like a waste of time when I could just hold things mostly straight. How many people actually look at the seam of your flannel pajama pants anyway?
Finally my mama gave up and sent me to sewing class with a local woman. Mrs. Tibor wasn’t mean (probably). However, she wouldn’t let me touch a machine until she’d approved my pinning. It was horrible! I worked on a complex red and black silky top for orchestra performances. For weeks I struggled with the fabric, especially since my teacher wouldn’t just let me go for it. I didn’t get the smug satisfaction of learning the right way to do it either – a new year started and I stopped lessons before ever finishing.
My ever-creative mother punished me as a senior in high school by forcing me to make a quilt. It was a log cabin pattern, with endless strips that required sewing tiny pieces into larger pieces into the whole. My crime? Staying out late – very, very late – on Halloween. There was a car accident, in my defense. Two flat tires. (Really.) And extreme cold and ice and I thought we might die. In the house I grew up in, those sorts of things didn’t matter. Being late did.
I suffered through the peach and green quilt, thinking I could avoid pinning. I could eyeball two inches and use one hand to pull the corners taut without any problem. Slowly the thing grew larger and larger. By the time I was ready for borders, I realized I’d have to pin or face certain doom. I finally did it, 100 yellow headed pins along one side of the king sized quilt.
I hated that quilt. I still hate it. It sits in the bottom of my linen closet. I want to get rid of it, more than you can imagine. For a while it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Last time I got it out during a cold snap, I took a careful look at the pattern. I saw how many seams were frayed or pulled apart, letting the white batting show through. All those rushed moments, trying to progress and get done with my sewing. They’d held for a while but now the truth was showing. This giant project that had consumed so many hours was falling apart.
I’m creeping up on age 40. There are things about myself I can’t avoid any longer. I will never have arms that don’t look 20 years older than me. I will never be an astronaut or date a rock star. I just have to accept that.
I’m trying to be more honest with myself as well. I’m not a perfectionist but I could work at it a bit more. Taking time to do something right isn’t a bad thing. “Good enough” is appropriate in some situations but not all of them. I certainly don’t want my doctor doing a good enough job operating on me – even if the outcome is basically the same.
I won’t be going back and fixing my big old quilt. But I am starting a small project, llama pajamas for the kid. If I was ambitious I’d start a company and take over the world. Instead, I’ll make one lopsided pair. He’ll be happy if they are a bit misshapen. Instead I’m going to try to execute as perfectly as possible. I’ll know that I gave it my all, even if no one else does. Every time he wears them, I’ll remind myself about not taking short cuts, of the virtue of actually trying my best.