His words are quiet like stains
Stains that are trying to cover for each other
Or at least blend in with the pattern
Good is better than perfect
– from Regina Spektor’s, The Man of a Thousand Faces
I don’t subscribe to magazines. Science, art, and literary magazines aside, I have found that magazines (and the plethora of curated blogs found on the interwebs these days) reflect a level of perfection the average person is not capable of attaining. Whether it be a fashion magazine, home magazine, or cooking magazine, the feature articles have all been edited, staged by paid stylists, and photographed by talented photographers. I don’t have any of those things at my disposal, and because I don’t have the money to buy all the things the magazines tell me I need to be happy, they usually just end up making me feel inadequate and inferior. So, instead of feeding the insecurities or submitting to the pull of needing to buy more ‘stuff’ that I cannot afford/do not need, I choose to avoid the situation by refusing to buy these publications.
I was however, gifted with a subscription to a popular decorating magazine for Christmas, which I admit gives me a few moments of excitement when it arrives in the mailbox, so I definitely see the allure. But after five minutes of flipping through it, I’m bored. Nothing lasting and fulfilling and profound ever comes from studying the pages of one of these “fad of the moment” magazines. I feel that it’s actually a waste of time. So is trying to make our lives look like they should be in a magazine. If we can emulate what we see on those pages, I suspect we might look around and wonder why, now that our surroundings are perfect, we still don’t feel perfect.
Maybe the reason is that hairstyles don’t matter, fashion doesn’t matter, fine home furnishings don’t matter, fancy cars don’t matter, big houses don’t matter, a spotless tablecloth doesn’t matter. Sometimes in our rush to get things right, to make things perfect, we forget to listen. We forget to ask questions. We forget to kiss boo-boos. We forget to be fully present in the moment. What I’ve learned is that a relaxing moment in which I am fully aware of what is happening around me, a moment in which I am mindfully present in the here and now and can respond instead of react IS what matters most.
Often in our pursuit of perfection, maybe, just maybe, we forget to notice and fully experience the things that really matter.
If you know anything about the Quilts of Gee’s Bend, you know that the ladies of this community have risen to fame because of the artistry and beauty of the quilts they’ve made throughout the years. But, what makes these quilts so exquisite is not their fine fabrics or elaborate patterns, but exactly the opposite…no patterns were used (but rather made up as they went along), and they were made from whatever fabric scraps they had.
This nearly 30 minute documentary is well worth your time…these ladies are simply precious (if you only watch a spec of it, go to 8:15…love her!). Some of my favorite quotes from the film, “Whatever we had, we made the best of it….we enjoyed it” and especially this one: “It was hard, but it looked like people was happier than they is now. People got more now, and look like they ain’t nobody happy”. It reminds me of this quote by Emerson:
“Want is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never large enough to cover.”
In addition to needing more and more things, our modern culture places emphasis on what things look like rather than what they feel like. Does it really make our lives better to have a lawn without a single leaf of clover or dandelion flower? Does it matter that we have a spotless white couch if no one ever gets to sit on it?
Personally, I like a clean house…I like for everything to be in its place, but I live in a small house and there are more things than places to put them. Things get cluttery, out of place, shoes spill out of our one tiny closet.
Jackets, shirts, and jeans live on hooks on the wall. It’s orderly chaos, I suppose.
But, here’s the thing…When I learned to let go of the notion that everything had to be perfect, suddenly it started to feel better! And now, I like seeing the things that I use, my things, my favorite things, out in the open. It feels good. It feels like home. I don’t want to hide my cooking utensils so that I have to hunt for them and gather them up before I cook a meal…I’d rather have everything where it is convenient when I need it.
Less stress, less worrying about where things should go, etc. I don’t worry about decorating, but rather organizing the things I need. My ‘tools’ sort of become the decorations and so what if they don’t match? My decorating philosophy has become: “If nothing matches, then everything matches.”
In the whole scheme of things, having a spotless, perfectly decorated house doesn’t really matter that much. It is so important for us, as human beings with feelings and emotions, to not let ‘things’ get in the way of the more meaningful moments that can take place instead. The key is ‘letting go’. That’s always the hard part…if we start by letting go of things we think we “need” or “have to do” gradually, we’ll spend less valuable energy fussing over the unimportant details and more time playing with puppies or children or painting or enjoying being outside. As I have been able to do this, I feel way more free in my mind and soul. And while my house will never, ever be a picture of perfection, it always feels good.
What can you let go of today? What meaningful things can you put in its place?