Refuse to Play The Perfection Game

Refuse to Play The Perfection Game

Last year at this time, Maria Popova, author of my favorite website, Brainpickings, asked the question: “What if we could augment the bucket-list of typical New Year’s resolutions, dominated by bodily habits and pragmatic daily practices, with higher-order aspirations — habits of mind and spiritual orientations borrowed from some of humanity’s most timelessly rewarding thinkers?”

What followed were 16 Elevating New Year’s Resolutions, inspired by some of the world’s greatest thinkers. I used them as my aspirations for elevating my own life in the coming year, resolving to write a blog post about each of them. I only got through eight. So the way I see it, I’ve got eight more that I can write about this year!! 

When I first read the sixth article, based on the writings of Ursula LeGuin, the title led me to believe that it had something to do with the 1970s board game, Perfection. It did not. In fact the game is not mentioned in there at all. There is some stuff about women in the 50s perming or straightening their hair, and a lovely bit about remembering your mother’s beauty because of who she was, and not what she looked like. But as someone who has flirted with perfectionism, I found no wise admonitions, no beacon of truth to lead me to whatever opposes being a perfectionist. No reason to stop striving for perfection.

I have to admit I was distracted while reading it, imagining all the ways that LeGuin could tie perfectionism as a vice to a game where the object is the nearly impossible task of fitting different shaped pieces into matching holes on the board before the timer runs out, and when it does, the board springs up, and they fly out all over the floor. To me, that is perfectionism in a nutshell. You concentrate on getting everything in its place, just right – perfect, then time runs out, everything is in ruins and you either collapse into tears, or you start all over again… or, you quit. It also pretty much sums up the 2016 election turnout. Pollsters, pundits, politicians, and just regular people thought they had all the pieces in place. They did everything perfectly, and then we woke up on November 9th and everything was in ruins. We had a few choices. Just as in the game, we could throw a tantrum, pout, or cry (which many of us did initially). Or we could throw up our hands and quit paying attention to politics (which many of us also did). Or, we could do a modification of starting all over again, which is what we’re all trying to do now – pick our selves up, dust our selves off, and try to carry on.

My perfect, high-minded goal for improving my mind and writing lofty dissertations of elevated thought over the space of a year didn’t quite pan out. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t continue pursuing it. 2016 turned out to be one of the most disappointing and terrifying years I’ve ever seen. But that doesn’t mean I can’t keep right on trying to think lofty thoughts, and write high minded, and perfectly perfect blog posts.

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