Perfectly imperfect

by mollykl

I have a job where I’m expected to be perfect. Not 50% of the time, not 75%. 100%. Period. Now,  we usually take off about 500 items each ad day. One ad day I missed a line of jams, so six sku’s. Let me do that math for you: that’s an error of .12%. In case your screen’s a little fuzzy I’ll repeat POINT ONE TWO PERCENT. And that was a major incident.

That attention to detail is actually why I wanted the job. I’m one of those weird psuedo-overachiever people. I don’t need to be the best at everything, but I want to do my best at whatever it is I happen to be doing at that moment. I’m a so-so poet, a horrible singer and a clumsy dancer. I laugh too loud, talk too much and always look like I spilled something on my shirt – clearly I don’t suffer because of those things. I appreciate why my job needs to be so detail oriented and so demanding. But it’s also made me think about perfection in general and how bloody masochistic it is.

You can, quite literally, kill yourself trying to be perfect. I know…I used to have high blood pressure. I’m shocked I don’t still.  Yeah, for those who haven’t known me for very long…I used to be worse. I’ve actually managed to control a lot of the anxiety with, among other things, yoga, meditation, massive amounts of ashwaganda, not so massive amounts of scotch, and a weird vaguely ocd habit of making lists to calm my brain.

So yes, I’m doing better, but everyday is still hard.

As I mentioned there are a lot of things that I can easily “not be perfect” about, but I can focus or be consumed by other things. I give you, my closet:

Yeah, this is pretty much what it always looks like. Like the clothes separated by color and style? Here’s the thing: even though I spent weeks deciding on the color of paint, it’s not quite right, and I want to repaint it. Because it’s not perfect. And notice the splotch of blue up on the ceiling? I slipped. I notice it every day.

My books shelves are a constant source of anxiety. If I arrange them by the Dewey or Library of Congress system then they won’t be visually perfect; if I arrange them so they are visually soothing, then all of my books on World War Two won’t be together and that just doesn’t make any sense, does it? I’m currently in the process of organizing my books on my Kindle in Library of Congress order. Seriously, who does that?

This is our bed, made by husband J:

This our bed re-made by me:

This is our bed perfect, that is, with freshly washed sheets:

Can’t really tell that much of a difference can you? Can’t tell any difference between pics 2 and 3 at all, right?

Perfectionism is its own brand of masochism. Sadly  though, the pain never ceases. You’re never going to be perfect: there’s always going to be something that you did wrong, or could have done better. I don’t know why I keep trying, because it’s not going to happen. Part of it is habit, like the list-making thing. It calms me down to have my clothes in order and have the bed made the way I like it. I keep going at work because, well, it’s my job. Every mistake I find and fix is one less mistake, period, and I appreciate that.

But I think it might be time to accept that perfection is not only an unrealistic goal, but a cruel one.