A Look on the Lighter Side: Moving past perfect to a better place

Judy Epstein

I used to be perfect, but now I’m better.

Of course, I was never really perfect; but I did used to try to be, mightily — to the dismay of everyone around me.

I was one of those tiresome children who must get every note right in their piano lesson.

When I goofed, I had to start over again from the beginning — every time, and no matter how far I had gotten.

There are some pieces I don’t think I ever finished. There was certainly no such thing as just getting on with it, for the love of God!

Making the bed was another trial.  There were so many ways to fail!

Some days the bed-spread was crooked, and hung down on one side more than the other.

Some days it was the sheet.  Or the sheet looked fine, but I knew the corners would pull out as soon as I got into bed that night. “That’s good enough, Judy,” my mom would say.  “Please stop now, or you’ll be late for school!”

But I considered the phrase “good enough” a contradiction in terms — like George Carlin’s “jumbo shrimp.”  Only “perfect” was good enough for me.

Then came my brother’s wedding.

At the reception, I gave a toast:  “Here’s to Danny and Elaine!”  You could feel the whispers going around the room. “Elaine?  The bride’s name is Adina!  WHO is Elaine?”

Everyone wanted to know…including my brother Danny!

But I had no answers; I didn’t know why I had said that, myself.  I left the party early.

It was days before it finally came to me: “Danny and Elaine” were the kids across the street, when we were growing up. It was always “Danny and Elaine are coming over.” “

Danny and Elaine, your mother called.”  “Danny and Elaine, it’s time to go home for dinner.”  It became a single unit: Danny-and-Elaine.  So, that’s what slipped off my tongue when I made the toast.

Understandable enough.  Human, even.  But far from perfect.

“Oh, Judy,” said my mom, trying to console me.  “People don’t love you in spite of your flaws; people love you because of them.”

But I had so many! Could that possibly be true?

Suddenly, I got an image of a giant crystal ball.

I knew that ball.  It was the giant globe of smoky quartz in the Hall of Minerals at the Smithsonian, next to the Hope Diamond.

My parents used to take us there at least once a year, and every time, while one brother looked for meteorites and the other tried to find the way out, I would walk right past the diamond to stare, mesmerized, at that sphere — and at the sign in front of it, which announced,  “This is a flawless crystal ball.”  I think I wanted to be just like it: flawless.

“So you’re not perfect,” my mother continued.  “So what?  Who is?”

The picture shifted, to a close-up … of home-living “expert” Martha Stewart.

She was growing heirloom peanuts for the perfect peanut-butter cookie, or maybe harvesting flax, for the perfect linen suit — her whole life aimed at attaining perfection – and suddenly I wanted nothing to do with it!

Give me a lopsided, lumpy cookie any day, and a lopsided, lumpy person to go with it.

So much effort, and it only makes you more and more unapproachable… till you end up the human equivalent of that crystal ball. And nobody tries to hug a giant crystal ball.

Why, your arms would slide right off!

Of course, nowadays we know that not even Martha was perfect.  But that’s okay, be-cause it’s much better to be human.

In truth, as soon as I had kids, I realized that I had neither the time nor the energy for any-thing even remotely “perfect.”

Just getting us all through the day, in one piece, was enough of a goal.

And now that they’re out of the house, I can see the virtues in continuing with “good enough” standards.

Since coming to that realization, my life has become much easier.  I don’t have to pack just the right things into my purse before leaving the house — I can throw in my keys and phone, and vamoose.

And if I don’t write five drafts of every thank you note, some of them might actually someday reach their recipient!

In short, if I don’t obsess over every little thing in my life, there’s a much greater chance that I will actually enjoy living it.  And that is plenty good enough for me.

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