Perfect It Later
by Jennifer Paros
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to
err . . . that precious right.”
Recently I was listening to an audio recording of life coach/teacher Mandy Evans* speaking with a man who was in the process of completing an advanced degree. He had a paper due and spoke of his distress over getting it done. He described having to “force” himself to write it and was wondering if there was an easier way.
As the conversation progressed, the man revealed both his desire to complete the paper and to “make it perfect.” Mandy said, “Which is more important to you now – that it’s perfect or complete?” and then asked if he would he be happy completing it by the deadline and perfecting it later.
Completion often poses as a mountain to climb, but in truth it is much easier to go after than to hold oneself back or try to escape. The difficulty and discomfort come from the desire to go forward conflicting with the voice in our heads telling us there is potential danger in doing so. And sometimes striving to get it “perfect” is an attempt at protecting ourselves from this imagined risk.
I witness this regularly in my writing. Fear creeps in to all parts of the process – from the actual writing part, to the sending it off to my editor part, to the waiting for a response part. I worry I will not get the outcome I want and fear an outcome I think will bring distress. And suddenly my life is steered and directed by me trying to avoid pain.
Years ago, I hurt my wrist and was going to physical therapy regularly. I wore two different kinds of wristbands (simultaneously) and did everything I could to lay off the injured part. It was my right hand, and it hurt so much I stopped writing and drawing. Day after day, I worked to protect the injury, to keep it from further damage, I thought. And then one day, after concluding that nothing was improving at all, I got fed up.
I had it in my head that the pain was an indicator of my needing not to do what I wanted. That doing what I wanted could damage me further. I started questioning this assumption and determined that I didn’t actually believe I could hurt my wrist with writing and drawing, and that all that was standing between me and working
again was my perception of the pain. I removed the two wristbands and wrote through it. I let my desire to work, to live, to be free rule the day, step by step, regardless of what the warning voice in my head had to say.
“Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfect. Advance and do not fear the thorns in the path….”
My fear of the pain dropped away, and soon my wrist problem resolved - not through physical therapy, icing and heating, or anything drugstore-bought, but through my decision. I allowed myself to do it now and “perfect” it later. I let myself go and find out what would happen when I was motivated to act based on true desire, rather than effort corrupted with trying to protect myself
When we are connected to an earnest desire to do the thing, doing it becomes enough in and of itself, and fear of result no longer seems relevant. The notion of allowing ourselves to do something and “perfect it” later is a way of releasing the hold the voice of fear can have. It allows us to follow what we want without engaging the “what if’s” of the eternally worried mind.
Some time ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a woman in her late thirties who was expecting for the first time and very excited. She told me how amniocentesis had been recommended. Boldly she denounced the doctor’s suggestion and said, “I don’t care if it has three heads!”
She had fallen in love, not just with a future baby, but with the road she was on now. And her confidence came from surrendering to this love. I adored her position and still felt a wave of discomfort – aware there would be no guarantee for her as to the outcome. What I didn’t realize is that when we are completely clear about wanting an experience, no guarantee as to the result feels needed. And we are freed to go forward in the best way possible and perfect it all - later.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.