I am not perfect... I’ve known this pretty much my whole life.
I don’t want to be perfect... This is a new revelation for me.
It is a truth that I am both sure of and unsure of at the same time.
While I have always known that perfection is unattainable, this logic has not stopped me from trying to attain it, or something close to it. Only recently have I realized the cost of this goal.
I have lost moments. Moments that can never be recovered. Moments of celebration, tenderness, and joy. Moments even of frustration, fear and failure.
I have lost opportunities to show my children, or truth be told, myself, the value of a struggle, of humility, or the success that can be found in defeat.
Along my journey in grief, I have found some solace in my quest for perfection. This solace comes only because the quest is familiar. It’s an easy pattern of life on which I can lean. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to admit that I am sad, or just off. I simply put blinders on and travel that well worn path.... but I’m realizing more and more that it leads no where.
Lately, I’ve noticed more frustration in this quest for perfection than comfort. I find myself longing to blaze new trails - to pause and seek out moments like those that I’ve lost. I find myself looking out, straying off to uncharted territories, or at least wanting to stray, more and more.
If I’m being honest though, it’s terrifying - taking a leap from the well worn path to the great unknown. On one hand, it sounds beautiful; it sounds freeing, but it also sounds somewhat impossible.
The other day, I found myself caught between these two trails. The well worn path, where I am in control. The one where I can power through anything. And the little hint of a trail that could lead to something beautiful, but it could be quite ugly along the way. This trail was littered with overgrowth. It had branches that could smack me in the face, and leave scratches on my legs.
I started the morning off in my usual way. A workout, a walk with the dogs, packing my lunch and taking a shower. It started off they way I expected. Then suddenly, while in the shower, I became ‘not okay’. I was sad and overwhelmed.
Per my usual approach, I pep talked myself - told myself to ‘get it together’, scrubbed my face, reminded myself of all the things I had to do, and the expectations I had for myself and others had for me. I hiked up my proverbial boot straps and sought out that well worn path of perfection - living up to expectations, exceeding them. It lasted all of about 5 minutes until I was out of the shower and trying to find an outfit for the day. I fell apart again - over an outfit! Over the course of the next 20-30 minutes, I continue that cycle: pep talk myself - tell myself to power through - tell myself that falling apart over minor things was ridiculous. I’d pick myself up and keep traveling down that path to perfection in little increments only to be brought to my knees by the lack of being able to control my emotions and desires. Ziggy found me - held me and then I fell back on my path - apologizing for “not being able to hold it together”...
I continued trying to travel the well worn path of perfection and holding it together, only to be pulled by the desire to blaze new trails and just let go no matter how ugly it got, for a short time.
I never quite got the courage to completely stray from well worn path, but I off-roaded for a bit. I reached out to my teaching partner and asked for some time. I admitted that I was having a rough morning. She respond with unparalleled grace and support.
I fell into Ziggy’s arms and let him console me. As he held me, I found hints of the beauty in straying from the path. He reminded me that I don’t always have to have it all together. I realized that the world kept turning without me meeting my usual expectations.
Later in the day, after stepping back and reflecting, I realized that my pep talks weren’t really pep talks. If they had been, they would have encouraged me to be okay with not being okay. They would have encouraged me to sit in the emotions coursing over and through my body.
As I’ve been writing, I realize that I strayed enough from the perfection path to find some beauty. I didn’t sit for long in those ugly, branch scratching emotions, but I acknowledged them and took a few more steps into the great unknown. I acknowledged that I wasn’t “okay” and allowed myself to hear that I don’t always need to be.
There was beauty in me straying, even just a tiny bit, from the path. There was vulnerability and support from so many. There was also the revelation that I can’t, nor do I want to, strive for perfection.
I may get scratched. I may trip and fall, but I think I’ll learn a lot about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses as I blaze new paths and seek out new truths. I will embrace that I am “perfectly imperfect”.
Meghann and Ziggy Guentensberger are Rylie's parents. During their time in the hospital with Rylie and after her death, they began writing about their experiences. What started as a way to keep people informed of Rylie's condition, turned into a way for them to process all that was happening. After she died on May 26, 2017 they both continued to write as a way to process and heal themselves and occasionally inspire others. These writings are housed on the Rylie's ARK Facebook page.