Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Mindful Monday: I Want To Be Perfect

On Mindful Monday, my readers and I practice the art of pausing, TRYING to be still, or considering, ever so briefly, the big picture. We’re hoping this soul time will provide enough peace of mind to get us through the week!

I’ve been gradually learning something about myself:

I want to be perfect.

And the fact that I’m not causes me suffering. All of the major world religions teach this lesson upfront: you’re not perfect, and the sooner you accept that fact, the less agony you’ll put yourself through trying to prove otherwise. In his book, “Living Wabi Sabi,” Taro Gold writes:

Those who inspire us most do not achieve perfection through greatness: They achieve greatness through imperfection. All of the world’s best-loved truth-seekers and religious figures, including Jesus and Buddha, led obviously less-than-perfect lives and were the first to let us know that they, too, were not perfect people…. 


Did you know that numerous imperfections, failures, and mistakes led to the discovery of DNA, penicillin, aspirin, X-rays, Teflon, Velcro, nylon, cornflakes, Coca-Cola, and chocolate-chip cookies? In our own lives, it’s not the parties and vacations but the mind-opening trials of heart and soul that lead us to our greatest personal discoveries.

This is good news for the depressive. Because rarely do we get a vacation from the hard work of preserving sanity, and, well, I’m thinking the parties at therapy and within the hospital psych units are a tad different than the ones Taro had in mind. Most days involve trudging, ever so diligently, up the hill of recovery that usually feels like a mountain.


I guess that’s what I’ve been doing the last few weeks: trudging.

Like many of you, I suspect, at different times in your life, I reached a comfortable place back in August, a plateau of sorts, when I was finally able to execute some very necessary boundaries–especially between my work and my home life. But those boundaries have been difficult to maintain the last few weeks because the kids have been off of school so much. The only place to get the extra hours of work that I needed was to do what I promised myself back in August I would never do again: squeeze in some e-mails and administrative tasks while supervising homework, making candy apples, and watching reruns of “Hannah Montana” on the Disney channel.


At first I got away with it. 

Score! I sent 10 e-mails while David figured out what two and five equaled, and then drew seven boats to illustrate this new knowledge. So I tried to sneak in even more tasks during these hours. The end result looked like this: two kids screaming their guts out in temper tantrums made for TV from their rooms–where I ordered them– and me standing outside in the rain on our porch, my iPod blasting Mozart in my ears, in order to calm myself down so that I didn’t do or say anything that I’d regret by the time Eric got home.

I woke up this morning feeling angry and ashamed at myself for breaking my boundaries rule, guilty for not being totally attentive to my kids, and wasted, emotionally and physically, from trying to do three things simultaneously, when I know from past experience as a waitress that I was not born with the ability to multitask. Bad things happen whenever I attempt it.


I want to be perfect.

I want to erect boundaries one time, and have them stay there, like boulders, for the rest of my life–uncompromised in times of stress and uncertainty. But that’s not life. Which presents one dilemma after another, just to make sure you don’t stop using all the problem-solving techniques you learned in therapy.

My timetable is different now than it was in August. I have about six less hours a week of school time, due to all the festivals and holidays between now and Christmas. Which means I must construct a new schedule, to figure out where I can get some extra hours–like working at least one evening a week, to make up the time lost by the parties and time off at school so that I won’t find myself hiding from the kids, my iPod blaring at maximum volume, on the back porch, which I will undoubtedly have to explain to my lovely neighbor who reads Beyond Blue!


I want to be perfect.

I don’t want to have to discern between a “conviction”–like being a more attentive mom, and dealing with tantrums better than overpowering the screaming with Mozart in my ears–and a “condemnation”: telling myself I am a bad, bad mom who isn’t capable of keeping good boundaries. I don’t want to have to learn the same damn lesson over and over and over again.

And yet, ironically, that’s where the wonder and amazement are. Mornings like today, when my imperfections are as obvious as the rain outside, is when I discover what I’m made of. Anna Quindlen writes in “Being Perfect”:


What’s really hard and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. More difficult because there is no zeitgeist to read, no template to follow, no mask to wear. Terrifying, actually, because it requires you to set aside what your friends expect, what your family and your co-workers demand, what your acquaintances require, to set aide the messages this culture sends, through its advertising, its entertainment, its disdain, and its disapproval, about how you should behave….

Begin with the most frightening of all things, a clean slate. And then look, every day, at the choices you are making, and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: Because they are what I want, or wish for. Because they reflect who I am.


