Perfect (Sort Of)

You strive to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, knowing you are entitled to the perfect husband and the perfect home. Naturally, the picture includes the perfect neighborhood and perfect schools for your perfect kids.

And let’s not forget the perfect playmates, the perfect clothes, the perfect mix of sports and culture after school, the perfectly healthy dinners and planning perfectly arranged vacations.

Romance that continues in the couple for years to come? Of course! It will be perfect!

Oh, the perfect body. You must have that but not to worry because the perfect formula promises that it’s within your grasp. It’s only a matter of walking or running, tennis or working out, and preferably the perfect personal trainer. So you page through magazines and scroll through images on your perfectly suited personal device.

Even if the skin and muscle aren’t so perfect after pounds and pregnancies and giving birth, there will always be surgical options to consider. So keep smiling. Keep performing. Purchase a few books with encouraging words on presence and positivity, on gratitude and attitude. Isn’t this a workable path to the perfecting of the promised land?

You’ll find you can eventually become perfectly accepting, perfectly at ease, perfectly happy – or nearly – embracing just the right amount of imperfection as the “new” perfect – unless of course life’s messes build to levels beyond your control and maybe you consider that what appears perfect is something else, that what you strive for may be unimportant, that body parts will drop and sag and maybe it isn’t the end of the world after all.

There may in fact be a perfectly reasonable realization that even if your husband’s eye is wandering and you can’t seem to care the way you once did, even if the kids are driving you nuts along with the boss and the bills, even if no matter what you do or try or say isn’t enough, maybe fake it until you make it isn’t the perfect solution after all because fake it until you make it got you here and it’s been five years or ten years and you’re past making it and tired of faking it.

Perhaps along the way you veer from the path of perfection and then abandon it, reserving its energy and focus for select activities that offer no perfect but satisfaction instead – a preliminary project, a preeminent paragraph, a marvelous meal, one precious messy memorable tryst, a glorious get-away when your idea of perfection is as simple as hours of silence and sleep, a pot of Earl Grey, and a copy of Proust or Austen or Miller.

Perhaps you discover that life entraps us all, but less so when we don’t cast it in stone but rather cast off any concept of perfection – demanded of a person, demanded of a lifestyle, demanded of a career, demanded of a relationship, demanded of ourselves in the echo chambers of our own misdirected good intentions.

And you come to comprehend that entitlement is myth; you ride with what arrives and steer what you can, balancing the reins of serendipity and survival.

And so you say yes to the man with the deeply lined brow, yes to the man without impeccable degrees, yes to the man with no big job but instead a meaningful one; you say yes to his big heart and your own, yes to the necessity of your child’s rebellion, yes to this life that crawls at moments and rages at others, yes to the ease of song that returns when yes becomes the habit of everything except perfection. To that you respond with a firm and considered no.

Flash fiction is a very short story of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 words. This writing exercise, though not entirely compliant with the guidelines of flash fiction, is a bit of stream of consciousness – hopefully provocative and engaging.




© D A Wolf

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Comments

  1. I was brought up with the likes of “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.” Only began to figure out what this was saying years later, and still get various meanings from it. It helps to have a perfect goal (if such can be said to exist), to direct you for as far as you get. I could be said to have failed repeatedly, but that’s not how I look at it. Very fortunate for good family support growing up. No big regrets.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I’m a firm believer in reaching for the stars, Paul. Relinquishing the (impossible) quest for perfection doesn’t mean relinquishing the quest altogether. Rather, it’s redirecting it in meaningful ways.

  2. A perfect post indeed. Perfection is an overloaded term now a daze. I’ve never experienced perfect, but I’ve come close. Those moments are worth cherishing and are usually, in my case, accompanied by goosebumps.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Now a-daze indeed, Gandalfe. As for those unexpected, unplanned, joyful moments of “perfection” – a whole other matter.

  3. I can’t exactly articulate why, but I think this was an important post for me to read today. So thank you.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Perhaps it’s something I need to remind myself of occasionally. A different way to look at joy, at surprises, at expectations, at folly, at reasonableness, at unreasoned folly that has everything to do with life’s passions, and not necessarily others’ views (or our own) of perfection. If this touched something in some way, some positive way, I’m glad.

  4. I’m not sure I ever imagined perfection, but I always imagined being good. Perhaps the too somehow became intertwined, or maybe not, maybe perfection is just different to everyone. In many ways I’ve been happy with things as they are, but in many ways I strove to be better than good. I feel I’m talking a bit in circles, but you shed a glare on something that I think is infinitely complex, and has become much maligned.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Thank you for this circuitous and extremely helpful remark, Christine. Good – and better than good – doesn’t necessarily mean someone else’s idea of perfect. Or even our own. Complex, yes. And I love that you raised the issue of good – good can be pretty great.

  5. The problem with perfection is expecting it in others and, yes, even in yourself. For there is always more to be, more to do and more to become, it is impossible to achieve. And then there is the balance that you must find – where to give in? I always feel like I am lowering my standards (in a negative way) rather than accepting reality.

  6. batticus says:

    I’ve always admired the words of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote in order to form a more perfect Union in the preamble of the constitution; how amazing to state in one phrase that what lies ahead is an improvement over the past and yet admitting that it could never be perfect. A step in the right direction is better than waiting for perfection, le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

  7. I think the idea of perfection entraps those who refuse to let their imagination bust out of western society’s norms and definitions of success, beauty and happiness. This is such an important post, BLW, especially for those who keep forgetting (easy to do) that we are individuals and are free to customize our lives.

  8. BigLittleWolf says:

    “Free to customize our lives.” Well said.

  9. PERFECT would be SOOO dull (being complete and not modifiable but precisely determined). And only thing immutable is death. So hurrah for imperfection. (How did I ever get on to this???).

  10. Great post. I am a recovering perfectionist. Blogging has helped me put myself out there, actually, and realize I’m good enough. And, perhaps ironically, this has freed me to reach for even more stars, because it’s okay if I fall, since I’m not perfect.

  11. But what is perfect anyway? What might be perfect for me, might not be perfect for you. I think it is incredibly wrong to hold a celebrity, who has the money and time to spend hours working out with a personal trainer, who has a nutritionist plan his/her meals, who has personal makeup artists and stylists, up as an example of what we should be. The way I think or live might be perfect for me, or what I view as perfect, but would be horrid for you. I think we need to get over the myth of perfection and be happy with what we are and what we can do. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have goals or work for improvement, but why the need to demand perfection?

  12. I shuddered at the “perfect” picture you began with. Loved where this post led. The second to last paragraph made me smile with hope for you, ideas dancing in my head.

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