Warmest holiday wishes! Now unclench your butt crack, because obviously we here at Pluck exclaim a resounding, “fuck that noise!” to the idea of “PERFECT!” I mean no disrespect to plain old “perfect” you understand, it’s just that its cultural doppelganger “PERFECT!” is a real jackhole. Especially during the holidays.
“perfect” occurs all the time. “perfect” is when your toddler falls asleep on the couch while you’re watching a movie together, when you pass by the doorway just as your boys are successfully mediating their own conflict, or when you’re scrambling to put on deodorant while simultaneously brushing your teeth because you’re definitely going to be late for school, and your kid saunters over and exclaims “I put on my shoes and my coat by myself! I’m ready to go!” “perfect” is a partner who arrives home with a bag of cheese and suggests that perhaps you might like to cue up Top Chef while he puts the baby to bed. “perfect” is a welcome exhalation. A rest, a break, a joy. It’s almost always a surprise in one way or another. “perfect” is an integrated part of your life just as it is, popping up to refresh you every now and then. “perfect” is relief from striving.
“PERFECT!” on the other hand (seriously, you’re going to hurt yourself – please relax your b-hole) is aspirational. It’s mandatory. It seduces you with its siren song of the possibility that THIS is the time it’s going to work – where all of your efforts will materialize! When everyone will behave exactly as you’d hoped! Where nothing will deviate from the plan you’ve worked so carefully to enact. “PERFECT!” can be applied on scales from small to grand, but in my experience, when “PERFECT!” explodes into failure, it is always a massive and crushing blow. Having imagined and worked so long for it’s fulfillment, the expectations that take on so much weight serve as devastating rubble when “PERFECT!” blows up in your determined face. Also, it’s worth noting that the pursuit of “PERFECT!” is often grinding and lonely work. It should serve as a warning to notice that it’s tough to get a group of people to organize around “PERFECT!”
“PERFECT!” propels you to say a begrudged “yes” to every invitation or opportunity to “make a memory” with/for/at your child when a small voice inside of you is whispering that perhaps it might be nice to just hang out in sweatpants at home. “PERFECT!” pushes us to forever expand the list of people who absolutely must receive homemade treats,/gifts/whatever, making it so that the spirit of the endeavor is transformed from a warm and engaged feeling into dutiful exhaustion and in my case, yelling. “PERFECT!” is carting a screaming toddler onto a city bus on a freezing cold night because GODDAMNIT, WE GO TO ZOOLIGHTS EVERY YEAR! “PERFECT!” is striving in the most strict and limiting way available. “PERFECT!” is a failure trap and a thief. “PERFECT!” will ruin your holiday (and incidentally, your life) with gusto.
I’m not sure how “PERFECT!” gained such a stronghold in the holiday season. Maybe because it sensed that this is a time that matters to many of us. Perhaps “PERFECT!” fancies itself a comedian-hoaxer and is tickled by the notion that it should grip us most ferociously during this time that is allegedly for slowing down, spiritual ponderance, and considering one another warmly. What I do know is that the season’s promises of light, comfort, and joy are even more bitterly lost when they’re assassinated by the beguiling call of “PERFECT!”
So I propose that we break the hold “PERFECT!” has on us in favor of relaxing into “perfect.” I realized the other week while I was serving as a guest contributor for the podcast The Advicists with Elisa Markus, that when we let go of striving, we create a wealth of open space in our lives, leaving room for new good stuff (which somehow came across as kind-of dirty in the context of the podcast – I unfortunately used the phrase “fill your slot”). As the great Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza famously said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” In this instance, I think what we can glean from this is that the only way “perfect” can be encountered is by leaving room for it. It is the nature of the universe to fill the void.
Perhaps it’s overly optimistic, but in my experience, the surprise that “perfect” provides has almost always been better than whatever “PERFECT!” promised. “PERFECT!” and “perfect” are natural enemies – the former making it impossible to experience the latter because “PERFECT!” is necessarily limiting and exclusive. It is closed and set; walled off from possibility. It HAS to be just so. We don’t know what form “perfect” will take because we are changing all the time. We need and want different things according to an unknowable algorithm that considers who we and our families are, and the shifting circumstances of our being at any given time.
Here’s wishing you a “perfect” and decidedly un”PERFECT!” holiday season. And, here’s a space (in the comments )where you can share your strategies and encourage us all in the mysteriously hands-off pursuit of “perfect.” You are raising a kid/kids with patience, grace, and joy. So answer the call for a “perfect” holiday, however it unfolds, and extend the same to yourself.
Relax your crack and enjoy, mamas.
Uh-oh, I made it dirty again.
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