I wake up thinking about how this week’s post isn’t the way I wanted it to be and wonder if it was wise to have drafted it in bed after a late night with friends.
The angst makes me think about words written by the Reverend John Ames to his young son in Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Gilead”
“I was just getting by on books, baseball, and fried egg sandwiches.”
When life doesn’t give us what we seek we are better to take from it what we can.
I read this part of the story after receiving a question from a client about how to quell their perfectionist self-expectation.
Momentarily, I considered sending them the Gilead quote but stopped myself after reflecting on its obscurity, especially for someone who apparently struggles to “get by” on anything but exactly what they demand from themselves.
“I am currently on fire so it would be great if I could have the afternoon off to deal with it. No worries if not though,” reads my particular favourite.
This too is a drive for perfection of sorts.
The desire to take up so little space, even when we desperately need it, that we avoid risking anyone else seeing us as anything other than completely self-contained and “OK”.
In a world where we are encouraged to believe that we can be anything, we find it hardest of all to be ourselves.
As I watch my adult children chatting easily with our friends in the candlelit garden I wonder if it’s a struggle they have too.
I see perfectionism in both of them to some extent.
My daughter’s notebooks are as neat as a pin and heaven forbid that there is any tiny patch of grass missed when someone has been over it with the mower because that’s likely to drive my son to distraction.
But still, they seem easy with themselves in a way that I never was.
My daughter is happy to state openly that she can’t abide the ambiguity of poetry, doesn’t like art galleries because she has no idea how long to look at a painting, and instead of getting out of bed to look at the recent flower supermoon, found it on her phone.
My son gets a call from a friend inviting him out as we’re nearing the end of our evening but has no difficulty in saying that he “doesn’t feel like it”, something I would have found impossible to say to my friends for fear of the imagined future rejections.
Earlier in the week, we watched a programme on the impact ultra-processed foods are having on the obesity epidemic.
Afterward, feeling too tired to cook dinner, I prevaricate.
“Let’s just have a takeaway,” they say, getting me off the hook and reminding me of the folly of constant self-expectation.
As much as getting by on books, baseball and fried egg sandwiches isn’t ideal all of the time, there are moments when it’s exactly what we need.