I just diagnosed my husband.
We were taking a walk yesterday.
First, the back story. Last year I finally said “enough” and stopped waiting until we own our house to plant some plants in our yard. I get HUGE enjoyment out of growing things. I love watching the tiny leaves sprout after spring, I love watching the flowers grow. So we have knockout roses, 3 or 4 hydrangea bushes and I even planted two peonies–my favorite flower–all planted in the shabby, somewhat ignored back yard flower beds. Imperfect is better than not at all when it comes to flowers.
A few weeks ago I went out to check on everything and could just see the purple beginnings of my peony sprouting up underneath the old fire pit we had used for the last few years. It had a hole in it but still worked, if you made the fire right. Of course I didn’t think we needed a new one but my husband did. Then he just left it in my untouched all winter plant bed. RIGHT OVER MY PEONY plant. UGH! So of course I lifted up the massive fire pit and threw (not really but I would have if I was stronger) it in the grass. So annoying. Anyway, the bed desperately needed to be weeded but I really didn’t have time for that. I spent about five minutes doing consolation weeding, you know the kind where you just painted your nails but the weeds are bothering you so bad that you try to pull the easy ones? It looked worse when I was done.
Every other day I walked out and checked on all of my plants, still not having time to weed. That peony was really growing tall now that the piece of trash that never got thrown away, fire pit was out-of-the-way, sitting in the grass.
Then two days ago my husband got home early and went up stairs and started putting together the new bed I ordered (I didn’t even ask him to put it together–I just used my usual method of letting the new bed sit slightly in the way for the past week). I went outside to check on my plants. The grass had been mowed, finally. But where was my peony? Wait, why is the trashed, old fire pit back in my ignored but still growing plant bed? WHERE IS MY PLANT?!
It was gone.
I stormed upstairs and tried my best to be furious with the man who volunteered to put together our new bed. At this point he had the old one apart, entirely without my help and was on the floor figuring out how to put the new one together.
URRRRRRR!!!!!!! So I was all “Did you pull of my flower so that you could put your precious OLD fire pit that you insisted on replacing BACK in my flower bed? Because that was my $30 peony plant (actually more like $15 but it didn’t seem as convincing to be that mad about something that only cost $15) I’ve been waiting for it to grow all year! I Can’t Have ANYTHING!” Probably not the best argument since I had to now pick my way through my TWO disassembled beds so I could stomp out of the room.
I even left the house. I am such a baby. It even surprised me how upset I was over a dumb plant. Why?
So back to our walk the next day. I brought it up again in a calm, not meany tone. “Do you think you pulled my peony up by the tuber or maybe just thought you were picking a weed and popped off the top part and the tuber is still in the ground?”
Shucks, now it will never grow back.
He continued “you know, those beds are a mess we just need to pull everything out and start over.”
Me: “What? No we don’t. If we clean up what we have it will look really good. Just throw away the TRASH (emphasised as a kicker) and weed it and put down mulch, maybe plant a few peonies and it will look better, good even.”
Somehow we started talking about the back yard. The grass looks nice. Then he said “Our patio set is so old, if we had a new one it would be so much better. We really need to get a new one.” It’s true, ours we rescued from the trash after my sister-in-law bought a new one and was getting rid of her old one. The chairs only fold up on you if you sit the wrong way. We’ve had it two years since she’s thrown it away.
Suddenly it hit me. My husband is a perfectionist! He doesn’t like just cleaning out the old plant beds, he wants to start over and make new beds. He doesn’t want to just wash off the old patio set and get a new umbrella, he thinks it will only be OK with a new one. He doesn’t want to mess with the old fire pit, we need a new one.
Actually, he’s trying to help me by acknowledging what needs to be done. However, I know the pitfalls of perfectionism. That’s exactly why it took me three years of living here to start enjoying the yard. You say you need to start over with the plant beds BUT the job is so big and daunting you never start and your old beds look even worse. Because you insist on perfect. Trust me, I get it. Save me from myself.
I can be a perfectionist too. We all mean well.
But my husband also has encouraged me to NOT be a perfectionist. Two years ago I really wanted a new bed and he suggested we paint our current bed just to see. I’m glad he said that, I liked it for a long time. And in the meantime I found a much less expensive bed.
It actually made me feel good to know that my husband can be a perfectionist too. We all can. The trick it to recognize it and learn from it. And to be ok when someone else notices your perfectionism and points it out to you. You might even be the one to kindly nudge someone that the goal is not perfection. Sometimes the goal is simply better.
This weekend I hope you choose to make something just a little more beautiful even if you know it will never be perfect. Even if it’s just temporary. Even if the best way would be to trash everything and wait until you can start over. Sometimes you just need to work with what you have because joy still counts as joy even if you find it in the imperfect.\
*updated May of 2013 click here to read the rest of the story…