Friday, July 9, 2010

In search of perfection.

A patient's family member and I were talking the other day and she asked me an odd question.

"What would you say is an example of the perfect death?"

I hesitated. She looked at me as I sat there in her well-appointed dining room. She waited. But I couldn't respond.

I was too busy searching for the perfect answer.

But there was none.

I hate the word perfect. I do not think that it even exists. But many strive for it none the less.

I used to get caught up in a bit of perfection seeking myself. I can remember when my daughter first started at her parochial school. She had a lovely uniform with pleats. Do you know that I spent hours ironing those uniforms, making sure the pleats were "just perfect."

What a waste of time. And did it make any difference? No. Absolutely not.

After that fit of insanity, I finally came to my senses. I now have even been known to pull them directly out of the dirty laundry hamper, fluff them in the dryer, and off to school she goes. No fuss. No muss. And guess what? The world didn't end. Things were just the same as when I painstakingly tried to make them perfect.

I am not sure what caused me to try to create that bit of perfection. It could be that I saw her going off to school in a perfect way as a sort of protection against the unknown. I may have felt that I had some control. And perhaps that is what drives us to seek perfection in the first place. Control.

But we really have none.

And who defines what perfect is anyway? Many times I will hear someone say, "What a perfect day," meaning; a beautiful, warm and sunny day. But to the person standing next to them, a perfect day may be a cloudy one, with a hint of rain in the air. To yet another, a snow day that stops the world.

Everyone seeks perfection at times, I know. We want the perfect party for our kids, the perfect wedding, the perfect vacation. But I often think that when we wish for that or search for that, we only set ourselves up to be disappointed. Because nothing is ever perfect in our eyes, even when it may appear so to others.

I myself, have given up on perfection. Since I became a hospice nurse, it really changed my viewpoint. Life is way too short to be worried about something we have no control over. To make ourselves that crazy and miserable over details that really do not matter is simply not worth it.

Now, I am in the "good enough" category. As long as I feel it is good enough, I am happy. And I no longer admire those who seek perfection. In their quest to control everything, they make too many miserable along the way.

When I was younger, I found a poem that I loved and have kept for decades that talked about perfection. I am not sure where I found it or who even wrote it, but here it is:

Friend, don't be a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a curse and a strain, for you tremble lest you miss the bull's eye.

You are perfect if you just let be.

Friend, don't be afraid of mistakes. Mistakes are not sins. Mistakes are a way of doing something different, perhaps creatively new.

Friend, don't be sorry for your mistakes. Be proud of them. You had the courage to give something of yourself.

It takes years to be centered. It takes more years to understand and be now.

Until then, beware of both extremes; perfectionism, as well as instant cure, instant joy and instant sensory awareness.

Remember this;
I am blessed with life.
I am blessed with a full and useful life.
I am alive.
I am.

And that person who asked me about the perfect death? I told her that each death is unique and perfect in its own way. It wasn't the perfect answer, but I felt that it was true.

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