When Perfect Isn’t Possible

This post is part of ChicagoNow’s monthly “Blogapalooza” challenge where bloggers are given a prompt at 9 PM and one hour to complete a post on the topic.  Tonight’s challenge was, “Write what your perfect day would be like, either in reality or fantasy.”  

Well, the clock is telling me that it is already 12:35 AM, so clearly, I have not met the terms of this challenge.  And, technically, that little clock on the bottom of my computer always runs a few minutes late, so it’s closer to 12:45 AM.  That’s already two strikes against perfect and I’m only one paragraph into this thing.

Sigh.

Flashback to 9:05 tonight and I just finished reading this month’s prompt. “Hell to the NO,” I thought, “I am not doing this challenge.”  My first reaction, a visceral one at that, was one of sorrow and bitterness.  My life is not perfect.  My life will never be perfect.  Even doing as the prompt suggests, working to imagine a fantasy of a perfect day feels like a cruel dig to me, a grieving mother.

I even went so far as to look up the definition of “perfect.”  This is what I found:

perfect

By definition, then, perfect requires “having all desirable elements,” being “as good as it is possible to be.”  To be perfect is to be, “absolute, complete.”  I am none of those things.  I am broken, damaged, wounded to my core.  Now being those things doesn’t prevent me from knowing happiness and joy in my life, but when I’m honest, I know that being those things means that a writing prompt about a fantasy of perfection is just not in my wheelhouse.

I know too much to play dress up in a blog post about perfection.  Just call me Suzy Freaking Sunshine.

So I dropped the idea of writing and took solace in hulu+.  Thank the GODS for streaming TV.  In streaming TV I can find perfection in the set direction of Masters of Sex.  I can find perfection in the Braverman family coming to fumbling terms with the failing health of their beloved patriarch while watching Parenthood.  I can find perfection in the perfect twirl of Reyna James’ hair on Nashville, though she will always be Tammy Taylor to me.

And watching someone else’s perfection gives me the space I need to lick my wounds and think and by the time I did that it was 10 PM and I got to peek into my fellow ChicagoNow bloggers’ ideas of what a perfect day might look like.  This post by Kerri K. Morris over at “Cancer Is Not a Gift” sort of stopped me in my tracks.  Kerri does a ridiculously deft job of piecing together a lifetime of perfect moments into what she calls a “quilt of perfect moments.”  I love that imagery so damn much I could spit.

A quilt is something you cozy on up into.  It protects you from the chill and cold.  It is old, has history, significance.  Quilts are warm, tell a story, provide comfort.  Kerri wrote so movingly that she made her life’s memories feel like my own.  Good storytellers do that.  There is a scene from one of my favorite movies of all time that does the same thing.

Charles Durning plays the father of the poster child of dysfunctional families in Home for the Holidays, directed by Jodie Foster.  At the end of a disastrous Thanksgiving weekend with the family, the old man goes down to the basement in his flannel robe to watch Super 8 clips of simpler times when the children were young and before they were vicious.  This beautiful montage of sentiment and place and time and family and memory collide into some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking three minutes on film you will ever see.

The lesson that Kerri and Jodie Foster give us is that there is no such thing as perfect.  Perfection is futile, a fantasy just as the writing prompt suggests.  But those moments of perfection are what hold us up, keep us buoyed in the storm that is life.

Our daughter’s timid smile around strangers was perfect.  Her clever way with words, even at two and three years old was perfect.  Our son’s wise sense of the world is perfect.  His thirst for knowing is perfect.  Our baby’s clear blue eyes are perfect.  His puffy pink lips that smile and flash little chicklet teeth are perfect.

But none of that is the whole story and the whole story is far from perfect. Our daughter died of cancer.  Our son tested into a selective enrollment public school that many refer to as “elitist” and think places strain on other students in the system.  Our baby came to us through adoption after four miscarriages and man if adoption isn’t complicated.

That is the knowing I can’t erase to think about a perfect day.  And so I won’t.

Instead, I will hope to always see the moments of perfection that slip like sand through our hands at the beach.  I will hope to notice and observe and appreciate the fleeting flashes of perfect as they come and go through my days.  I will hope to understand that perfect is not the goal, but part of the experience.

And here it is now, after 2 AM.  This post was due four hours ago.  Pffft. Perfect.

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