Life’s Little Imperfections

It began with the left arm. The sweater-in-process, the color of wild young asparagus, lay in pieces on the dining room table: its back, right arm, and cabled, vee-necked front ready to be assembled into the shape of loving, hand-knit warmth. But within that left arm, a fault had been introduced into the pattern — a slight irregularity in the smooth, sweet rhythm of the yarn — and it was causing consternation.

Halfway up the sleeve, it would have nestled into the bend of an elbow, barely detectable and probably unseen even to well-trained eyes.  But the knitter — proficient, quick, and given to knitting in places like darkened movie theatres – spotted it, and felt it looming like an accusation.  “I’ll just unravel that sleeve and do it over,” she said. “It won’t take very much time, and after all – we want it to be perfect.”

With the sleeve unraveled and the yarn gently re-wound, she began to knit again. This time, there were no dropped stitches and no pattern errors, but a more subtle issue emerged. Intent on re-doing the sleeve perfectly, she had become a little tense. While she knit, the tension worked its way through her hands, down the needles, and into the yarn: making the stitches in the repaired sleeve noticeably tighter.

On a completed sweater, the separation of the sleeves might have made up for the difference in appearance. Side-by-side on the dining table, the variation was obvious. “Humph,” said the knitter, who had plenty of time on her hands. “I’ll just do that sleeve again.”

The third attempt was technically perfect. Unfortunately, in the process of being knit, unraveled, knit again, unraveled and knit a third time, the yarn had lost a good bit of its fuzziness and spring. Even without dropped stitches and uneven tension, the sleeve looked different.  Perhaps because a large reserve of matching yarn had been stashed in the closet, pointed comments about obsessive behavior were dismissed out of hand. Another sleeve would be knit: this time, from fresh yarn. It went quickly, and the sleeve was perfect.

Six months later, a friend asked about the sweater. “Oh,” said the knitter. “It’s in the closet. I still need to put it together.”  Astonished, her friend asked why she hadn’t already done so. With the tiniest of sighs, our beloved perfectionist said, “You know, I’m just not happy with those sleeves. They don’t look right. They might need to be unraveled and done over.”

The Christmas Puzzle ~ Photo by Diana Losciale

Sometimes, of course, a do-over isn’t possible. During holiday celebrations some years ago, a friend and her family completed their traditional jigsaw puzzle, only to discover two significant imperfections: one puzzle piece missing, one piece destroyed.

As it turned out, one piece, clearly missing from the snowdrifts near the bottom of the puzzle, had been chewed up by her daughter’s dog and left for dead on the floor. You can see that piece lying on the deep blue house at the left. It does bear a certain resemblance to a bit of vertebrae, but it’s only cardboard that’s been given the doggie treatment and then reclaimed, apparently to great amusement.

The other missing piece, a bit of sky and tree from the upper-left corner, simply disappeared in the course of working the puzzle.  Perhaps someone bent across the table, caught it with their sleeve, and sent it to the floor. Perhaps it tumbled off when the puzzle was moved from one table to another. It’s even conceivable that the same dog who chewed up one piece swallowed the other.

In any event, the stories the family told to one another to explain the missing pieces were as varied and delightful as the imaginations involved.  Imperfections in the puzzle did nothing to erode the remembered perfection of evenings spent assembling it: evenings knit together with laughter, love, and the simple joy of family tradition.

Of all the imperfections I’ve encountered, one of the most delightful involved an oil painting done by an older friend here in Texas. Known throughout the state for her exquisite florals, she began painting while still a young woman living in the Texas Panhandle. Much of her early work, visions of the escarpments, canyons, and ranches that surrounded her, was done on pieces of barnwood or hardboard, since canvas wasn’t available.

Her first effort at ‘real’ painting — a farmstead in winter, done on hardboard in 1960 — caught my eye many years later, at her estate sale. When she learned I intended to purchase it, she gave it to me with an embarassed laugh, saying she never imagined anyone would want what she called “that old thing.” While I agreed at the time that it wasn’t equal to her best work, it was her first, and I was feeling sentimental.

On the other hand, I also found myself charmed by a cardinal she’d tucked into the branches of a spindly cedar tree that leaned across the entrance to a lane. Seen against banked snow and stark limbs, the bird was cheerful and appealing: a reminder of cardinals I enjoyed during snowbound Iowa winters.

Eventually, the little painting disappeared into my own closet and languished there for years, until a determined bit of sorting-out put it back into my hands. Looking at it with fresh eyes, I examined the snowdrifts; the trees; the cardinal. Of all the painting’s elements, the bird was the least well-done. “A third-grader could have done that bird,” I thought. “I could have done that bird.”

It made me curious. Given the quality of other elements in the painting, why had the vibrant red paint been used to create such a simple smudge of a bird? 

When I asked my friend about it, her trilling laughter cascaded through the house.  “Oh, my dear!’ she said. “That’s no cardinal at all. When I finished the painting, I wasn’t thoughtful enough to move my little homestead out of the way, off the counter where I was working on another project, and I dropped a bit of red paint on it.  It was terrible sloppiness on my part. I tried to wipe it off, but I wasn’t skillful or patient enough. So, I left the smudge – and now you’ve seen it as a bird, all this time.”

By its very nature, life is filled with imperfection. Between the contingencies of history and our own inherent limitations, bits and pieces of life go missing, get chewed up, or grow threadbare over the years. Plans unravel. Pieces don’t match. Friends drop out of our lives as easily as a dropped stitch. There are errors and omissions, miscalculations, simple forgetfulness, and the dropping of accidental words whose stain never will be erased.

When the imperfections appear, it can be tempting to grow petulant or impatient; to disparage our own efforts; or to declare our hopes and longings irrelevant.

But before we stash the sweater in the closet, sweep away the puzzle, or hide the painting, we might remind ourselves that there are stories in the mistakes, beauty in the flaws, and compelling mystery in the smudges of time and history wiped across the canvas of our lives. Demanding an impossible perfection is one thing; celebrating the joys of imperfect, yet cherished, lives is quite another. 

Comments always are welcome.
All photos, unless otherwise noted, are mine.

121 thoughts on “Life’s Little Imperfections

    1. I’m a great believer in pursuing quality, whether in varnishing, writing, cooking, or housekeeping, and in expending the effort necessary to achieve quality. But pursuing perfection for its own sake? Not so much.

      I keep going back to that great line by Leonard Cohen: “there is a crack in everything — that’s how the light gets in.” It never fails to make me feel better when I come up against my own imperfections.

    1. My poor mother tried and tried to turn me into a knitter, but it never happened. She was a fabulous knitter, though, and like you, would sit and watch tv while she turned out sweaters and socks and doll clothes. Personally I think anyone who can knit a potholder is to be admired. I never got beyond casting on.

  1. How this resonates: those unfinished writings I’ve come across while downsizing, the attempted watercolor that not an eye but mine has beheld, the address book containing stale addresses of people I’ve let slip through the cracks of time and busyness and a couple of them lost because of that errant word that soured it for all time.

