Losing My Perfection, Barking Up a New Tree

Writing blogs is a nightmare for a perfection junkie. Write it and publish it, without dissecting every. last. word? Let fly with typos and half-formed thoughts? It has always seemed like a terrible idea to me.

So when I spotted this cartoon on a card in an Austin, Texas, boutique a couple weeks ago, it made me laugh and destroyed all the momentum I’d built toward this post. The dogs set me back a couple of weeks…not that it takes much to do that. I’ve put off writing because the idea that I should write authentically about my need to be perfect (or at least be considered so by others) has been rattling around in my head for a while now. It’s a stupid idea, and it won’t go away.

I don’t know what makes me think that exposing my messy relationship with image, food, exercise and myself is a good idea. I’ve worked so hard for so many years to put forward my Sunday Best, either striving to meet (but never quite meeting) my unattainable perfection standards or acting out against them. Only now am I realizing that these extremes don’t serve me.

I can’t say that I know, yet, how to find a balanced place somewhere between them. I’ve only recently realized that I needed to find it, and that’s why this writing feels so vulnerable.

This week while I was giving a wabi-sabi class at the Dallas Design Center, someone asked what I thought was the multilayered philosophy’s most important aspect. “Letting go of perfection,” I answered without hesitation.

I said that because that’s where I am with this wabi-sabi conversation. I’m just beginning to climb out of a life fraught with disorders (angst, eating, premenstrual dysphoria) that are hyper-reactions to a culture that’s been telling me to be a perfect, good girl since I was born.

I’m taking steps. After years of denying it, I admitted that 95, sometimes 92, pounds was an alarmingly low weight. I’ve gained 7 pounds, and I’m in a confused state of pride and angst about that. Anyone who has dealt with this skinny thing (I hate the words eating disorder and anorexia, so that’s my phrase until something better comes) will understand what I’m saying.

I’ve left the stress and importance of being a magazine editor behind, and I’m studying to be a yoga teacher. I invested most of my identity into being Editor-in-Chief, so there’s a bit of dying going on inside me. On good days, I know that’s compost for my next adventure. On bad days, I want to die, too. I have kids, and I couldn’t do that to them, but I do understand the intense pain that gets people to suicide.

Concerned friends and family told me that weighing 95 pounds is a slow, insidious way of killing myself. My friend Jenny, who has ovarian cancer, pointed out that if I were hit with a major disease I wouldn’t have 20 pounds to lose, as she did when she was diagnosed. The very early stages of anything would wipe me out. We laughed at how much she enjoyed that weight loss as a fringe benefit of cancer—a joke that isn’t funny.

What it comes down to, I guess, is that I’m not perfect at trying not to be perfect yet. Writing about that in this forum, which values immediacy and authenticity over meticulous scrutiny, feels aligned and slightly insane.

And also pretty safe. Chances are pretty good that even my own mother won’t read this blog (she’s not great with the computer).

Bow wow.

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2 Responses to Losing My Perfection, Barking Up a New Tree

  1. Laura says:

    My hat is off to you. Glad you’ve decided to liberate yourself. What you’re doing in embracing imperfection is the perfect wabi-sabi action. Sending you best thoughts as on this journey.

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