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A Monday meander: Striving for perfection

Through the lattice

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots. It doesn’t believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that anything worth doing is worth doing badly–and that if we allow ourselves to do something badly we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner’s work against the finished work of masters. Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn’t know how to say, “Good try,” or “Job well done.” The critic does not believe in creative glee–or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter.

~ Julia Cameron, Finding Water:  The Art of Perseverance

Reaching the end of a month of Prussian Blue.  (“Painting Sound”)

I recently heard someone say the phrase “strive for perfection,” and that’s got me thinking about perfection. When I was young I was an athlete, a gymnast, and I was taught to strive for that perfect score (in those days, it was a 10). Ten was a popular number for perfection.  I’m showing my age here, but there was the movie “10” with Bo Derek and women being rated on their beauty from 1 to 10.  Men, too, have been (probably continue to be) rated on their looks.  I’m guessing that’s still a thing.  I’m old.  I wouldn’t know.

Getting ready to ski in the frigid cold. (It was in the teens.)

Throughout the pandemic, as you may know, I have been learning to draw and paint and work with other art mediums.  I started with a course on drawing mandalas that lasted almost a year, following the seasons and seasonal markers.  During the first assignment, I made a huge mess of things and the thoughts running through my head were things like “I can’t do this, I hate this, I don’t have the talent for this, I can’t do this, I am horrible at this, Ican’tdothisI’mhorrible, Ishouldjustquit!” What I had drawn and painted looked nothing like what the teacher wanted us to do, or so it seemed in my mind’s eye.  But somewhere at the beginning of that flow of thoughts, I felt this snap (reminded me of aversion therapy and using a light snap of a rubber band to pattern-interrupt). When I signed up for the course, I told myself that the idea was to have fun.  With that snap, I immediately wrote up a manifesto of sorts and it went something like this:

Have fun.
Make messes.
Try everything.
Make mistakes.
Have fun.

Tracks in the snow.

And I did. I had fun, made messes, tried everything, made a ton of mistakes (which I learned a lot from), and had more fun.  I am still having fun, trying new things, making mistakes, and having fun.  The thing is, I have learned this from my yoga practice and studies, from my yoga teacher, from the classes and the wonderful cohort, from svādhyāya (self-study).  I go into my morning practice with curiosity (what will show up today? how will I show up today?) and without expectations.  I try new things (chanting! in Sanskrit! who’d have thunk I’d be doing that?).  I make mistakes.  I learn from them.  I don’t strive for perfection, in anything anymore.  That old idea still lies in wait at times, but now there is the snap, the pulling back to not only what is worthwhile but how it can be worthwhile.

I get this really weird look on my face when I know someone is trying to take my photo.

As I was looking for a quote to start this post, one thing that stood out for me in the search for “perfectionism” is how many websites there are designed to help you overcome perfectionism.  It’s interesting to see how the pendulum swings from one thing to another, from growing up being taught to strive for perfection to learning how to overcome the need for it.  It’s been good for me to take another look at perfectionism.  I’ve been writing every day and I keep reminding myself that a shitty first draft (as Anne Lamott put it) is better than no draft at all.  In fact, I’ve been following some of the suggestions from NaNoWriMo (which I participated in one year).  The most important thing is to keep writing.  Move forward.  I can go back and go over everything once I get it written.  Otherwise, I’m constantly editing and changing the first page.  I’ll never get anywhere that way.

Bob seems to like the snow, too.

In other news…  We had a great snowfall on Friday night and into Saturday.  A blizzard, even.  We received about 8-10 inches of snow.  It’s kind of hard to tell exactly because the wind created drifts.  The front yard, for instance, had so much snow that it was up to my thighs.  In most places around the property, it ranged from 8-10 inches.  M and I have been having fun cross-country skiing and hiking through Zeke’s woods, on the Monster Trails, up and down the lane (driveway), and around the front yard and back through the woods.  My legs were like jello after an hour of skiing yesterday.  Today they are sore, in a good way.  It’s a reminder that I do have muscles in my legs.  And arms.  Somehow all that movement with the ski poles has created some slightly sore muscles, too.

There’s a boot and foot down in there somewhere.

The snow has been melting today.  I can hear it sliding off the roof as I sit here and type.  When I went out for a walk around the ranch this morning, I could see the grass in the ski tracks.  We had two good days of cross-country skiing.  I thought we might get a third this morning, but why be greedy?  It was nice while it lasted.

In the scrounger’s (flower) garden.

I did get in a nice hike before the melting really and truly began.  On my way through Zeke’s Woods I met up with a hawk who was sitting in a tree.  I’m not sure if she was waiting and watching for future food to walk by or if she was taking in some warmth from the sun.  Either way, she didn’t stay long once she saw me.  She did, however, leave behind a feather for me.  A nice one, too.  Before the snow, I found some crow feathers (I suspect the crow doesn’t need them anymore, judging by the pile of feathers found).  I brought one of them back with me.  Both crows and hawks are figuring prominently in my life lately.  Crows at sunrise.  Hawks during my daily walks.  I like having the gift of their feathers there with me when I’m writing or drawing or painting.