    I think I must be extra susceptible to this line of thinking tonight after a hard day of more sorting and seeing mom’s hutch loaded into the back of the truck to be taken to storage. And when I saw it in the true light of day I saw its imperfections, the stains and scratches, and I said to Ben, “I should sell it.” He agreed. And then I said, “I can’t. It’s beautiful to me.”

    1. And isn’t that such a great part of it: “It’s beautiful to me.”

      How we see things is dependent on so much more than “objective” quality. The scratches and stains on your mother’s hutch are much like that splotch of red paint that I saw for years as a cardinal. Even after I learned the truth, I thought,”Well, it may not be a very good cardinal after all, but it’s a great splotch.” It was knowing the story that made it even more precious to me. Your mother’s hutch has a story, too — that’s what makes it worth keeping.

  2. Yes, the flaws is what a good life might be about. Some flaws are hard to overcome and impossible to repair. I really like this piece. We do our best. Of course, the knitting brought out memories of our stay on a farm in Holland.

    We had bought a knitting machine and I loved making some of the children’s clothes. Of course, even though the knitting machine still involved setting it up with adding or taking off stitches, I loved the rhythmic sliding backwards and forwards of the knitting bed. One could see the garment grow.

    I suppose, one could not call the garment hand knitted. The tension was set beforehand and the loft of the wool would not be any different. The love of knitting was there but hands did not much touch the wool.

    We learnt to knit at school in Holland. Do they teach boys knitting in Texas, Linda? They don’t teach knitting at all anymore in Australia. A great pity.

    Pardon my selfish reflection. I do admire your superb writing skill and the thoughts it provokes in the reader.

    1. I enjoyed your memories of the knitting machine — no selfishness there, at all. My mother’s sister had one of those machines, and she made the most wonderful (and apparently indestructible) jackets for both my mother and me. She really enjoyed using it, and we all profited from her efforts.

      It’s interesting that knitting was part of the school curriculum in Holland. I don’t know whether it’s ever been included here in Texas. During my school years in Iowa, it never was taught, even in our home economics courses. We were required to take sewing, but not knitting, embroidery, crochet, or needlepoint. I suppose part of the reason is that those skills still were passed on in the home — at least, for those who were interested in them.

      Personally, I think adding handwork of any sort — woodworking, sewing, painting — back into the curriculum would be good, simply because too many of today’s kids don’t have the experience of producing some ‘thing.’ Seeing the garment grow, as you put it, is satisfying in a way that chasing a Pokemon never can be. Despite its flaws, the real world has real value.

  3. I knit, paint and do puzzles and I could relate to each one of the examples you wrote about. What a delight! Life is full of imperfections but, unfortunately, I’m one of those people who can’t leave them alone. I pick and pick until I make it right or throw the project out. I need to re-read your last few lines until I take them to heart.

    1. Look at this — a trifecta of good examples! It tickles me that you relate to them all. I’ve never knit, and the last painting I did was probably in junior high, but there always was a puzzle sitting around our house on a card table.

      It was varnishing that really brought home to me how fruitless the search for perfection can be. When a ‘final’ coat ended up with a love bug or two embedded, I’d sand it out, and redo the coat. Then, the next ‘final’ coat would have a dusting of pollen. After sanding and redoing that, the next ‘final’ coat might have brush strokes because of heat or wind. You can see where this is going. I created my Rule of Good Enough, and got on with it.

      In truth, most customers are perfectly satisfied with a final product that’s 98% rather than 100%. And here’s another truth — I see imperfections they don’t, because I’m looking for them. Finding the imperfections is important, but judging them appropriately is important, too.

  4. Many souls strive for perfection and if truth be known perfection, in my humble opinion, does not exist, in no way, form or fashion.

    I love the moral of the story. I have been in the same shoes only I was not knitting or painting. Often when trying to correct an imperfection, one only makes the redoing worse than what was there in the beginning.

    Of course there are some things that truly can be improved upon and one example is photographing when the subject is out of focus or the angle is all wrong. There are other examples but I’ll stop with that one.

    1. Your example of photography’s a good one, Yvonne. There are many photos I never would post publicly simply because they’re so badly flawed. Others — the slightly out-of-focus, the imperfectly composed, the ones with too-dark shadows or harsh highlights — may be candidates for a little touchup after the fact, but the result usually isn’t worth the time and effort involved.

      Far better to start fresh, trying for better quality in the first place, rather than attempting to fix flaws. And if a photo is special enough, with an unusual subject or a particularly beautiful scene? That’s when it’s worth sharing despite small imperfections.

      You’ve reminded me of that old saying — “Don’t make a bad situation worse.” The urge to fix is a strong one, but sometimes it’s best just to accept what is, and move on.

  5. I sometimes think some of the harshness of today’s world can be attributed to a desire for perfection, in ourselves and each other. I know I judge myself horrifically and am enormously relieved and charmed when I come across people just being human. Perhaps their hair is a mess, or they sing just a little off-key, or whatever. If I could let myself relax just a bit, mightn’t I be happier, I wonder to myself? This was on my mind in my gallery today, when I noticed paint that had spattered onto the walls. Perhaps my landlord will find that charming? Perhaps, rather than berate myself, I can chuckle…

    1. It’s not only that we seek perfection in ourselves and in one another, it’s that the standards we set can be unreasonably high. Trying to do a hundred impossible things before breakfast can lead to frustration, and expecting others to meet the same standards can bring relationships to an end. “Harshness” is a good word for what we’re seeing these days, as more and more people demand that others live, think, and speak only in ways that they approve.

      One of the oddest, but most freeing thoughts I’ve ever had came about thirty-five years ago. For a variety of reasons, I was thinking about the Biblical concept of the Last Judgment, and it suddenly occurred to me that a “last” judgment means the end of judgment, and the fact that God’s the one doing the judging means it won’t be that snotty neighbor down the block, the arrogant professor, the parent who never can be pleased, the friend who loves proving everyone wrong, and so on.

      I figure with the need to judge no longer my responsibility, and with worry about others’ judgment off the table, I just got a whole lot more free time!

  6. It is over a decade now, that I was given a most wonderful gift, the realisation that a ‘mistake’ could be dealt with, and turned into something wonderful.

    I was a member of a small group of women who met each week, to share our experiences of dealing with chronic illness in a creative manner. One youngish woman showed us her art journal, where she’d tried so hard to rub out an error, that it had broken through the paper and created a hole. So what did she do? She made a highlight of the patch she put on that hole – and it looked fabulous! In an instant, a whole new realm of possibilities opened up to me, and my inner critic had to learn to take a back seat!

    Thanks Linda, for the opportunity to share this story. :-)

    1. It’s true, Eremophila. Flexibility, creativity — seeing with new eyes — can find solutions and transform mistakes and flaws in wonderful ways. Your story’s a delight, especially since I know people now who keep art journals, and I can “see” just what you’re talking about.

