In Pursuit of Perfection

I turned 40 last week. And the day of my birthday was kind of crappy. Actually it was just sort of an ordinary day with evening plans that didn’t pan out according to plan. But it felt like a horrible day. And being the can’t-stop-analyzing internally examining person I am, I felt like I had to figure out why.

On the surface, the day was just normal. Running kids to and from school. Doing the normal household routine. My kids said they were going to make me a birthday cake, but didn’t start it until late afternoon. Which meant a delay in getting to a much-anticipated dinner out at a favorite restaurant. Which led to arriving at a time at the restaurant when there was a 90 minute wait. Which led to eating at a burger joint and trying again the next day. Not a huge deal, right?

High points? My kids made me a cake. My husband gave me an awesome gift. I ate out with my loves. I stretched my “big day” out over 3 days. So what was the issue? Hold on to your seat, folks. I figured it out.

My 40th birthday wasn’t perfect.

Are you as shocked as I am? I realized that the real source of my feeling like my birthday sucked wasn’t the actual happenings or not-happenings of the day. It was found in my expectations. Your 40th birthday is supposed to be the perfect day, right? I mean, you’re turning “old.” It’s a big milestone. Who wouldn’t expect a perfect day?

Likely anyone who lacks the particular brand of OCD-all or nothing thinking that blesses my mind. And so as usual, it took me a few days to come to terms with my birthday. But I realized that my pursuit of perfection “ruins” many experiences for me. Examples:

-Family pictures. We rarely get them done. When we do, I want perfection. Which leads to much stress and anxiety in attempting to make that perfection happen.

-Special occasions. Christmas in particular can be a trigger for me. I NEED things to be “good memories.” And often lose the warm fuzzies in the process.

So I’m challenging myself this year to find the beauty in the imperfection. I know life is filled with it. Perfection is impossible in almost every case. May the big 40 be a milestone for me in realizing that most of life’s beauty is found in the mundane disorder of real life. And in embracing the joy that can be found when life doesn’t go as planned. Beauty is all around me. Maybe deep and abiding joy is waiting there beneath the illusion that perfect is possible. And maybe finding it is as simple as relaxing into what life is already offering to me.

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