The boardwalk to the dock.

I think that’s about it from me on this sunny, windy, and chilly (but warmer than it’s been) Monday.  Let’s meet out at the Point for sunset this evening.  There are enough clouds around that it might be quite interesting.  Be careful on your way there.  They did plow the roads but there are shady spots where the ice gathers and stays put until we get a lengthy warm-up.  Sunset is scheduled for 5:25 PM.

Please be safe, be well, and I hope you find the time to Just Be.

On the dock.

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  1,961)  SNOW!!!  Enough for skiing and playing and having all sorts of fun.  1,962)  Sparkles of sunlight on the surface of the water.  1,963)  A month of Prussian Blue.  I’ve learned a lot about the color and how it makes me feel.  There is something beautifully melancholy about it.  A friend describes it as the color of grief.  I think she might be right.  Someday we all might get around to feeling the collective grief of this pandemic.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, but that’s a subject for another post.  Maybe.  1,964)  Slowly sipping on hot chocolate after an hour of skiing in frigid temperatures.  It’s just the thing after that sort of outing.  1,965)  The various colors of the snow in my photographs.  It’s blue and white and even verging on green.  Prussian Blue shows up from time to time, too.

At the edge of the pond where the snow was drifting on Saturday.

Author:

Robin is... too many things to list, but here is a start: an artist and writer; a photographer and saunterer; a daughter and sister and granddaughter; a friend, a partner, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother; a gardener, a great and imaginative cook, and the creator of wonderful sandwiches.

23 thoughts on “A Monday meander: Striving for perfection

  1. A wonderful manifesto, Robin, well worth adopting. You got so much more snow than we did here in W. PA, although we have accumulated 10″ here over the space of 2 weeks. We’re seeing the melt today, which is a relief as the sub-zero temperatures have been difficult. I hope some of the snow on the ground lingers, good for the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely post! So glad you got snow enabling you to ski 🙂
    I’ve loved watching your art change and develop. I really have to stop being a chicken and just go for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Dale. 🙂 And yes. You should! Go for it. I was just thinking this morning, as I posted something in IG stories that has my voice included, that I’ve spent a good deal of my life not going for things or being self-conscious about things I like to do (singing and dancing immediately come to mind). I’m getting too old for that sh*t (to echo one of your recent hashtags). Might as well go for it and forget about what anyone else might think. I figure if I have the nerve to post my terrible art, I can post my terrible singing/chanting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear you, Robin. And good for you. If not now, when? We have no one else to please but ourselves and if in so doing, no one gets hurt in the process, then all the more reason to go for it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Amen, amen! Along similar lines…E.B. White once wrote, “Don’t worry about being great, being good is hard enough.” Those are words I live by. 😉 Lovely, lovely pictures. Especially the one of the chair in the scrounger’s garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Perfectionism definitely gets in the way of living a wholesome life. I’m only just beginning to recognize it in action, and allowing myself to let it go. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. 🙂
    Nice to see your photos, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You got me thinking of a triangle …. the top point being perfection —- thee bottom two being fun and improving …. I guess everyone would have a different balance point within that triangle. Cheers to your cross-country skiing and only getting 8-10 inches in that last storm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Frank. 🙂 It would be unstable but I think I’d like to get rid of the leg labeled Perfection. Or maybe we could live with the first definition of “as good as it is possible to be.” Those of us (pointing at myself) with some control issues tend to use perfectionism or the ideal of perfect to either give up or not even start. If we approach with curiosity rather than any expectations of being perfect, it’s much more fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Outstanding quotes, Robin, and so very true! Nothing stunts an artist’s productivity like the need to be perfect. Glad you enjoyed your snow. We’re getting mounds of it today and tomorrow, but I’m not a skier, so I’ll content myself to write and sip hot tea! Beautiful photos, especially that last one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Debbie. 🙂 I’m not really a skier, either. I am awkward, slow, and I fall. Even so, I enjoy it. Just the cross-country skiing. I no longer have the nerve for downhill skiing. I only tried it a few times as a young teen and it was fun. I’d probably break my neck if I tried it now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Robin! Sorry, for the late response. (Definitely not perfect here!) 😀 Just think of how many inventions came about through accidents. I’m glad you got enough snow for cross-country skiing. Beautiful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your post is a lovely reminder to just be and let the thought or idea of perfection go…your mention of crow and hawk feathers reminds me of the tea tin on my writing desk filled with eagle, crow and raven feathers!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As I look at your lovely pictures of snow, I take extra delight that my older son is having his first-ever snow day with friends. I can’t wait to hear all about it!

    (I am heartened, too, by your address of perfection. The last couple weeks especially, I am learning I can no longer survive attempting to attain my vision of it. It’s so unkind to myself to continue pursuing that. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor” shows up on my inspiration board for this frequent visual reminder to perspective.)

    Like

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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