      I still laugh at a similar moment in my own life. It was an important Thanksgiving dinner, and I’d brought my special pumpkin pies. Early on the morning of the feast, I came downstairs and discovered the family cat had left her tracks across the pie. They were subtle, but they were there. With no time to fix those imperfections, I did the only reasonable thing. I frosted the pies with whipped cream, edge to edge. No one died, no one got sick, and I’ve had years of giggles out of the experience.

      That inner critic can be relentless, for sure. The trick is to listen, to evaluate its claims, and then, if necessary, tell it to take a hike.

      1. Ben’s mother once made two pies to take on the boat to celebrate one of the boy’s birthdays. She had them in a box and told their father and the boys to be careful with the pies. So, their dad took the pie tin that was on the bottom and put it on the top, making it look like the pies had been flipped over. She freaked when she saw them and turned the pies “right side up”–but what she really did was turn them upside down. The pies still tasted good and a life-time of memories were made.

        1. What a wonderful tale — and what a trick to play on a proud pie-baker. I wonder if any of the old practical jokes endure? You know: sugar in the salt shaker, the wallet in the street attached to a piece of fishing line, the greased doorknob? Sometimes, “you kids go find something to do” had unexpected results, as well as eliciting rueful laughter from the victim.

  7. I am still chuckling about the cardinal! There are some areas of life where we need people to be like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way, ( in aeronautics for example) but in other areas imperfections are a wonderful source of entertainment. How dull my morning newspaper read would be if it were proof read by a perfect editor.

    1. The trick, of course, is to strive for perfection where perfection is desirable, but not to be undone when imperfection comes to visit.

      It’s certainly a good thing when takeoffs and landings are equal in number, and when they take place in traditional locations like a runway. On the other hand, when things don’t go so well, we end up with investigative committees, films like “Sully,” or one of my cousins landed in a tree — again!

      As for those copy editors, somehow the Oxford comma has popped up again as a subject for discussion. Two of my favorite examples of sentences where an additional comma might help clarify things: “Among those interviewed were Merle Haggard’s two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall,” and “This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”

      In Chicago, things have gotten rough in the past.

      1. Excellent examples. I think Haggard would have agreed with you. I’m not sure how Ayn Rand might have responded – hopefully with a chuckle, but it seems to me that there was a shortage of fun in that woman.

        1. I think “shortage of fun” should go on the list of best understatements of 2016. I know this. If I had to choose between spending an evening with Merle Haggard or an evening with Ayn Rand — I’m taking the Hag.

          1. I also read it to my daughter (over the phone) and she hooted with laughter. And she hooted at my silliness. I also thought it wouldn’t have been out of place in works by Jonathan Swift.

    1. I still laugh at that memory — and my artist friend laughed about it until the end of her days. Clearly, the ability to share an imperfection beats unshared perfection, hands down.

        1. Well, it’s possible that sharing perfection might beat both. But I’d have to ponder that, especially since so much depends on the definition of ‘perfection,’ and perfect definitions are hard to come by, too!

  8. I can’t tell you how much I love this post, maybe because in far too many things I am an anti-perfectionist. I love how we all see things differently, like you saw the bird. I love the stories that come from trying to make it better. Or explain it all. I had to laugh at the knitting story because twenty years ago it could have been me. And then one day it wasn’t.

    I always said I would have been a bad surgeon because when you’re holding a scalpel by tender organs you can’t just say, “That’s OK for now.” It’s not that there aren’t areas I want to be as good as possible — but I know being very good and being perfect can be miles apart and I’ve got places to go, people to see, things to do. Assess the reality of it (do I really need to fix that sleeve?!)

    That said, you know I try to do certain paintings over till I get them right. But I’m not sure anyone in the world would say my final ‘right’ is perfect! I sure wouldn’t!

    But of course, the thing I loved most in this post was your reference to Diana’s family jigsaw puzzle. Oh, Linda — I miss her so much. I miss her wonderful, insightful writing, her buoyant personality, her kind heart. She was, as you were, early bloggie friends through Write on Wednesday and Becca’s blog. (And one of the first I met in person.) And it was people like you and Diana that helped me forge on with blogging because I knew the connection was more valuable than even the words on the page. We were all real, breathing people, strangers and not strangers at all. Was that a story from her blog or one through an email between you two? If you have the link, I hope you’ll email it to me. I’d like to revisit that one.

    I need to share this one with Nora, her daughter, I think. I would hope it would give her a smile.

    1. Jeanie, I smiled at your reference to the surgeon. There’s no question that, when I entrusted my eyes to my surgeon, I was hoping for perfection. We didn’t get full-blown perfection, because some cells were left in my eyes that may (or may not) multiply and require another simple procedure down the road. But what I got — 20/20 vision, the ability to drive at night, and fresh, bright colors — is close enough to perfection for me just now.

      I like the way you say, “twenty years ago, it could have been me. And then it wasn’t.” So much change seems to take place that way. It’s as though something develops under the suface and then, one day, it appears. Other people may say, “That’s strange. Where did that come from?” But we know, as soon as it happens, that it’s been happening all along.

      I miss Diana, too. I went back and read her comments on my blog: funny, insightful, wry. We actually met only two months after I began blogging — in June, 2008. The Mississippi was flooding, significantly, and she and Richard had gone down at the Arch, just to look. She came home and went online to see what might be on the web that wasn’t on the news and found me. It was wonderful.

      Did you know that Richard’s the new president of St. Louis Rotary? There are some great photos on his Twitter feed — he tweets under his name. And, if you click on the image up above, it will take you to the blog entry where she posted a photo of the whole puzzle. I cut the image down significantly to fit it in here.

      1. After I read your post I went back to Diana’s and yes, found the puzzle post. Boy, she was just the right writer for me. Funny, real, thoughtful — does that sound like you? I think so! No wonder we all found each other.

        I didn’t know that about Richard. That’s very cool — I’ll have to check it. I periodically check in on Nora’s blog — I don’t always comment regularly but lots of times it makes me feel like I’m checking in on Di. Such a tough time to lose your mom. But then, I’m not sure what is the easy time.

        1. I dug around a bit, but don’t seem to have the email she sent when I asked permission to use the puzzle photo. It was hilarious — just beyond words. She adopted the tone of a put-upon literati, and it was such a perfect send up. Of course, she lived in that world, and knew just how to do it.

          1. I just heard this from another blogger who is friends with Diana’s daughter. A few weeks ago Richard had a serious heart attack. He made it through but I haven’t heard a recent report apart from the fact that they took him out of sedation and will need a pacemaker. I feel so deeply for her kids — this must be more frightening than ever given they have lost their mom. But I think he’s on the mend and that’s good.

            1. What a shame. On the other hand, pacemakers can be life-changing, just like stents. I hope he does well, and heals quickly. There probably will be some life-style changes needed, and, as a friend who received a pacemaker said, that was far harder than the surgery. But I know how commited he can be to causes he’s convinced are good, and his good health surely is a good cause!

  9. Such a good point and you expressed it superbly! I think that often a slight imperfection is necessary to make something absolutely perfect, for how else could it be complete?

