The Poison of Perfection

I have always answered a resounding, “NO,” when asked if I’m a perfectionist. Some have laughed at my refusal to acknowledge what so many seem to see in me. A perfectionist has their shit together, right? They’re high achievers, the best of the best, the ones the rest of us love to hate. You’ll never catch them not put together, even at 7am on a Saturday. They always look great. They never miss a workout. They diligently clean their houses, cars and work areas each week, or sooner, if needed. They are photogenic, because their balanced diet and healthy lifestyle lend to a youthful, glowing appearance. They have tight bonds with great friends. They are organized, to a fault. They never wear a “clirty” shirt…you know, the one tossed over the edge of the hamper because you only wore it 3 hours yesterday, but it’s not “clean” enough to hang up with the rest of your wardrobe. Oh. And, their wardrobe…they’re never plagued with what to wear, no matter the event, because they’re prepared for everything. They are punctual, balanced and I despise them. But, only because I wish I were all of those things. Or, do I? It sounds dreamy, to never spend time looking for a lost item, to work out religiously, to never go through the dreaded hour or so of, “What should I have for dinner?” Because, they know on Sunday, what they’re having on Thursday. It’s enough to make most of us feel like a disaster in at least a few areas of life. But, in reality, the more honest I’ve become with myself, I am a total perfectionist. Because, that person I just described? That’s not really a perfectionist. A perfectionist is someone who THINKS that everything is supposed to be 100%, just to be good enough, because, good enough, isn’t. Follow? See, I “suffer” at my own judgement that I will never be THAT girl. The one who is put together, every time you see her. I’ve needed a haircut for months. MONTHS. I either have $400 of food in my fridge and pantry, or I have balsamic vinegar and cupcakes. Don’t even get me started on my healthy food intake rant. I have attempted to eliminate white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and a plethora of other isolated ingredients from my diet, entirely. I never made it longer than a month. I felt better, after the first couple weeks, and suddenly was submissive to some irresistible, evil caramel cheesecake seductress. And, if I blew it, screw it. That really is the motto of the perfectionist. We get a huge case of the F-its whenever our self-imposed standards aren’t met. And, I don’t mean for weeks or months on end of attempting to reach homeostasis when life knocks us off kilter with some, no kidding, challenge. I’m talking about having a flat tire, which forces you to miss a workout, and instead of knocking out some bodyweight exercises at home after you replace your tire, you, instead go into a nacho coma and feel all hope is lost, resulting in another missed workout the next day. For everyone out there thinking this is insanity, there’s someone nodding their head, emphatically, identifying with exactly this scenario. We’re not a rare breed. We certainly feel like it, however. It’s the adult version of, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” My “kind” can awfulize two days of life by having to rearrange their schedule by 4 hours. It’s true. That four hours bleeds into  the rest of the day, hence night. Remnants of unfinished tasks get thrown on top of tomorrow’s list, and we are soon overwhelmed. It didn’t look the way it was supposed to. We aren’t the best at time management. And, although I’m generalizing, I’m also taking into account the scores of people who have agreed that these very traits describe them, to an eerie degree. Avoiding projection, I’ll keep the focus on my own shortcomings. My most productive hours are in the morning. Somehow, if I have accomplished at least a few of the things I need to do before noon, I am motivated to stay in motion until late in the evening…sometimes until it’s time for bed. On the other hand, if I don’t get my day going until 1pm, I may as well call it. It’s not likely to get done today, regardless of what it is, importance not considered. That, folks is another facet of perfectionism. I am sincere when I say I thought perfectionism meant all of “the things” had been achieved, attained, organized, squared away, dealt with, and checked off the list. Perfectionism, looks quite the opposite. My environment rarely matches the image in my head, of how I think it should look. My calendar, my car, my laundry, the sweater that’s needed a button sewn on for 2 years…pretty much anything you can name, needs more attention before it’s good enough. In my head, I am operating at the irreducible minimum in so many areas of my life. My windows