Being Perfect

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DSC00553.JPGEven when there there are no holidays looming we live in a rush-rush world. But this is the time of year when the push to the finish line is most noticeable. In the past few days out on the road I’ve seen several near misses, with drivers not paying attention, talking on cell phones, or not indicating that they want to change lanes. I’ve had two incidents lately myself with people riding my bumper. I wasn’t dawdling. I was going the speed limit. But they insisted on pushing me so that they could get to their destinations in record time. I slowed down and got off the road as soon as I safely could, probably making them angry in the process.

When I find myself joining this Speedy Multi-tasking Club, I try to stop myself and ask, “Where do you think you’re going?”  Usually the answer is simply, “I don’t know.”  All I seem to know is that I have a lot to do and the days aren’t long enough for me to accomplish it all. I become somewhat unconscious, anxious, headachie, grouchy, and resentful.

My next question is, “What on your list can be eliminated?”  That’s probably the toughest one for me since everything on my list is so hugely important and absolutely must be done. What it takes for me to see the error of my ways is to sit down with my list and really concentrate on all of things I’d planned on doing. Being a perfectionist for a good portion of my life, it’s usually about finding the best gift for a friend or relative, and making it even more perfect by finding lovely wrapping paper and ribbons to tie it all up with.

It’s about NOT being outdone.  It’s about bringing a delicious blue ribbon casserole to the pot luck dinner.  It’s about knowing more than we know, so that we can be on top of every situation, always having the best solution to everyone’s problems. And might I mention having The Last Word. It’s about NOT taking the time to appreciate how the Christmas tree spreads its lovely pine scent through the house.  It’s about eating without tasting our food, missing the juicy sweetness of the clementine we seem to swallow whole as we rush out the door to pick up one more last minute item. It’s about NOT stopping to rest when we’re about to fall over with exhaustion. It’s about being out of sync with our own body rhythms. It’s about  driving ourselves to distraction and being miserable because we don’t think we’ll be loved unless we’re perfect.

This year I’ve made a huge effort to slow down and live more simply. I almost ran off the road a few times because I wasn’t paying attention to the essentials. But luckily I caught myself before it was too late. I started being more mindful, considering what my intentions were and why. I actually stopped making lists and instead began listening to want it was I wanted to do, rather than what I absolutely had to do.  Sure, those “must dos” still exist, but by allowing myself to sit back and close my eyes as I listen to good music, I’ve actually gotten more done than I do when I pressure myself with the proverbial lists of what to do in order to be the perfect friend, wife, and mother.

How can that be? I don’t really know. What I do know is that what I thought were the most important things on my list, weren’t so important after all.  Those we spend our love and time with would prefer to be with someone who is cheerful and grounded. That fabulous piece of jewelry or the best toy in the world will not make Christmas a happy time. It is the spirit of the day and being with happy, healthy family members that will make it  memorable. Being mindful of where we are and how we feel helps slow us down making life a lot easier and free from holiday blues.

 May your holidays be filled with ease and the New Year bring you peace and joy. 


  1. This is so true, and exactly what I’ve been trying to embrace myself all year long – and will continue to do so into next year.

    A young mother I know posted a Facebook status today that was so ironic to me – she works full time and her two preschool boys are in day care, but today, her first day off for the holiday, she took them back to daycare so she could spend the day shopping for Christmas presents for them! What do you bet they would have enjoyed spending a day with mom a lot more than anything they’ll find under the tree??

  2. Joan – Indeed, it is the SPIRIT of it! May this holiday season smile gently upon you and yours, and may the New Year bring you light and joy.

  3. Brenda Neil says:

    Thanks Joan for putting into words excatly what I have been trying to do since finishing graduate school. I no longer walk fast to go somewhere, unless it is my exercise. I intentionally drive on new roads since I now have the luxury of time to explore my new living space. I am not in search of the shortest line at the market but try to find who seems to be the cheeriest cashier at that moment that may talk to me and not her friend in the next aisle. Finally, taking the time to apprecaite everything I have in my life, most importantly loving family and friends! I beautiful and healthy holiday season to you and Bill and your beloved family!

  4. Brenda, It’s so good to hear from you. It’s also good to know that you’re slowing down, enjoying, and being mindful of every precious moment. I hope you’ve had wonderful holidays, though I’m sure you must be missing Ben. Would love to catch up. Come visit.