    1. What an interesting thought — that 'completeness' and 'perfection' somehow differ. That seems right to me, intuitively, although it's hard to talk about. What we know is that imperfection is woven through the fabric of the world. Anyone who's tried to find an undamaged butterfly or a perfectly straight tree knows that.

      As a matter of fact, I run into this from time to time with wood. Some people are hopeful that I can match replacement wood on their boats with the old. Staining helps, of course, but differences in wood grain can't be disguised, and even staining doesn't always help when farmed teak is being paired with old-growth. I have suggested from time to time that, if they would like absolute uniformity, they might try plastic — but I always do it with a smile!

  10. Hi Linda where would our lives be without the wise leavening of imperfection? As Leonard Cohen observed in one of his songs, …’ there is a crack in everything. It’s where the light gets in…’ Thanks for this lovely post.

    1. You’re welcome, Anne. That Cohen line is a good one, and true. It also suggests that describing someone as “cracked” may be more of a compliment than people usually assume.

      By the way: I took that grammar quiz that you posted in your Twitter timeline. Yes, I got them all correct, but I did have to wonder at the simplicity of the test.The level of the questions suggests the dumbing-down process continues apace. There’s no question that demands for a little more perfection — a lot more, in fact — would be a good thing in our educational system!

  11. Loved this post. As a knitter I could identify with that situation. Most of all I enjoyed the story of the bird in the painting. Delightful.

    1. I”m sure every knitter has known the experience of unraveling. When I was doing needlepoint, I was grateful that someone had invented a little tool for ripping out stitches.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story of the bird-that-wasn’t-a-bird. It’s one of my favorites. I try to look at the world a little more closely these days, although I don’t always succeed in seeing what’s right in front of me.

  12. Linda, this one resonates with me. I lean toward being a perfectionist — something that years in journalism seemed to ease a bit — and now, I find myself laboring over every word, every phrase, every paragraph, as I write. Perhaps I need to enter the trenches again, if I want to finish writing this novel, ha!

    Each of your examples is ideally suited for making your point come across clearly. I took up crochet in college, and many a long winter’s day at home was passed with an immense puzzle. Sadly, I’ve never been able to draw — even my stick people look “off”!!

    1. Debbie, I wonder if the existence of deadlines was something that helped you in those journalism years? Having to produce by a certain time does focus the attention.

      That’s one reason I’ve tried to hold as closely as I can to a once-a-week publishing schedule. It sets up a rhythm I find helpful. The day that I publish, I decide what the next topic is going to be, and the day after that I get started. If I want to do something that requires more research, that will take more than a week to put together, I find smaller, less labor-intensive posts to fill the gap until I finish whatever I’m researching.

      I did a quick search for “perfectionism as a cause of writers’ block” and found there are hundreds of articles making the connection. Every now and then, I’ll find myself just staring at the screen, and sometimes it’s because a paragraph (or even a sentence, for heaven’s sake) isn’t just the way I want it. I’ve found that if I stop trying to make it just right, and go on to a different part of the piece, things straighten out — sometimes later than sooner, but they work out.

      Of course, a novel’s a different critter. There are more balls in the air, and more energy’s needed to keep them there. Still, a novel is only chapters divided into paragraphs made up of sentences.

      I love Annie Dillard’s terse advice: “It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.” Isn’t that great?

      1. Excellent response, Linda, and yes, I do believe deadlines helped. When you realize presses wait for no one, you know to get your copy in on time! You’re wise to set a schedule for blogging, and I’m pleased to know your method is similar to what I do. I must confess, though, I haven’t been a stickler thus far! Perhaps that’s why things keep interfering (matter tends to fill a void, or something like that).
        Annie is right on the money — stop wasting time writing shopping lists (and calling that writing) when heavier material is waiting to come out!

  13. As a former knitter and sewer, I have had my share of unraveling. The pursuit of perfection in anything shows a tendency toward impatience of which I have plenty. I remember telling my girls to “walk fast and they won’t notice” the flaw in the skirt, etc. Sometimes you just have to get on with it and get on to something else. I loved this post Linda, the chewed up puzzle piece, the misplaced drop of paint all were reminders that perfection isn’t always desirable. It may even take the joy out of doing it.

    1. Your advice to “walk fast” is perfect. The truth is, even if your girls walked slow, any flaws in their skirts probably would escape notice. Most people don’t pay that much attention to what’s going on around them and today, with the ubiquitous phone added to the mix? There’s even less chance an uneven hem would be noticed.

      You’re right that sometimes we just need to get on with it, particularly those of us who notice time speeding up and shrinking, all at the same time. There’s just too much to see/do/experience to nitpick (or knit-pick!) everything to death.

      I knew you’d like that drop of paint. You’d like her later work, too. I have two large canvases — one of yellow roses, and one of poppies — that are just splendid. She loved painting roses, like this one.

        1. She was an old-fashioned lady. She and my mother were friends, too. They were born four months apart — in 1918. She was quite a source for stories of early Texas, too, as her parents lived in Oklahoma while it still was Indian Territory, before moving to the Texas Panhandle.

  14. Calling out all the perfectionists are you! Ugh! Right now, I am trying to write the perfect post, it’s not coming along well! I tried knitting and crocheting, however I enjoyed corking. I have learned that it is better and more enjoyable if you stick with what you’re good at.

    1. Nope, not me. I don’t call people out. I’m just musing on something that was a terrible issue for me when I was young, and that has become less so over the years. After living with a mother who wanted me to be perfect, I’ve had a few decades to ponder all this!

      Honestly, I think many of us have tendencies toward perfectionism. But as I mentioned somewhere up above, wanting to do quality work is one thing. Not being able to produce anything because we fear it won’t be good enough is something else.

      What you said about sticking with what we’re good at is interesting, too. In a way it’s related to the advice I was given, years ago, to write about what I know. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but if I had done that, over half of my posts wouldn’t have been written. I tend to become curious about something, and then learn about it. In fact, I think it’s much more fun to write about what I don’t know, just because the learning process is such fun.

  15. The old story of the crafts woman, the weaver, the knitter, the quilter, the crocheter, deliberately leaving a tiny mistake tucked away somewhere unobtrusively in the work, because if that little mistake was not there, the thing would be perfect, and only God is perfect. An article of faith, an object lesson in humility.

    1. I thought about intentional imperfections while I was putting the post together, but I decided to leave an little open space for someone to fill, and you filled it beautifully. I always think first of Navajo weavers, but of course there are many other cultures where the same concept can be found.

      I also decided to set aside any discussion of Wabi-sabi. I’ve been learning more about it, and its basis in an acknowledgement that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. If you put it that way, it certainly resonates, and isn’t at all antithetical to other beliefs important to me.

      As a friend put it, if you knock the possibility of perfection off its pedestal, there go perfectionism, imperfection, and who knows what else. It’s an intriguing thought.

  16. Oh, let’s see here…I’d like to make a perfect comment to this sweet post, a comment that will fix the sweater, puzzle, and painting all in a few words. The perfect witty comment. A comment that your readers will remember. A comm that completes the incompletion.