showcase a stunning view of the ocean. They are a beast to clean, so I often see the salty residue as the sea is blurry and out of focus because I notice the waste of an ocean view. I don’t live in this state, incessantly. But, I have to admit, it is more natural for me to see my failures than successes. Before I realize it, I’m beating myself up because I should have this life thing down, BY NOW. I look at the lives of women who do appear to have it together, however, and I know too much. I know her husband cheated repeatedly and they’re barely hanging on. I know of the tragic addiction tearing a family apart. I know the company closed and the guy has no idea how they’re gonna keep their family home. I know of the inoperable brain tumor. When I zoom out, I see much, much more than my own selfish desires and whims.  Hence, as much as I am prone to the idea of perfection, I have become willing to settle for, “good” in many facets of life. Which, really isn’t settling, at all. Most of us have heard some form of the phrase, “If we could put all our problems in a pile, and take the ones we wanted, we’d be content to walk away with the ones we brought.” How. Very. True. When tempted to compare my life to that of another, I look deeper and almost instantly, say, “No, thank you.” I recognize that I am unwilling to give up the parts of my life I would be required to sacrifice in order to have “X.” We want the superficial ideation of perfection, but we fail to ponder the trade off. Case in point: I have some incredibly talented, skilled friends. Like, “not of this earth,” talented. I have often caught myself watching the likes of my friends Keith Tolley, Mike Bohn or Kyle Lobpries steal podiums around the world for their disciplines in skydiving and thought, “Holy. Shit. I’m never gonna be a part of the CONVERSATION of this sport…” They are THAT good. I watched my dear friend, Caroline “The Animal” Mani crush Cyclo-cross, representing France in the Open.  I watched Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson send El Capitan’s Dawn Wall. And, I shake my head in disbelief, chills down my spine. Something like 36 pitches. THIRTY SIX. Do you have any idea how incredible it felt to do my first 3 pitch? I see legends rising in the world of dirt biking and think back to the discussion I had with my buddy, Kevin Colwell, straddling our dirt bikes in a slot canyon in Moab (Sup, Kevin!) about forming a team for the Baja 1000.  And, if we’d had sponsors instead of lives, we could have dedicated all kinds of time to practice. But, that’s not how it all worked out. We rode like hell for four days at a time, through some of the toughest terrain the US has to offer…(Four days, really, that’s the longest a human should do ANY sport in Moab, at one time, climbing, riding or otherwise…Moab wants to kill you.) But, as much seat time as we had, we never made it out to the desert more than a couple weeks a year, and even that was tough, sometimes. What could I have done if I chose ONE sport and developed razor-like focus on that ONE thing, sky, dirt or rock…what if..What if I only needed one gear bag for one sport? I’ll never know…I didn’t choose that type of dedication. But, I did dedicate my life to the pursuit of things that bring me joy. My dedication looks rather sloppy when I compare any semblance of ability to those of my world-class athlete friends. They chose a path that rewarded them podium finishes. I chose a path that rewarded me numerous gear bags. And, I never have a bad time using any of them. And, while I do have a hard time relaxing in a messy house, I can usually bring myself back with an episode of hoarders. The point to this little rant is that if the idea of how things SHOULD look rarely match how they ACTUALLY look, maybe the focus should shift to our standards…not doing more, doing it better or demanding flawlessness. When it’s all said and done, most of us have exactly what we want. Because, if we truly want it, we make it happen. The rest is cheap talk. Expecting, at this point in my life, that I will ever adhere to an entirely different system is not only unrealistic, but undesirable. I like how I live…or at least, I don’t dislike it enough to change. Sometimes, I detract from my own measure of happiness simply because I think I should be EVEN happier. That hedonic treadmill I’ve mentioned in other articles? It’s a real thing…I am expanding on that one in the coming weeks. For now, as you take stock of your surroundings, it serves us well to remember the quote about the things we have today, were once only things of which we dreamed. I really want a late night Sonic ice cream, so I’m not going to try to perfect the ending to this article. Peace and imperfection, Warriors.

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