Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Perfectly imperfect

This is my menorah on the last night of Hanukkah a few weeks ago. See all those pretty multi-colored candles imported from Israel? Funny thing, though, we were one menorah candle short. We didn't break any - the box simply didn't get enough. I could drive all the way to the store and demand a new box, but it's late and frankly, not worth it. I rifle through my "miscellaneous" drawer and pull out a pink swirly leftover birthday candle.'s nowhere near thick enough, but a little modeling clay does the trick. We all giggle at the sight at the odd candle, but it makes little difference when it comes to the meaning of the special evening. Crisis averted with a smile...and some invention.

My mom told me a long time ago that the Amish traditionally sew a "humble square" in every quilt - a square that serves as a reminder that only God is perfect. I see it as letting the quilter off the hook from the beginning, like hey, do your best and enjoy the process and it will be unique but never perfect so don't stress about it. The humble square is kind of like my odd swirly candle on the menorah. When I look at it that way, it's rather endearing...and humbling.

I often think about that idea when I'm undertaking a project or activity, like planning a party or even something simple like making cookies. There are no guarantees that my party guests will all have a great time or that my cookies will be good enough to serve at the White House. But, hey, who cares?!? I am not above liking nice things or having high standards, but I do know that too high of standards or expecting perfection stops me from doing things. Like it's all or nothing, and I don't want to go there. And you betcha I pass on that wisdom on to my kids, especially when they want to give up when things don't go their way. I would love to stomp my feel, throw things, and cry out of frustration when things don't turn out right, but that doesn't really fly for us grownups and I'd rather them learn a different way, too. Persistence, creativity, and laughter can go a long way.

In a few days, I'm hosting a small and casual baby shower for a girlfriend of mine (she's having baby #2). The mom-of-two-to-be is an event planner. A very talented and creative event planner extraordinaire. I've seen her work and it's good. Really good. Her Christmas tree - totally stunning. She has amazing taste and tons of passion. And I'm throwing her a shower - an "Indian themed" shower by her request. When she described it she imagined doorways draped in jewel toned imported fabric, elaborate decorations, catered food, and live dancers. Well, maybe not that fancy but I bet she was thinking something like that in her creative mind. In fact, she's actually very appreciative and I'm sure she would love anything I plan.

The thing is, I realized early on that I will never come close to her event planning skills and creativity, so why even attempt to go there? See, it's the humble square mentality at play. I'm not saying I
'm going to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with chips and punch and call it a day. But, it does feel good to just do it my way and be okay with that. I can create an Indian music station on to play during the shower, I can enlist some friends to cook homemade Indian food, light some incense, get some yummy sweets from the local Indian market, and I can invite some amazing ladies to help me and surround my expectant friend with love and a sense of womanly community. I can't think of anything better than that.

In recent years I've become much better at practicing this humbling non-perfect mentality. It's just so liberating and a much less stressful way to live. I actually enjoy the challenge of making lemonade from lemons, but if I forget and the piles lemons from my tree dry out or turn brown, then in the compost bin they go. Oh well. No sense crying over spilt milk...
(me and my mom made this quilt when I was little)

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