Ellie has taken the biblical counsel "Be ye therefore perfect” to the extreme lately. We spent way too long on homework last night because she had to make all of her letters just right. “They have to be perfect, mom.” She informed me when I tried to hurry her along.
Then there was the microwave this morning; her little morning job for Tuesdays is to wipe it out. “I can’t do it right!” she bawled.
“Ellie, you do this job every week and you do just fine.”
“But I can never get the bumpies off the top roof part.”
“Have you ever heard me complain? Have I ever told you to re-do it?” I asked.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect, child.” I said half stern, half comforting.
But then she tried to put on her new shoes.
“Will you tie them?” she whimpered.
“No, Ellie. You tie your shoes at school, you can do them at home.”
After sobbing through the process, she polished off the double knot and then wailed, “See, they’re WRONG!” She pointed to the bow. “It’s crooked!”
She has gotten me thinking about perfectionism. I know where she got it. Her papa ties perfectly centered laces on his shoes, and his closet looks like a page from a home organization magazine. Her mama spent the afternoon organizing a game cupboard yesterday, though the laundry was more pressing. As I helped her with her homework, I drew straight lines for her to write her spelling words on, and paused to fix the crooked ones. “The lines don’t have to be perfect.” She had counseled. “I know,” I had replied, forcing myself to stop fixing them.
For me, perfectionism in the small tasks of my day gives me a sense of control over my universe. But really, I am not in control. Not that way. I am just the ant that moves the sand from one place to another. One good rain, and baby, we’re back at square one. But then, I, the ant, start all over again. There is a sense that if I can conquer this pile of sand, I can overcome other obstacles as well.
I don’t know if its nature or nurture, but I have a few perfectionists in the house. As I look into the mirror they create for me, I realize I try too hard to be perfect at things that don’t matter so much, at the expense of greater, harder things that matter more. Things like reading my scriptures, sincere meditation and prayer, or working on the tasks that are hard and less straightforward, like creating balance in my life.
It is easier to have really neatly folded washcloths.
I was told recently that in the original Hebrew, the translation for the scripture “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect.” Is actually more correctly penned “Be ye therefore complete”.
Complete; Whole. Finished. Balanced.
Today I will work less to obtain perfection in the jots-and-tittles, “dotting i’s and crossing t’s” sense, and work on balance. We’ll see how it goes.
First I gotta’ get dressed and get my shoes on.