    1. You’ve left me nearly speechless with your commentary, Cheri, but you raise an issue I’ve never seen discussed within the commentariat. If a perfect comment is witty, would an imperfect comment be half-witty? (Comments appended to social media and news sites suggest the answer’s a resounding “yes.” But not here. We have our wits about us.)

  17. I really enjoyed this and wholeheartedly agree that there are “stories in the mistakes, beauty in the flaws, and compelling mystery in the smudges of time and history.” The “cardinal” story is too funny!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, M.R. That cardinal was a very rare bird, indeed — “Cardinalis maculatus,” perhaps, in honor of its splotchy appearance!

      The proof that there are stories in the mistakes is the very fact that I’m still telling the story, and you’re enjoying it. I just wish the artist still was here to know that her “bird” lives on.

  18. I’m at my wit’s end to try to come up with something appropriately clever here, but suffice it to say that I’m inspired to return to several musical ideas I’ve had and haven’t yet brought to fruition due to waiting for the perfect ideas to finish them. Better to let them exist as moments in time, perhaps to be revisited at a later time, perhaps not–but at least they will exist.

    1. Gary, have you seen the film “Florence Foster Jenkins”? One of the real-life Jenkins’s most famous lines, spoken to a friend, was, “”People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”
      She was the very apotheosis of the artist who didn’t give a flip about perfection: either because she knew how bad she was, or because she didn’t. Whatever the truth about that might be, there are lessons for us all in her life.

      As for ideas, I think John Steinbeck got it right when he said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” Take that inspiration you’ve got and go find your rabbits!

  19. I love this post — and all the comments shared as well as your replies.

    All the while, I am trying to remember where I heard about purposefully adding an imperfection in a project (maybe it was a quilt reference???) — because nothing is perfect except GOD. It will come to me at an odd time — maybe in the middle of the night!! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Isn’t it funny how odd thoughts will come to us in the middle of the night? Sometimes I’ll be searching for a word that just won’t come to mind. Go to bed, go to sleep, and voila! Sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the night, there it is. I like to think a portion of my mind works the night shift.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Becca. It occurs to me that it’s the imperfections that make so many of your Sunday tree photos so interesting. Someone looking for a ‘perfect’ tree might pass them by, but those imperfections help to make them individuals.

      Happy week!

  20. This is such a great post. I like imperfections. I admire perfectionists, most jobs would not be safe without them. Unfortunately I am not one. I like getting lots of things done and if I make a mistake then I learn.

    I have always been a bad knitter – I hated the repetition. After chemo the hospital recommended I do repetitive things until I got them right to get my brain functioning again. So I chose knitting in front of the TV. I don’t know how many holes and re-knits I had to do but eventually I knitted a blanket which I hoped would become an heir-loom. No-one liked it -the colours are garish and the stitches are various sizes – and in my dejunking it had to go. So I have just done my first yarn-bomb and wrapped my Cancer blanket around a tree. Everyone likes it now.

    1. I think that yarn-bombing was a perfect idea, SOL. Better to put the blanket out for people admire than for it to linger at the bottom of a drawer. Granted, it might not last so long, but the effect probably is much more dramatic.

      I really was intrigued by your mention of routine tasks as therapy. I’ve not heard that before. It may be a common prescription, of course; it certainly makes sense. I wonder if it isn’t related to the development of muscle memory for certain tasks. The most recent example in my own life involves the new camera. When I first began using it, I was awkward as could be, forever looking for this button or that. Now, I still have to look from time to time, but at least I can find the shutter button. On a more serious note, a friend who had a stroke and couldn’t walk is now walking just fine, even without a cane. Her doctor said all the therapy was designed to re-establish the neural pathways in her brain, among other things.

      As for perfection: of course there are jobs which require just that, but learning to deal with the imperfections is equally important. Even the best doctors have patients die from time to time: an “imperfection” beyond words. But they have to learn to cope, and move on. If they don’t, all of their future patients lose out.

      I’m with you on the imperfection-as-mistake issue. I can be impulsive, over-eager, and scattered, and that leads to mistakes. But I try to learn from them — especially, to slow down and focus.

      1. Thanks for that lovely reply. Yes the therapy was designed to make connections between the neutrons in the neural pathways. Like you I forget to slow down and focus – it is not until I have an accident that I realise. This has been an extremely interesting post.

  21. I immediately thought about our visit to the historic capitol building in Sacramento, California, with its gorgeous artwork in the floor and dome of the rotunda. The tour guide told us that when the work was originally done, the artist intentionally made an error in the pattern, because it was presumptuous for any human to aspire to absolute perfection. That quality belongs ineffably and only to God.

    In life, as opposed to art, most of us make plenty of errors and goofs without having to be intentional about it :-)

    Oh, I just saw that becca above mentioned this philosophical idea….

    1. I never visited the capitol when I lived in California. After looking at some images of the interior decoration just now, I wish I had. It’s beautiful.

      I’ve most often come across the inclusion of intentional faults in accounts of weavers’ work. It makes sense that other artists would include such errors, too. I must say, finding a fault in that lavishly decorated capitol could take a lifetime, but of course the point isn’t who sees it. It’s the fact that the artist — and God — know it’s there.

      Your comment about the capitol, and about how easily we make those unintentional errors, brought another phrase to mind. In baseball, they speak of ‘unforced errors.’ Not being a fan of the game, I had no idea what it means, but I just found it’s used in tennis, too. I should adopt the idiom into my vocabulary.

      1. I’ve heard unforced error a bunch of times in coverage of the current presidential campaign. The phrase strikes me as redundant. To my mind an error is by default unintentional, and therefore the noun needs to be modified only when the error is intentional.

        1. That makes sense. When I began paying attention to redundancies, I found I’d used the phrase ‘unintentional mistake” a time or two, and the same reasoning applies; by default, a mistake is unintentional.

          In tennis, it seems as though the terms ‘forced error’ and ‘unforced error’ have much more precise meanings.

  22. Just the other day I was telling someone what I’d heard many years ago about weavers in Guatemala: that they’d purposely put in a mistake early on so they wouldn’t be obsessed about perfection during all the rest of the time they spent on the piece.

    1. You’ve added a new little wrinkle to the practice of adding mistakes intentionally: the value of doing it early.

      Strangely, the first thing that came to mind was my father’s purchase of one of the first Ford Mustangs to come off the line. It surely wasn’t the practical Studebaker or Olds he’d always purchased, and he loved it. Everyone in town knew that car: a deep, royal blue, with a white interior.

      He babied the car for months, trying to keep it showroom perfect. One day, after parking it far, far away from all those inattentive shoppers who might open their own car door into it, he came back to find a scratch down the side, where a grocery cart had rolled past it.

      After about three days of deep grief, he got it fixed. From then on, with no perfection to protect, he just enjoyed the car.

