Monday, March 17, 2014

A Backpack Filled With Bricks

I read the most wonderful little book last week.

I started reading it one morning after I’d dashed from the house to the car in a sweatshirt and pajama bottoms so I could drive my daughter to school. After I’d sat down on my living room sofa, ignoring the pile of papers on the floor that needed to be read and/or sorted and instead, begun work on a blog I’d promised to tackle over a week ago.

About halfway through this (very short) book, I paused to order it for my Kindle. There were just too many good quotes to keep track of, too much wisdom to absorb in one reading. It was a small book, one not to be rushed, but savored. One to be read and re-read.

At less than fifty pages, more than half of which are black and white photos, Anna Quindlen’s Being Perfect is a quick, but magnetic read. I pulled the book off the shelf in the library because it looked interesting -- different, approachable, timely -- and in all honesty, it looked short enough to finish amid the craziness of an overpacked schedule that lends itself to anything but perfection.  
I recognized myself in the pages, and in the pursuit of “effortless perfection,” which she calls an oxymoron. Well, it’s certainly some kind of moron -- or maybe I am, as I continue to subconsciously drive myself to new levels of stress and accomplishment. 

I identified with her assertion that being perfect felt “like carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day” and with her suggestion that “perhaps today is the day to put down that backpack before you develop permanent curvature of the spirit.” Permanent curvature of the spirit. Definitely something to be avoided.

Please don’t misunderstand: I do not see myself as perfect. Far from it. But in Quindlen’s descriptions, I recognized the drive, the desire, the pursuit of that thing that my mind knows is impossible, but aims for anyway. The perfect mom. The perfect wife. The perfect woman.

This slim, small volume, no bigger than the framed photos on my bookshelves, poked at the heavy weight perfection places on us, the damages it does to relationships because when we are engrossed in pursuing our own perfection, we become impatient with imperfection in others.

I’m good at talking the talk. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Perfection is unattainable. I joke about it, poke fun at myself and my imperfections, but I have yet to train my subconscious to walk the walk. To truly buy into the fact that perfection is not something to strive for.

I bought my own copy of this book because want to highlight those lines that spoke -- sang! -- to me, and I want to read it over and over, especially on those days when the to-do list feels untouched, my house looks like the before picture in a home makeover and the words I put on the page fail to spark, let alone sing. On days when I dash from the house to the car in my pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt, knowing that getting my daughter to school on a windy, snowy, cold or rainy day is more important than whether or not my ego gets bruised because someone catches a glimpse of my attire or my morning hair. On days when my priorities are skewed by the pressures of the world around me, and I’ve lost sight of what really matters.

Maybe someday I will write a book with prose as flawless as Anna Quindlen’s. Until then, I will revel in her words as I endeavor to put down my backpack full of bricks.


No comments:

Post a Comment