“Things don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” This nugget of wisdom was mentioned in a New York Times business section, “Smarter Living” (June 10, 2019) in an article titled, "Don’t Pickle Things’ and Other Life Lessons.”
These words came at a propitious time as Margaret was striving to make her condo “perfect” to sell. She went over the top to scrub and vacuum, wax and wash, buff and puff. Was it perfect? No. way. Did it look beautiful and wonderful, several buyers and potential buyers thought so. Margaret’s real estate salesperson wisely said to her, “A place doesn’t have to be perfect to be lovely to sell.” She was right. The condo sold quickly.
Trying to describe what perfection means is a little like trying to explain a song you heard when you have no idea what the singer was singing about or why you even enjoyed it. The song just felt good, and the music resonated.
So, we ask, is good, good enough? Good doesn’t mean mediocre; good isn’t failure. That’s more the thinking of an overachiever. What’s wrong with just achieving, setting our own values and priorities instead of what we think others expect of us?
Perfect means literally being entirely without fault or defect. Do you know anyone like this? We don’t and that includes our wonderful children. Here are some people whom society does deem perfect, however: Simone Biles has perfect gymnastic scores. But is she perfect? Some would think so. Elizabeth Taylor was perfect looking as was Hedy Lamarr. And Barbara’s junior high school English teacher taught classmates to diagram sentences to help them achieve perfect grammar.
But sentence structure and beauty are both relative and in the eye of the reader or beholder. As perfect as others may look or seem, we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. How much work goes into what they do? How does their heart, background, passions, weaknesses, obsessions and humanity affect their work? These are real human beings, not airbrushed superheroes.
We all know people who have gotten a perfect score on their SATs or ACTs. Many might say nature is perfect. Alice Walker sums this up perfectly: In nature, nothing is perfect and yet everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful.
Do people have perfect vision? (Barbara still does but jokes it’s the only thing perfect about her.) Is anyone a perfect weight? That’s relative to their shape, size, age and mindset. Is a meal that tastes good perfect? Maybe to you but not me, perhaps. Is a diamond perfect? It’s called flawless and to us it means the price goes way up. Can you have a perfect work out? Is weather perfect? Someone loves the 50s and a chill in the air while another thinks the 80s are the best especially on a breezy sunny day. What about a perfect day? How about a perfect golf or tennis swing? Barbara’s beau is trying to master a perfect forehand and net shot now that he has the perfect new knee. We say, good luck! How about a perfect wine or piece of chocolate cake or candy? Depends who you ask. We do know our chocolates, however—especially Meg with candy and Barbara with cakes. So ask for our input if you like.
Is there such as thing as perfect happiness? We haven’t found it. What about blood pressure, pitch, credit score or perfect tense? And then there is perfect foolishness. This is the opposite of what we think of as perfect. Yet, we have all done this to perfection.
Margaret was perfectly foolish in trying to scrub her kitchen floor so it would gleam. It looked good enough, but she made herself perfectly exhausted trying. However, she delights in making what others consider to be the perfect lemon squares and chocolate chip cookies and feels exhilarated when done. Barbara’s paintings are getting better, she thinks, but far from the perfect masterpieces of her muses—Van Gogh, Matisse, Hockney. Maybe, some day, she says, but she knows otherwise. Margaret tells her that these are her masterpieces.
We tell ourselves that practice makes perfect. As two women who have practiced our writing, our music or our art, it doesn’t make you perfect, but it makes you better. If you love what you’re practicing or enjoy honing your skills, it’s wonderful. It doesn’t need to be perfect to sound good, look good or even win. It’s the process that’s important, and that can be good enough.
Most of us will never achieve perfection, but we can feel improved for having tried. And to get to pretty darn good or even great is our version of perfection.