Now, where did I leave that?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sheer Perfection

Perfection: the state of being perfect (utterly without defect, flawless....or to be more mundane, accurate); exemplification of supreme excellence. Perfection is on my mind as I'm in the final days of a week off from work, for alot of reasons. For example, I'm taking a class, just a computer applications class on Office 2010. I work with this stuff all the time, but we're learning all kinds of nifty things. Four weeks ago I maybe could have used a Word table, but it would have taken me hours and caused alot of stress. Last week I whipped one out in 10 minutes. Just had my first test of the semester and got 96 out of 100. I'm pleased, but a niggling little voice says "If you'd tried just a little harder, you could have had 100".
And I've been dabbling--learning--to make felt. What magic--you start with puffs of roving

and a few thousand pokes with a needle later, you have a pumpkin!
Or you start with the aforementioned clouds of wool, add water, soap and some serious elbow grease and voila--a vase! How cool is that? I'm proud of my pumpkin, and yet..I see every flaw. Never mind that Mama Nature herself adds a few flaws to the real deal, MY pumpkin should have been perfect. While I'm pleased with my vase, and even the most kind instructor praised some of my techniques and the strength of the felt I made, I see the uneven edges, the imperfect body.
Heading into this much-needed and long-awaited week off, I had alot of plans for the perfect vacation. They didn't include being sick one day, having our sunset sloop sail cancelled, time racing by, or uncomfortably warm weather that set the bees in a frenzy, making any outside time really unpleasant. I'm mentally working on an article/essay, and haven't put a word on paper becauseI'm afraid to start. What if my writing isn't perfect? Of course, that last question has hamstrung me for 30 years. Permanent Perfection Paralysis...I wonder if there's an actual psychological diagnosis for that?
I grew up having the requirement for perfection beaten into me--literally.  An 'A' wasn't good enough; why wasn't it 'A+'? I was a good kid who didn't dare get into trouble, but I was portrayed as a rebellious, bad teenager, and punished accordingly (and beyond). I was expected not only to strive for perfection, but to attain it, and missing the mark meant I was worthless and unlovable, and according to my mother, I missed the mark more than I hit the bullseye. My story isn't unique. We all have our perfection demons, some mouse-size, some gargantuan. But the fear of not measuring up to those demons is looming large these days as I explore new skills: daring to call myself a 'fiber artist' (NOVICE fiber artist!); learning new computer applications and being graded on that learning; facing that I gained back almost all the weight I'd lost a year ago, and need to lose it again--and alot more; daring to put pen to paper again.  Perfection as supreme excellence works for me when we're talking about other things--yep, this vacation time has had imperfect moments, but I've spent time with Linda, the dogs and Elf; I've learned some felting, knit, read, relaxed. Today I get to have lunch with a friend I haven't seen in probably a year and a half and truly miss, and tomorrow Linda and I are spending the day at the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival. Supreme excellence indeed!
But can I embrace that old catechism adage, with a name change, 'Goddess only makes perfection, and She made me'? Can I see perfection in the act of doing rather than the end result? Does supreme excellence apply even in stumbling and falling, if one gets back up? How do you define perfection--friend or foe? Let's give this a try together...let's revise perfection's definition to include overcoming the fear of failure-or of mediocrity-and make it a little less noun and a little more verb. Is that possible? How are you going to do that today, tomorrow, this week? 


Kelly said...

I absolutely love your pumpkin. I think it is beautiful. Watch out for goats, they may think it is real and try to eat it!

Kimi Capece said...

I think we're all perfectly imperfect and I love you 'as is'. I was brought up being physically and verbally punished for not being perfect - what is perfect anyway? Whatever it is, it is not something I want to acquire because the thought of maintaining perfection scares me more than the thought of achieving even a minuscule piece of it....

Ashling said...

Kelly--thank you; have to admit I love my pumpkin too, flaws & all! Kimi--i never seem to attain perfection so have never had to worry about the care & feeding of it, but that's one heck of a point!

cleemckenzie said...

That fear of failure never fails to drop a heavy anchor. The trick for me is separate the creative process from the judgmental one. Oh dear, not so easy.

Marvelous pumpkin, btw!

JGH said...

So impressed with your felting pieces - just beautiful!

For awhile I'd been seeing the term "wabi sabi" and never knew exactly what it was. I always thought it just meant something funky and handmade, but when I looked up the definition, it's actually a design term that means "beauty in imperfection." It recognizes the fact that there is something hugely comforting about an object that is authentic, natural and maybe even unfinished. Applied to grades, I guess you would say that there is nowhere to go after you get that A+ -- when you get an A, there's room for growth and possibility!

(BTW, you may be right about that cupcake on my blog being a spider! I'll have to ask the folks who made them!)