Imperfect Perfection

I remember clearly the moment when I saw the movie Mary Poppins as a child and decided that was what I wanted to be- “practically perfect in every way.”  Growing up the baby of a family that had been blown to smithereens by divorce, I felt the pressure to never give Mom any problems, to “grow up right” as I heard many times. I worked hard, got straight A’s, made first chair in band and orchestra, behaved immaculately, was always the teacher’s pet. The junior high kids called me Mary Poppins thanks to my short hair and goody two-shoes ways, and they didn’t necessarily mean it as a compliment…but inside, I loved hearing it, loved reaching my goal of whatever I thought perfection was. My mother was so proud of me, and I loved being able to call my father and tell him about my latest accomplishment, praying for any tidbit of praise, hoping to hear a rare, “That’s wonderful, Gal.” It was like a drug to me. 

imageIn all my twenty-three-year-old Poppins glory…

I went away to college and hung out with the best of the best, the over-achievers, and my reputation as Poppins spread to the music building as well. Work hard, work harder, be the best that you can be. I graduated and began teaching, marrying after my first year as a band director, someone very like my father. I found that the work of being perfect was beginning to wear on me. I developed anorexia and then bulimia, fighting my body to be what I thought would please the people around me. Somehow I got myself out of those secretive and dangerous behaviors on my own, embarking on  a battle with weight that has never ended. At the end of my doctoral degree, I began studying with a legendary clarinetist in New York, someone who made it clear that I was not perfect, and that I never could truly please him, no matter how hard I tried. My marriage ended, and it wasn’t pretty, and in no way perfect. My world seemed to be crashing down around me. 

IMG_2730With my mentor…

The problem with perfection is that it doesn’t exist- at least not in the way I thought. I am finding that I have reached a crossroads in all of this- I can continue to live in perpetual disappointment in myself, never reaching an impossibly illusive goal, or I can let go of the albatross I have created and embrace the beauty of imperfect perfection. Imperfect perfection is realizing that I am a flawed human being, and finding peace with that. I have always accepted flaws in others, but have a very difficult time accepting them in myself. Throughout my life, I have been drawn to men like my father, emotionally distant, controlling, impossible to please…but, oh, how I tried. I broke the cycle with my wonderful husband Dan, but I still know that the tendency is under the surface, waiting with its siren song.  I know that isn’t healthy. Maybe because I am finally aware of the issue,  I can truly break free. I want to, I know that much. Each and every day from this point forward, I am going to make every effort to allow myself to be human. Maybe then I will truly find perfection.   

  Not every light is burning, but this beautiful old chandelier is perfect to me.  

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