  23. I like to think about things like jewels where imperfections can make them all the more beautiful. There’s merit in striving for perfection, I suppose, but the story and accidental beauty that emerges from failing…I agree, it’s too often overlooked.

    1. Though it isn’t actually a jewel, the first stone that came to mind was turquoise. The cracks and fissures, the uneven color, and the varying textures all help to make the stone interesting. Polished turquoise can be very pretty, but it does shine in a different way with its imperfections intact.

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read these little stories, Rii, and for your wise comment. I appreciate both, and you’re always welcome here. ~ Linda

  24. It’s like you’ve been part of a conversation roomie and I have been having for the past few weeks. It came from this: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:33 Though we act and those actions are our own, God weaves the results into His plans.

    What a lovely collection of unintentionals, Linda. And you’ve got me yearning for an asparagus green sweater.

    1. The verse from Proverbs reminds me of something my grandmother often said: “Man proposes, God disposes.” It’s also a reminder that we can’t always predict the consequences of our actions. Like Arti’s ripples, they expand into the world.

      I’m smiling and smiling over your phrase “a lovely collection of unintentionals.” It suggests the sheer pleasure of serendipity.

      Your mention of asparagus-green reminded me that I thought of you when I read this food-related post yesterday. It’s a fusion that I never would have imagined, but creativity in the kitchen knows no bounds.

  25. Many years ago there was an album by the Moody Blues that had a mandala on its back cover. I no longer remember which album and was unable to find it on the net. I read about Mandalas and found it to be a Tantric example in this case. One of the key features of Tantric Art is always the inclusion of an intentional imperfection so as not to offend the Gods who can be the only perfection. This is found in many eastern art forms including the intricate sand patterns done by monks.
    What a fun story about your friend’s “cardinal”.

    1. I remember you mentioning that album in one of your own posts, Steve — or perhaps in a comment. If I’ve read that Eastern artists also include intentional imperfection in their work, I’ve forgotten it. I think you’d enjoy this article, which presents some images quite different from the one you linked.

      One thing the article says is that, in Sanskrit, tantra means “treatise,” but also “loom” or “weave.” It’s interesting that weavers from many cultures also include those imperfections: East meets West, again.

      That story about the cardinal is amusing, particularly since my misinterpretation went on for so long. I suppose that, once we decide what a thing is, that’s what it is for us — no matter the reality!

  26. I agree that we should should learn to celebrate the joy of imperfection – yet I also think that it’s important to know when an imperfection should be fixed and when it should be ignored. For example, I never used to want to tear out little mistakes I made while sewing. Each one by itself wasn’t much of a problem; however, all of those little mistakes would end up multiplying and the end product just won’t look right.

    1. I wouldn’t argue at all for sloppiness, inattention, or laziness when it comes to mistakes. If nothing else, they provide a chance to develop skills and learn patience.

      But there’s a time when a search for an impossible perfection brings paralysis, or when demands for an impossible perfection make us either fearful or resentful. That’s when it’s time to cut ourselves and others a little slack, and accept that we’re not always going to meet standards: our own, or others.

      Actually, I wasn’t trying to suggest we should celebrate imperfection itself, but that we can celebrate what is, despite its imperfections. Then, we take take what we’ve learned, and do better the next time.

  27. Imperfections are but abundant. Instead of avoiding them or seeing them as discouragements, we should rather cherish them and see how they could spur us to keep going. A perfect world would be a boring world. :-)

    1. That’s exactly what I thought a couple of days ago, Otto. I was remembering the “perfection” of the 1950s and early 1960s living rooms I grew up with: the furniture arranged just so, the carpet nap all going in one direction, the dust covers on the furniture, the color-coordinated magazines on the coffee table.

      Those rooms never varied, and woe to us if we dared actually live in them! All we could do was sit, silent and unmoving, on the sofa — and be bored!

        1. That’s right. When my folks built our new house back in the late 1950s, the den became the center of the house. We spent a lot of hours there, since it had Mom’s needlework supplies, the tv, and Dad’s stamp collection. I first watched American Bandstand in that room. Such a long time ago…

  28. Nothing was ever perfect in our home. With one exception! Dad had a little drawer in the top of his dresser in which he kept his personal possessions: Mechanical pencil; watch; rings; mementos from his family and more. And woe be it to the child who opened that drawer for a peek! To this day I can remember the four of us being lined up and interrogated to find out “Who-did-it!” The drill was, “fess up or we all got it.” Only once did we “all get it.” And I blame my brother because he knew he had the satisfaction of not being punished alone. The rest of us would always crack and cry because we didn’t want the others to be spanked for no reason.

    There is much that floats between the lines here, and that’s probably TMI, but it was the first thing that came to mind when you mentioned imperfection and I thought of home.

    1. It always fascinates me to read about the dynamics among siblings. As an only child, I missed out on some of that, but there still were grillings from time to time as I learned about the importance of telling the truth. I knew that, no matter what I’d done, if I lied about it, things were going to get worse, fast.

      Your description of your dad’s drawer brings back so many memories: particularly that mechanical pencil. And cuff links! Do men wear cuff links any more? I suppose some do, but I don’t live in such a formal world, and haven’t for years.

      I’m so glad to see you. I just was thinking about you today, and wondering how your recovery was going. Clearly, you’re able to do more than just peck out one character at a time — I’m glad. I’ve lost all sense of time, but it seems as though we must be about at the end of the time you were going to be “hobbled.” Yes?

      1. Linda, I have been trying to stay “up” but we have the Mtn. Farmlet on the chopping block and it had it’s first viewing today. It is a very melancholy event for me. I am sad to see it go, but happy for Bob to know that the debt is going away… he is sleeping better with that knowledge. :) I had the day from heck today and I’m so tired. I will be posting about it tomorrow. Promise.
        Here’s a hint on how it was.

  29. Perception is everything. Love that red bird story – I suspected it was a fingerprint or smudge reconfigured – but your eye filled in what it wanted to see, and convinced all the rest of you to not even notice the possibility it was incorrect.

    Perfection is such a stumbling block. Keeps many artists/craftsmen from developing. I had an art teacher once who insisted we draw in the dark (only light on the model) or put paper and marking tool inside paper bags or face the model and paint/draw on an easel almost behind us and we weren’t allowed to turn and look. It was really liberating.

    We are taught early that sky is blue, grass is green, and each object has to look exactly like a determined ( by who knows) shape. Or it’s all wrong and we are horrible to not do it right so better not try. The eyes are the enforcers for life.
    What a shame.

    I have to admit, I would have hand painted/color penciled the puzzle pieces to match as closely as possible – and challenge others to find the corrected piece.

    Possibly the Navajo have it right: always weave in a mistake in each rug – to acknowledge that humans are imperfect creatures and can never create perfection – only the gods are perfect. So with that philosophy, I do not worry if there are smudges when I clean windows. Works for me.

    1. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to remember something my dad used to say, but here it is: “There’s no such thing as a perfect idiot.” That’s even more comforting today than it was all those decades ago.

