When Good Enough is Better than Perfect…


While working on a project for my house the other day, I did something I seldom have been able to do. I received some furniture for a second bedroom, and was partially painting the pieces to contemporize them a bit. One piece was a dresser/mirror combo. All of the pieces were too feminine for me, so I gave them a more masculine feel by painting part of them a metallic bronze color. (Thanks Martha Stewart and Home Depot for the paint color!) The mirror was white with a plastic, ribony flair that I wanted to highlight by painting a thin strip in the bronze color. Because the material was plastic, I had to paint the strip with white primer so the bronze would stick. I began the white right after work one day, and although it was somewhat intricate work, I was pleased with the result. I let it dry for a day before beginning with the bronze. I purchased small paint brushes… like artists would use… because I knew a smaller brush would work better than what I normally use. They worked really well for the white, so I didn’t anticipate any problem with the bronze.

The next day after work, I began to use the bronze paint…. oy….. I had great difficulty. I could paint neither straight, nor a smooth curve, and I was getting frustrated. One of the problems I usually face when doing something new, or intricate, is that I touch it too much. I want it perfect, so I try to make it better than it is. I get hyper-critical, and can’t quit messing with it. The result is usually worse after the touch-up than before. “Next time, I just need to leave it alone after the first attempt.” I tell myself afterward. So… THIS time… I realized my hand was getting shaky, and my concentration was lagging. I was losing the “flow.” Typically, I would try to “power through” the fatigue. This time…. I quit!

YES!

I left it alone!

I accepted that now wasn’t the right time to do my best work, and I walked away. Rather than allowing my own impatience to finish the piece, and see my vision of what the mirror would look like completed, I instead patiently walked away so I could come back another day when I could do a better job. Yea, me!

So I came back and completed it when I was fresh on the weekend…. Right?

Weeellllll……. not so much. It is still sitting out in my workshop. I am not happy with it AT ALL! To me, it looks like crap! Good idea…. poor craftsmanship. Oh well…. it will sit there until I get another, maybe better idea to salvage it.

I confess, I have usually not been content with “good enough” because I had this vision of what “perfection” SHOULD be. And it has been difficult to accept and enjoy the Good because I was searching for the Perfect!

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I have been reading Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Wow! A wonderful book so far. Rohr begins the introduction with this statement:

“There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life. The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean we do it well. The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion. So you might wonder if there is much point in providing a guide to the territory ahead of time. Yet that is exactly why we must. It is vitally important to know what is coming and being offered to all of us.

We are a “first-half-of-life culture,” largely concerned about surviving successfully. Probably most cultures and individuals across history have been situated in the first half of their own development up to now, because it is all they had time for. We all try to do what seems like the task that life first hands us: establishing an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community, security, and building a proper platform for our only life.

But it takes us much longer to discover “the task within the task,” as I like to call it: what are we really doing when we are doing what we are doing.” (Pg. xii-xiv)

I especially like Rohr’s take that we spend the first part of life in survival-mode, while the second half of life is unconcerned with survival. Rohr suggests that many times, the second half of life is precipitated by a significant loss or wound.

We fall…

We realize our fallibility…

We are introduced to our mortality…

We face the certainty that some of our dreams will never be experienced and we are called to release them…

It also is a time of using what we have found about ourselves during the first half of our life. And using what we have learned about what really is important in life. Rohr suggests that we must learn the rules before we can determine which ones to ignore or break. What we learn, is then to be used in service of others. We become Elders… the Explainers of life to our communities. Unfortunately, our culture tends to ignore Elders, or maybe there aren’t many actual Elders around. We seem to keep pursuing security as we grow older in our culture.

What if we feared death less, the closer we got to it?

That is the value of the wound, which begins our journey into the second-half of life. Rohr mentions that “most of us in the first half of life suspect that all is not fully working.” (Pg. xvii) Eventually we feel that there is more or should be more to life than living in the gopher wheel. These feelings usually rise somewhere in middle-age…. whatever that is…. although I have found people as young as their late 20’s that feel that way before they begin to invest themselves in a process which seems so frustratingly selfish and consumeristic. Some of these young friends begin in a more organic way, trying to live in better balance with themselves, others, the planet, and for some, even God. However, eventually they meet someone, fall in love, and invariably children come along with new discussions about

school districts,

and lead paint,

and pre-schools,

and commutes,

and bills,

and….. here we go running because the wheel is moving, which is moving because we are running…

and one child leads to two, which leads to two jobs for….. well…. somebody….

and we need MORE ROOM!

and ANOTHER CAR!

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I went to a customer’s house today to spray for bugs (my new job) and her children were home from pre-school because they were both sick. I saw some baby items laying by one of the doors to be taken out, and I said so the youngest child could hear me, “No more babies in THIS house!” The young mother said with exuberance, “That’s right! No more babies in THIS house, are there Katy? No more pacifiers… no more cribs…”

Katy was no longer a baby.

I mentioned to the mother that this was kind of a threshold. She agreed. And said that she was kind of sad that there were no more babies in her house. Her husband, however, was quite glad…

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The young mother was catching a fleeting glimpse of the line in life she was crossing over, and she wasn’t quite ready to let it go yet. Something wasn’t “fully working,” and she didn’t want to go on without fully realizing the significance of this moment with her girls….

But…

children grow up…

as they should…

to face new obstacles…

and accomplish new feats…

and the wheel keeps turning…

…so the baby things must be stored away…

…and that is good…

But…

eventually…

our feet don’t move quite so fast…

or someone trips us up…

or life throws an unbreakable rod of steel into the wheel…

like cancer…

like an affair…

like an addiction…

and we fall…

But the fall doesn’t have to be fatal. It can be the end of one journey, and the beginning of a new journey. In fact, the first journey helps to prepare us for the second.

There have been first journey skills that I haven’t done so well. I am being given an opportunity to develop those skills, but to be honest, I am not really confident in doing them very well. Honestly, my task right now, is to do them well enough! They don’t have to be perfect. What I am trying to learn is what the contents are within the container of my first journey, as Rohr puts it. I can keep working so hard on the skills which aren’t perfect… to keep polishing them with such intensity… that I am pre-occupied with them to the detriment of using the contents of my life, in service of other people. So, maybe these skills are good enough. And maybe their imperfection actually allows me to lean more heavily on God. As the Apostle Paul puts it: my weakness, then becomes my strength! I suspect that a quality of the second journey is to be informed by the first journey, yet not continue to try and fix it. My dad always used to say that we must leave the past in the past.

I can remember that.

I think…

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2 thoughts on “When Good Enough is Better than Perfect…

  1. Hummmmm…wonderful musings. A few days back I read through several ofyour blog posts and even typed quite a profound comment….due to technical ‘issues’ it was lost as I was asked to log in! So, I shall make this quick: the opening furniture example is great-having faith, in me, in God, in the Tao>the flow, in me as I am is perfect…a buddhist prayer: Like the full moon is pure, one is essentially without tarnish. Like the full moon is round and perfect, one lacks nothing. Like the full moon is clear, one is essentially the untarnished dharma.
    Seeing with these eyes, the eyes of God, works wonders -in the seer and the seen…..I affirm what you’ve shared

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