Wabi Sabi and the Beauty of Imperfection
I’m a perfectionist born and raised. That being said, just because I’m a perfectionist doesn’t mean that everything I do is perfect. Not at all. Not even close. Not even sometimes. For example, the holidays are rearing their ugly faces (and I mean U-G-L-Y), and it's all crazy and I need to get all of the gifts wrapped. Have I mentioned how much I hate wrapping? It’s kind of like baking…too precise for my taste. I love to cook. I can be creative and there are no exact measurements, but baking is for the birds…Oh Look! A chicken! ANYWAY, it took me about fifteen minutes to wrap each gift, because of the damn perfectionism. You would then think that the gifts were wrapped to a T right? Wrong again. They look like every other wrapped gift under the tree. It just takes me ten minutes to fold and refold the corners…you also have to add in the cutting time. You know, when you have to cut the paper on the straight line? Well, I can’t have any jagged edges, so I sit there and make sure every scissor stroke perfectly matches with the one before it. I also take the time to pull any stray dog or cat hairs from the tape that happened to be laying on the carpet…I’m THAT sweet.
Needless to say, there is a lot of time and obsession that goes into my wrapping, but when it’s all said and done, it still looks like the monster truck my 6-year-old wrapped in printer paper and taped together with stamps.
Before my book was published, I had to approve the final proof. Let’s put it this way, perfectionism and editing are like oil and water. I was on my 25th round of editing the interior formatting. Sometimes I saw typos, sometimes I thought different words would work better, but at the end of the day, it was never perfect…even 25 rounds later. Something had to change or this book was never going to see the light of day.
As I was making my LAST check before the final approval, I noticed a typo on one of the chapter headers. SHIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTT! Instead of three dots for an ellipsis, there were four! FOUR DOTS??? OMG! MY BOOK IS RUINED! That was kind of dramatic, but that’s how it felt. That extra dot would put me back a week in production time, which means the book wouldn’t be out on time, but I couldn’t leave a TYPO, mostly because my biggest fear has always been finding a mistake in the book after it has been published, thus tarnishing the perfection (not of the writing, just grammar and spelling) of the book.
On the flip side, I knew it would happen eventually. You know when you buy a new car, and you’re trying to keep it spotless and no drinks or food are allowed, and you even wipe dust out of the cup holders? In the back of your mind however, you know that eventually there will be a kid puking in the back seat, ruining the perfect newness of the car, which actually turns out to be a relief because then it’s just a regular car, and you can take your dust cloth out of the glove box and stick it back under your kitchen sink where it belongs!
Suddenly I remembered the term WABI-SABI. I read about it a couple of years ago, and always meant to apply it to my life, but of course, I never remember. It’s a Japanese term that states, Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
Wabi-Sabi is meant to apply to perfection in the physical sense, but still I knew what I was going to do to put an end to my self-sabotaging perfectionism ways…well, at least with the book. You know what I did? I left the extra dot. That’s right. I left in a mistake, and the book will be published imperfect. You know why? Because that way, I’m not waiting for the kid to puke in the back seat. Basically, he already puked before I ever even drove the car off the lot, and now I can move forward, leaving the dust cloth under the kitchen sink where it belongs.