Monday, February 21, 2011

Waiting for Perfection

A lot of my life has been spent waiting for perfection, and it is high time I re-define it for myself.  Seems to me that the definition of perfection is where I always go off track. Perfection is perfection, right? This is not to say that I haven't actually redefined it before. In my mid-forties that would be totally naive. So, let's say I'm redefining perfection again.

Being an optimist, I've always been inclined to believe that everything is perfect, even if I cannot perceive it. That's rather vague though, and, when disappointment sets in, can make me feel as if I've gone blind or something. I cannot, at times, even discern what I mean when I say I believe everything is perfect because I'm often very disappointed by the world at large when my sense of justice is offended, or I feel impatient. When I find my mind changed about a long held opinion, I wonder if my previous belief in the perfection of my argument is evidence that nothing is perfect. The ground becomes shaky for the concept of perfection, the longer I live. It's one thing to not be able to grasp the perfection of some oddity, and another to really feel "this is not perfect."

More and more I've been feeling "this is not perfect." I have realized that the choices I made so breezily when I was a young woman led me very far away from my inner home. I've described feeling that I was falling off of a fragile perch of fantasy, but it didn't end when I hit the ground finally. I've often felt disoriented by my new life. The give and take of every day life has sometimes felt burdensome. There are even times I have felt that the only thing to do was to go back to sleep and walk through my life in a dream-like trance, the one where I thought I knew what I was doing.

Yet enough moments of clarity have popped through the fog over the past few years that I find myself in a rather good position, though it is imperfect in my heart. How can I reconcile what I feel in my bones perfection must be, and what it really is? Because until I redeem perfection, my notion of it, my very life's rhythm is always on the edge of a cliff, ready to fall into an endless abyss of suffering, and honestly, I dip my toes into that suffering far too often for comfort or progress.

I thought perfection was very simple: my two kids and a loving husband at home with me, creating a lifetime of memories, and a pleasing writing career. Also time to walk the dog, dance the tango, and do my little daily rituals for the love of God. I thought it was having a house with a garden, and a decent  car, and clothes to wear. I thought a vacation every year would do it. I thought extra money to buy gifts for family would do it. Very simple. I am chagrined to report that I don't even have this simplicity a lot of the time. The only consistency in that list is time to walk my dog, and there are days when even that is hard. I vibrate with a sense of injustice about my inability to manifest this simple list all of the time. What I have seems far more complicated and full of unwanted conflicts with the very perfection I desire. I find myself envious when I perceive that other people have what I want, and then hopeless about ever achieving my perfect life.

It occurred to me this weekend that waiting for that list up there to come together is not only painful, it is futile. It simply doesn't and can't match what is - ever. Ever. So, if I hang onto these simple ideas of perfection then I will always be resentful and angry or sad and depressed. It is not my nature to be angry, resentful, sad and depressed for the rest of my life. Why would I purposefully choose that which I cannot have as my ideal of perfection??? Well, isn't that a long and over-told story? Yes, yes, I've read all the Secret books trying to get there from here, and have concluded it is so convoluted and insane to even hold the imaginary dream together that I've decided to stop. Halt. I'm yielding to another idea...

It isn't that I can't have everything on that list up there. I can and I do have some of it, and it won't be hard to have some more of it, if I do one thing: accept what is.  It is what it is. For instance, my kids live with me half the time. Half the time I have my ideal perfection with my kids. So, my task is to accept that the other half the time is perfect, too. Well, the other half of the time I have is time to write and teach during the day and pursue the interesting career I desire. My task is to embrace that time without mourning that it is different from my time with my kids. My husband is loving and supportive and is often out on the road pursuing his career. When we are together we rarely have any conflict that isn't me feeling upset that it doesn't match my perfect idea of what we could have if he were here more. So my most loving act would be to let that go and be with him fully while he is here.

Understanding time seems to be part of the quantum leap I need to make. Linear time has allowed me the opportunity to divide my life into all of these little compartments of full attention. I always said that perfection for me was to be fully awake and aware of the moment, and I can do that because I'm not really being pulled simultaneously in a lot of different directions. Maybe this won't always be, so maybe I should enjoy the perfection of what it is for a while? I really do have a life where I am capable of focusing on a few things. How many times have I experienced this? Maybe I could trust it, and fill the empty places where I've been known to feel sorry that I didn't have what I thought I wanted in that moment? Maybe, just maybe, that empty space could stay empty and WITHOUT the mourning.

It occurs to me that I've had the "setting of intent" and acknowledging and envisioning of desire all wrong. It occurs to me that I may in fact get everything I want, just not the way I've been expecting it...all at once. Maybe life is an unfolding fan, one rib opening at a time, and maybe it isn't until that very last breath that we get to see the whole perfection of the open fan. Maybe waiting for that moment is kind of a silly proposition because it means it is over. So, rather than that whole perfection, I want to enjoy moments of perfection unfolding, one-at-a-time, accepting each one for what it is. I can't look back at the fan bits that are open already, and wish they had been of a different design, because then I wouldn't be able to see what this rib, this one I'm unfolding right now, is and I'm really curious.

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