Thursday, July 27, 2006


There's a fine line between careful attention to detail and paralyzing perfectionism. I grew up in a family teetering a bit over that line. I'm grateful that I learned the maxim, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right," at a very young age. I strive to do my job and conduct my life by that motto. I'm equally grateful that I learned the expression, "It will never be seen from a galloping horse," when I was a young, frazzled mother.

Everybody else is galloping through their own lives giving scarcely a glance back over their shoulders at my efforts. In my mind, they are galloping on beautiful dark horses along the top of the Great Wall of China, if not along the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Don't quite know why they are in China, but they must be holding back the fourfold psychic invaders of Disorder, Depression, Diarrhea, and Dr. Pepper.

My mom taught me every way she could to do every task of life to perfection so that she and I could never be judged inadequate. She taught me to match plaids and sew them together with microscopic perfection. The cost in time and anxiety was great, but the fear of being judged lacking was greater.

It was such a revelation to learn that everyone else was galloping along the Great Wall of China on their own plaid-matching missions. Even if the gallopers gave a diddly-do about my plaid matches, they were moving far too fast to see my results. I was the only person giving a diddly-do about my personal plaids! Most of my life was being marked Pass/Fail based solely on my attendance, and next to none of it was being marked in permanent Sharpie on my Permanent Record.

I am reminded of a mind-boggling green plaid double-knit outfit my mom sewed for me to wear to high school awards ceremonies--battle jacket and wide pants with giant cuffs. It was perfect, but I was still a smart and nearly invisible nerd. Everyone was silently evaluating me, I was sure.

Although I still don't know what I want to be if I grow up, I have gravitated to people and jobs requiring attention to detail mixed with extreme perfectionism. This is on my mind because today's papier mache project was a major league disaster. The powdered glue/goop/slime didn't set up when I mixed it, and the paper slid off the balloon forms. Sloppy globs of newspaper slid to the floor. It was a bit like walking through the stable! Don't step on that road apple!

Somedays you're Best of Show. Somedays it's good to know that nobody else really notices.

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