      I’d put your point about perfection-as-stumbling-block a little differently. I think it’s fear of imperfection that so often freezes us. And that fear is learned. After years of not pleasing a parent or a spouse or a boss, it’s easy to lose confidence. I suppose we’ve all had the experience; learning to regain enthusiasm and confidence can be quite a trick.

      I laughed at the thought of you fixing up those puzzle pieces — how very Phil of you! And I’m with you on the windows. The only time I go obsessive over clean glass is in the car. No matter where I take the car to be washed, I always count on having to redo the inside of the windows. Since I know my standards aren’t their standards, it’s not a problem.

      1. Fear of being criticized or failure is the big problem (we are our own worse enemy). Sad so much of that comes from well meaning parents (who assist too much, telling the child “you can’t do it right, so I will help”) and teachers who have forgotten childhood and what kids are capable of.
        I love your dad’s quote! (Fits these days for sure)

        We always redo the inside car windows, too. The glare makes it critical! And besides what we pay for a quick wash at the one on Nasa Rd 1 is more than resonable – nice owners – they work there with their employees – and not from here, they have stories to tell. If you pay full handwash service like for the Mustang once, it’ll more than match your standards

        1. If I had to sum up my childhood in one statement, it would be, “Mother! I want to do it myself!” To her credit, she usually let me. Now, we have college administrations handing out coloring books and blankets to their students, not to mention providing “safe” spaces. I’m awaiting the first announcement of a college — I’m betting on Columbia or Yale — handing out pacifiers.

          Do you mean that crew that’s opened up at the corner of 146 and Nasa? or the ones closer to Egret Bay? The young fellows at 146/Nasa are great. They’re fast, yet thorough. The only problem is getting a slot. They’re so good that there can be quite a wait. I usually try for morning, when they’ve first opened up. They’re strictly hand-wash, too.

  30. Thank you for this hard, but important, lesson to be learned over and over again. Yesterday I was in charge of chapel, during a week of too much to do, and the tension of the week showed up in gaffes and slips here and there. But a little girl danced and some new students showed up and we had some bread and wine and heard the word all the same. Who knows, maybe my mistakes preached too – although that is never a good excuse for not preparing!

    1. Whether it’s a school play, a chapel service, a Broadway musical, or a funeral, the opportunities for gaffes are manifold. It’s the nature of any production, I suppose — and every one of those examples is a production, even though we might not like to think so. The trick is to accept the structure, while remaining free within it — and free from anxieties about it.

      Here’s a thought that just came to me: if Jesus was perfectly human, wouldn’t he have had to commit a gaffe or two along the way? I’ve never heard anyone suggest such a thing, but the more I think about it, the more humorous it becomes. Were his mistakes limited to his youthful woodworking? or might he have had his own problems — say, with the miracles? It’s fun to think of the gospel writers as occasional spinmeisters, helping to cover for him while he coped with his own humanity.

  31. If we care for everything to be perfect, we might as well stay in bed and not get up.

    I love this piece, an object lesson in itself as I strived to find those two pieces. I wouldn’t have noticed at all. But then again, with words, esp. from my own making, I’d like to be sure it’s as perfect as can be. Like this current post, I had this phrase: “Every frame is meticulously composed and lit…” At first, I had the last word here written as “lighted”. Then someone mentioned (upon my soliciting her opinion on my writing) that there’s only a tiny glitch in the second paragraph, it should be ‘lit’ not ‘lighted’.

    Anyway, I looked it up online and both are acceptable. But I changed it to ‘lit’ anyway, since this person is a native English speaker and used to be a freelance writer. But you know what I mean, I want to present every post as ‘perfect’ as I can. O, if you do come over and read it, and comment, pls. don’t mention this word. ;)

    1. That’s quite interesting, about ‘lit’ and ‘lighted.’ I’ve used both, and never thought a thing about it. I did go over to the Ngram viewer to see how usage might have changed over time, and found that ‘lighted’ began its slide around 1900. Honestly, I’m wondering if technology played a role. I grew up with songs like “The Old Lamplighter,” and we always talked about having lighted candles on the table. As electricity replaced oil lamps and such, maybe the language changed. I don’t know that — it’s just an idle thought.

      On the other hand, in one of my favorite quotations, Annie Dillard says, “There is no such thing as an artist: there is only the world lit or unlit as the light allows. When the candle is burning, who looks at the wick? When the candle is out, who needs it?”

      What I do understand is your way of approaching your articles and posts. I do the same. Before publishing, I labor until I’m happy with the result. But I think I’ve told you my motto: “Write, and let go.” Once I hit publish, I may think about something that could have been done better, but I don’t worry over it. I’d rather use that energy for the next project.

      I’ve not read your post yet, but I’ve seen who’s the subject. I was surprised, and I’m eager to have a read tomorrow.

  32. I once tried my hand at knitting–a pair of slippers. Not a success. At sewing, I was no better. Yet you are right that the goal of perfection shouldn’t be the purpose. A friend who is an artist not long ago passed on this quote from Kurt Vonnegut: “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

    1. I agree with that Vonnegut quotation. Practice involves so many soul-stretching characteristics: perseverance, for one, but also the pleasure of accomplishment, imagination, openness to instruction. You no doubt could compile quite a list yourself, just by thinking about the musicians you know, and your own study of the field.

      Are you still doing collages? I enjoyed those posts so much. Perhaps in deep winter, when out-and-about pleasures wane, we might see some more of that wonderful art?

  33. Time has shown me that it’s perfection (at least for the artist) that has to do more with harmony and a certain communion with the environment (as a naturalist). However, even this harmony is sometimes interrupted (or misguided) because one loses patience. At least, I know I lose it, and it’s really me and the anxiety that I will miss the moment or the ‘inspiration”.

    Sometimes I feel this concept of ‘perfection’ comes from what the classical, traditional art school used to teach, and that was that works of art had to be ‘finished’. This “completion” could be a misguided notion since technically speaking one can always add more. What means to ‘finish’ something could be conflictive at some point, for everyone alike, because it’s too subjective. I could say I’m finished, and someone else say I’m not. Is it really even possible?

    1. I don’t know about “being finished” being so subjective. When I’m writing a post, like this one, I know perfectly well when it’s right: when I can hit the publish button, and go on to something else. Now and then, someone will say, “Oh, but you should have added this or that,” and I just smile and say “Ummmhmmm.” Others certainly have the right to judge the quality of an artist’s work, but I’m not sure anyone other than the artist can know when enough is enough.

      Ironically, when I find myself working and working on a piece, I’m usually subtracting rather than adding. There’s always a temptation to shove every great metaphor, and every imaginative idea, into a piece — even if they don’t belong! What I’ve learned over the years is that every good idea finds a home, eventually. Cutting out doesn’t have to mean throwing away.

      What you say about the relationship of ‘perfection’ to classical ideals does ring true. And even those who judge by different standards can cause discomfort. That’s one reason I’m so fond of, and inspired by, Georgia O’Keeffe. I love these words of hers:

      “I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower you hung all your associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see–and I don’t.”

