Wednesday, June 20

Excellence Instead of Perfection

A little over a week ago I went to a Vacation Bible School Leadership meeting at church (I am the Preschool Crafts Director). We were served a very nice dinner of bread and olive oil, Caesar salad, chicken casserole, brownies, and tea. After dinner we served each other Holy Communion. I left the meeting feeling rejuvenated, but that is not the point of this post.

Before the meeting I met with the Children's Minister and we discussed decorating the four preschool craft rooms. She said that we aren't allowed to hang anything from the ceiling, due to fire codes. That comment triggered a memory that I shared with her.

In March 1982, my kindergarten year, our class made umbrellas cutouts from old wallpaper samples. I remember being amazed by the huge books full of florals, stripes, and plaids. I don't remember exactly what color I picked out, but I do remember that is was a hideous floral circa some time in the 1970's. I liked it!

The teacher's aid (her name escapes me) cut out the profile of an umbrella on two sheets of wallpaper. I was to glue the two together. Then a hole would be punched in the top and a hanging string would be added.

The aid told me, "Don't use too much glue."

I used too much glue. It was supposed to be flat, but my umbrella curled into a sideways U. Ha! U for umbrella.

The sight of all the umbrellas hanging from the ceiling was mesmerizing to my five year-old mind. They were beautiful. Well, mine was not beautiful. It curled up because I used too much glue.

After I shared this brief story with her she asked, "So, you've always been a perfectionist?"

I answered, "No." Pause. "Ummm." Pause. "Well, yes."

She jokingly said, "You know that there is a group for that on Friday nights."

I laughed and replied, "Yes, and I'm in it."

You see, I have never thought of myself as a perfectionist until now. Ive always thought of my self as a pig, a messy, disorganized, lazy pig, and not at all perfect.

This one little comment triggered so much thought. Am I really a perfectionist? Yes.

Here is how it works for me. I want to do a good job, but if I can't do something well and quickly, I'd rather not do it at all. I don't like big tasks, because I get overwhelmed and I fear failure. I do fine with small tasks that have a definite ending point with measurable results.

Here is a great example: my garage. It is a MESS! I don't even like to go out there. It stresses me out. I don't like to work on it because the job is just too big. After a few hours of cleaning, sorting, and purging, I'm tired, disgusted, and ready to quit.

How about another example? I have several hundred dollars worth of scrapbooking supplies in my garage. Do I ever use them? No. Scrapbooking stresses me out! I'm never satisfied with the pages I make. I made a wedding album that I can't stand. I have the first four weeks of Tater's life scrapbooked. I think those pages look great, but she is five now. Poor Little Man doesn't have any pages. I have thousands of pictures waiting to go into books, but I am frozen. I don't want the frustration of trying to get it right. I'd rather not try.

Cake decorating has been very good for my little perfection problem. If I promise a cake, I am forced to present one even if I'm not entirely satisfied. Usually everyone around me thinks it looks fantastic. Nay-sayers just keep their mouths shut. Oh, and cakes, even wedding cakes are short projects. I can, and have to complete them.

I know, The Superman cake is the exception. Other people agreed that Superman really did look a lot like Moe.

Okay, I must confess. Last fall I really disappointed a friend when I showed up with a grocery store cake instead of a homemade one. I became so upset with the stupid red frosting that I put my fist through the cake and then threw it in the garbage can. Yardboy was really mad at me for ruining the cake I spent so much time (and money) on. It was not a nice night at our house.

I won't do that again. I learned two things. One, that I should buy red decorator frosting instead of trying to make it myself. Two, that an ugly homemade cake is better than throwing a tantrum and having to buy a lame grocery store cake off the shelf.

Somehow this has to make it back around to Celebrate Recovery. Right? Okay, here it is. I've been dragging my feet with my Inventory. Why? Because I want it to be perfect and complete! Who ever heard of such crap?

The Inventory form has columns. All of my junk won't fit into those little columns and still look right. What if I write it down and forget something? I can't go back later and just add it in the margin. Then it won't look right! It would be really messy! I know, it is crazy. Why does a messy page bother me when a huge pile of laundry on my love seat doesn't?

I decided to just write my Inventory journal style. I'll start writing and go with what ever comes out. I'm using the silly column headings as guides or suggestions instead of absolute rules for formatting. To someone else, this may seem really foolish, but the desire to have page neatness has been a huge stumbling block for me. I think this new approach may just work.

So after much thought, prayer, and sharing in Small Group and with my Accountability Partner, I decide to go back to the Children's Minister and tell her about what she started with her simple question.

At first she looked worried and asked, "Did I injure you?"

"No," I replied, "It was huge and very good. Thank you."

She then asked me if I knew Ms. K from our church. She is in leadership and is thought very highly of.

I've met her.

The Children's Minister said that Ms. K admits that she is a perfectionist to a fault and is constantly working on it. Now she strives for excellence instead of perfection.

I laughed and added, "The difference between Ms. K and me is that she is always so "put together" and I make fart jokes."

I'm off to work on my Inventory now. Pray for me.


Crickey said...

I am! (praying for you).

Love and miss you tons!

Gary Means said...

I loved this post. I am a recovering perfectionist too. Guess how many times I have rewritten this little tiny reply! haha. I think I'll blog about perfectionism sometime soon. May God grant you growing freedom from perfectionism. It's so suffocating. Yeah, I really need to blog about this. I hadn't realized how much of an issue this still is in my life. Thanks for sharing.