This is the hard work of life in the world, to acknowledge within yourself the introvert, the clown, the artist, the homebody, the goofball, the thinker. Look inside. That way lies dancing to the melodies spun by your own heart.

I’m not perfect.

I’m as close to perfection as Antarctica is to Brazil. But that means I get to start over each day, to figure out a new system that can function with the revised schedule, an option that will assist me in getting my boundaries right again, so that I that I don’t have to listen to Mozart in the rain. And if that configuration doesn’t work, I’ll wake up and try yet again.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

  • Julia

    What??! I’m NOT perfect?!?!?!!! Guess I’m not the only one who has to fight the distorted notion that there only two options: perfect or irredeemable. I think I’m like you, rearranging everything so that it all fits together seamlessly. When I see that I’ve been less than perfectly efficient, I have to go back and think about how it could have been done better. And when it affects someone else, not only do I feel terrible guilt, but then I do twice as much to “make it up” to them, whether or not they’ve even noticed. Sigh. It’s day by day, this not-getting-my-undies-in-a-bundle-over-every-mistake thing. Staying in neutral territory (somewhere between perfect and crazy) takes a lot more effort than it seems it should.

  • Renata

    Keep plugging away…. All of us must change during the course of living because change is needed and required. No doubt change can be painful, but my dear Therese, you will come thru will flying colors.
    By the way, I think the kids might have perceived your lack of “devoted” attention and called you on it, too!
    God bless you and thanks for sharing your life with us.

  • Jaana

    I needed to read this today – thank you!

  • Karen n

    Dear Therese,
    You are splendidly imperfect! I always remember what my mom says: “The only perfect person is in heaven right now” and I suspect that she means we are not to try to knock Jesus off his perfect pedestal.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us. You are a great inspiration to me and countless others.
    Karen N

  • marilyn

    reading this makes me feel alittle better knowing that others strugle with the trying tobe the perfect person of wich for us probably never will be but thankfully we can change to acomadate the situations at hand.but also dont forget yourself along the way.always be ready for change is the only plan for survival i know and your never going to make everyone happy but life goes on.

  • Larry Parker

    As Ana could tell you, Therese, southern Brazil is not nearly as far from Antarctica as you might think.
    None of us are perfect, as you say. Give yourself more credit for balancing than you are so far — because you deserve it.

  • Your Name

    Therese…I agree with Larry…I totally hear you..and…also hear some black and white thinking…it’s SO frustrating. I was so excited to buy some SUPER (I mean SUPER) sticky note pads over the weekend…and was getting juiced that my youngest was using it…
    black and white: this little purchase will be great in THIS THIS and THIS scenario…
    can vouch for the fact that life will ease…as they get older…different…easier tho …more brain cells to work with I guess…
    great article Therese…
    ~ Kate

  • Valerie

    Just remember: Why would I want to be perfect? The only “Person” who was ever perfect was crucified.
    Yikes, don’t want that! Love Valerie

  • Loretta Sears

    This is a great artical, and wow oh so true of life in the world as we know it and we know ourselves.

  • Franco

    Over the course of the years, I’ve said time and again that I am my own worst/harshest critic. And, in spite of knowing this truth, I continue to strive for perfection. I have a terrible struggle with it because I tend to deny it until forced to examine my actions and the reasons behind them. The things that make me most angry are those reminders that I am not perfect, all-knowing and wise beyond measure. And the things that frighten me most are when I’m perceived to be wise beyond measure and all-knowing. Catch the little problem there? Perfectionism is imperfect! So, I’m trying to recall my Religion 101 lessons and remember Who is on the throne and why it ain’t me. But the fact that my recollection will assist me today is no guarantee that I won’t slip back into that role again tomorrow – Mr. Perfection – the Great Pretender. Humility is humbling. :)

  • Althea

    From my experiences, I have learned that the many things I desire to change or learn, I get to practice. It took me a while to figure that out … oh, “I get to practice learning this new skill or attitude”. Practicing means that I get to make mistakes and take what seems to be wrong turns in learning. No one expects a baby to be able to walk on her first try and I get the same treatment especially from me.
    Since I am just about to become 65, I am in a place, time wise, that gives me the perspective of a number of years to view the outcome of practicing. I can now see how over my lifetime I have been able to change both attitudes and learn new skills and the good news is … I have all the time I need to do this. The trick is when I remember that it is not up to me to know what that timeline is.
    I have been working with my depression all my life and there are things that I am now beginning to understand, release and forgive. For this I am grateful

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