The same pile of books has sat on my bed side table since we moved a year and a half ago. My current reads come and go but this pile of books has remained. Today, I picked up one, brought it downstairs and read.
I have read Anna Quindlen’s Being Perfect a few times but not in a long time. I read it today with thoughts of Caroline who is completely consumed with perfection in all areas of her life right now. I was hoping to find a word or two of wisdom to share.
I found many including…
“Trying to be perfect may be inevitable for people who are smart and ambitious and interested in the world and its good opinion. But at one level it’s too hard and at another, it’s too cheap and easy. Because all it really requirers of you, mainly is to read the zeitgeist of wherever and whenever you happen to be and to assume the masks necessary to be the best at whatever the zeitgeist dictates or requires.”
“I was mesmerized by that phrase: effortless perfection. Obviously it is an oxymoron. Even the illusion of perfection requires an enormous amount of work.”
I had Caroline in my mind the whole time I was reading until I arrived at this line…
“There’s some muscle group around your shoulders that seizes up during the perfection dance and doesn’t let go until you are asleep, or alone. Or maybe it never really lets go at all.”
Hmmm. Over the last few months, I have done many things to try to get my body back in to shape to run. I have always exercised but had to give up running a few years ago because my shoulders became painfully tight during and after a run. I have tried many types of exercises, classes and programs. In fact, Rob jokes that I have been to every gym in Bergen County.
While, ironically, I think I may have found the perfect combination at the moment, I had to read the sentence above over and over again. I know that running is part of why my shoulders are tight. But that said, I know my shoulders have always been tight and I know they have been tight because of the ‘perfection dance.’
I have vivid memories of walking down my high school hallway, Mr. Sphoer’s history room on the left and Mrs. Barrows geometry room on the right and feeling my shoulders creeping up to my ears. I did then and do now remind myself constantly to lower my shoulders. To take deep, slow breaths. I have never been good at stopping the ‘perfection dance’ myself, of giving my shoulders a rest. Perhaps, as I think about the role model I must be for Caroline, I can find a way to relax those muscles once and for all…