  34. When I was younger, cross stitch spoke to me because it was the only thing I could do that gave “so called” perfect results, and that had more to do with the process than me. For the most part, it’s a craft that keeps one in line – literally.

    Now I don’t believe perfection is achievable in art or life, and I’m not sure it’s even desirable. I think that art and life are about reaching peace with what you cannot change and sometimes even what you can change, and maybe even celebrating it. I loved this piece. You only get better, but please don’t become perfect. I wouldn’t like you so much then. :)

    1. I did cross stitch, and enjoyed it — as long as we were using stamped patterns. When I met counted cross stitch, it was time to move on, leaving those gingham aprons and café curtains behind.

      So much of what we call perfection involves meeting an external standard. That’s part of what leaves so many people unhappy with Christmas, or their birthday, or a vacation. They decide ahead of time what it should be, and when the inevitable complication shows up, they can’t cope. I’ll still talk about having a perfect day, but you can bet something in that day didn’t go exactly as planned. That’s when that acceptance you mentioned becomes so important.

      The chances of me becoming perfect are about the same as the chances of Dixie Rose becoming a loving lap-cat. I’m betting on zero!

  35. You’re queen of the narrative thread, to my mind, knitting scraps of life from different times and places into a sweetly coherent story – but I’ll refrain from saying this piece is perfect.;-)

    1. Such a lovely comment. The best word of all is ‘coherent.’ I usually have a sense of where I’m going with these pieces, but whether I can bring anyone along is a different matter. I’m glad you liked it — that’s perfection enough in my book.

  36. Dear Linda, I needed this wonderful essay, most particularly the final paragraph. Thank you so much.
    Perfectionism is such a tiresome burden and when life throws you into a state where there simply isn’t time to unravel that sleeve or bother with the final piece of the jigsaw, letting it go can be healing.

    I am desperate to learn to take to heart the phrase : “What could possibly happen if this or that doesn’t get done?”


    1. Friko, I’m so glad you found it meaningful. There are times in life when the best thing to do is invoke what I call The Rule of Good Enough. Those are the times I remind myself that, yes, someone else might be able to do better, but I’m only called to do my best. You, too.

      Do you remember dear Vanish John: exemplar of boatyard wisdom? I think so often of his advice: “Do what you can do, not what you can’t.” Those impossible goals look great on to-do lists, but they do weigh heavily. Besides, the things that truly must be done are few. No one ever has died of not dusting the furniture.

  37. I am late to the gathering, but no less effected by it. Having painted, crocheted, knitted, and sewed for most of my life, I have learned the lesson of enjoying the mistakes, they bring character to the craft.
    Thank you for a wonderful post.

    1. As I like to tell people, Brig, there is no ‘late’ around here. I still get comments on posts written as much as eight years ago, since I never close comments on a post. I’m just glad you found this one, and that you enjoyed it.

      I had a little browse around your blog this morning, and enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed your note about your favorite movies: “would rather be doing than watching.” My sentiments, exactly. It’s nice to know there’s another someone out there who’s part of our increasingly small club!

      Thanks for stopping by, and for commenting. You’re always welcome here. ~Linda

  38. How I enjoyed this post about imperfections and I share the comment written by “Brig”, just above mine. In my quilters’ group I always was the less precise one for cutting, assembling, well just following the pattern. But just between four eyes, Linda, I must tell you that my imperfections added some movement and life in a quilt that would have been a bit too static otherwise. For my taste, that is. I enjoyed your encouraging lines, thank you.

    1. I’ve seen enough of your quilting, Isa, to know how full of life and movement your pieces can be. That’s part of what makes them so appealing to me. Formal perfection has its own virtues, to be sure, but focusing on form alone necessarily implies a more static result. At least, that’s how it seems to me. That’s what makes poetic form, like the etheree, such a challenge. Simply counting syllables is easy enough, but including rhythm and rhyme is something else.

      Besides, as we both know, imperfection often is just another word for unexpected results. The surprise can delight even the creator!

  39. Our little weekly newspaper each week has a number of little flaws, a place on the fringe of the page where a line appears where a little excess ink made its way onto the page, a typo, a too-large space between justified words in a sentence, every week something to remind us that we didn’t get it perfectly, but of what interest would a perfect printed product be? It probably wouldn’t get read, cut apart for coupons or family memories. It probably would be encased in a case or frame and never be handled again. My proofreaders well understand; we’re human, and it’s part and parcel of our condition.
    Good words you wrote. Thanks!

    1. And sometimes, the mistakes themselves add value. My dad was a stamp collector, and I learned early about the famous “inverted Jenny” postage stamp. On a more mundane level, who doesn’t enjoy those collections of unintentionally funny headlines or misprints?

      As for typos, they can have their own stories. I’m currently battling to make sure I use an uppercase ‘I’ where it’s appropriate. A few months ago, I got a new keyboard, and suddenly it was ‘i’ this and ‘i’ that. I suppose there’s some physical difference in the keyboard that’s making the difference; with luck, it’ll disappear somewhere down the road.

      The truth is, I just wish we had a good weekly paper, even with a few oopsies. I’d wish for a good local daily, but I fear even the newspaper fairy can’t grant that one.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You’re certainly familiar with the issues involved in producing a weekly issue!

  40. Beautifully written, as always. Like you, I try to get things right. I make plenty of mistakes, but I’m never intentionally sloppy. There was a time when I would have even called myself a “perfectionist.” That was before I discovered what that word actually means.

    My roommate in my first year of law school had an interesting story. His first two years as an undergraduate he maintained a GPA of exactly 2.0. That was the minimum GPA that would permit you to stay in school. Then he decided he wanted to go to law school. His GPA during his last two years was 4.0–straight A’s in everything. Of course that left him with a mediocre overall GPA but he was able to get an interview with the admissions people and explain to them that he hadn’t taken school seriously until his third year, but that he had excelled ever since. So he was admitted to law school.

    At some point midway through our first semester of law school he realized that he would not be able to ace every class. So he quit. He dropped out. It turns out that he was a clinical perfectionist. If he couldn’t do it perfectly, then he’d just do the bare minimum. I haven’t had any contact with him in over 30 years but the last I heard he had a job doing title searches–well suited for someone with his condition, something like being a proof-reader.

    1. That’s quite a tale about your roommate. At least he’d stick with the bare minimum. There was a period on my much younger life when, if I wasn’t certain I could do something perfectly, I just wouldn’t do it at all. It was rather limiting, to say the least.

      It’s interesting: there are errors that come from not caring enough (that sloppiness you mention) but there also are errors that arise from caring too much — the kind of caring that brings tension and anxiety. Thinking about it just now, it seems as though the kind of detachment present in both Eastern and Western traditions would be useful in dealing with the connundrum. Focusing on the process, rather than the result, always has been more fruitful for me.

      And of course, there’s the question of precisely whose standards define perfection. There are more than a few people who would consider our lives almost unlivable. But I think mine’s as close to perfect as it’s ever been, and I suspect you feel the same.

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