Practice, Practice, Practice


My daughter’s first softball game is tomorrow night. It will be her first time playing a softball game—or even seeing a softball game, for that matter. She’s feeling a little nervous.

We had six pre-season practices scheduled. Her team managed one complete practice. Two were cut short and the other three were cancelled, all because of the weather. We thought she would have one more practice this afternoon, but this morning we learned this isn’t the case; it’s raining, so it would probably have been cancelled anyway. Not only that, we learned that, once the games start, there will be no more practices.

Upon hearing the news, my son remarked, “Practice is something that can come in handy.”

My daughter was rather more alarmed. “Practice doesn’t just come in handy; it’s something you have to do!”

As a kid who’s practiced her flute at least five days a week for the past three and a half years, my daughter is familiar with the positive effects of practice. She’s also rather unfamiliar with going into a performance scenario underprepared. So, she’s kind of freaking out.

As a mother with little patience for practice (at least for myself. “Perfect” I like; “practice,” not so much), I both admire and feel a bit puzzled by my daughter’s commitment to practice. Although I’ve made a conscious effort to help my perfectionist child embrace practice, I’m not sure I can take credit for her attitude about it. I just hope she keeps her love of practice because I’m not sure how I would help her recover it were she to lose it.

In the meantime, it looks like I’ll have to fill in the gaps in her softball practice schedule. Maybe I’ll get myself a glove and we can play some backyard catch (or at least some “throw”).¬†Unfortunately, I’ve never played softball, either. I’ve never been a team-sports person. Getting picked last for my entire youth put a damper on any enthusiasm I might have cultivated for team sports. Luckily there are lots of instructional softball videos on YouTube. I’m sure we’ll have watched them all by the time the game is rained out tomorrow night.

Crafting Imperfection

A year ago or so, I crocheted a purse.

Well, I crocheted two purses. One I finished and gave to a friend. I actually really liked how it came out.

Last year's purse

Last year's purse, interior.

The other I never assembled and the finished pieces were just sitting for months next to the phone then on the dining room table then, most recently, on the window seat in the dining room.

I really like the yarn. It’s this Caron bamboo blend and it’s soft and lustrous. I love the colors it comes in, too. It’s a bit of a pain to work with because the strands of the yarn come apart so easily, but I really like how it looks, so I dealt with it. (If you’d like to try your hand at making the same purse, the pattern is free on the NaturallyCaron website. It’s called the Chakra Purse.)

Night before last, I finally assembled the purse. I stayed up late and caught up on this season’s episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Every time I watch that show, I think how stupid it is and how predictable the characters are and how recycled the plot lines are. Then I’ll take a few months off, vowing never to watch it again. Until the next time I’m doing something with my hands and want to watch something at the same time. I would like to say that when this happens, I turn on PBS and watch Frontline or Bill Moyers. But alas. Grey’s Anatomy it is.

At any rate, I made a lining for the purse to give it some more structure, and I assembled the pieces a little differently than the pattern called for. When it was done, I was not pleased. The little heart motif on the front looked silly and childish. The stitching didn’t look as impressive as it did before I assembled it. And the pieces refused to line up properly, so the shoulder strap is attached a little cockeyed. I couldn’t bring myself to attach the snap closure.

I went to bed planning to drop the thing at the thrift store the next morning. When I looked at it again this morning after actively working to relax my perfectionist impulses, it didn’t look so bad. I did some hand-sewing along the sides to even out the way it hangs a little, and I added the magnetic snaps. It will be all finished once I get a large decorative button to cover the back of the snap.

Still, I’m not sure what to do with it. It doesn’t look bad, but it also doesn’t look nice enough (to me) to give it as a gift, and it’s a little too small for me to use even as my “Look! No kids!” purse.


Chakra Purse. Finished but for the decorative button.

Chakra Purse, detail of stitches.

Under the flap.

Interior of the Chakra Purse.

I think this might be why I have so much trouble finishing projects. I know they’ll never turn out like I imagine they will.

Getting to the Nitty Gritty of my Perfectionism

My mom just visited for about a week and a half, which gave me the chance to observe perfectionism in action from the outside. Usually I’m just trapped inside, observing my own actions, which isn’t nearly so enlightening as watching from outside.

The way my mom’s perfectionism manifests itself during her visits is in non-stop projects. Those who have been reading the blog this past week or so have some idea of the frenetic levels our home-improvement (and “me”-improvement) binge reached. I get the impression that when my mom looks out at the world, she sees all of the things that are wrong with it. Then she focuses in on the things that she might be able to change and gets to work. I can recognize this because this is pretty much what I do (less with the home improvements and more with the self improvements, although I do move furniture an awful lot and used a caulk gun for the first time last night instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour).

This is where my perfectionism gets in the way of my happiness, I think. In addition to interfering with my sleep and causing me to ignore (or attempt to ignore) my children, the underlying belief driving all of this fault-finding is that things just aren’t right. There’s something wrong in my surroundings and there’s something wrong with me. There’s a related belief, which is that if I can eliminate everything wrong with my surroundings, that the wrong things in me will disappear, too, and vice versa. When I feel stressed and I get that “wrong” feeling, I immediately retreat to perfectionism. I make lists, schedules, routines. I track my food intake and develop rules for my eating. I either avoid social interaction or my conversations are peppered with long pauses as I attempt to say just the right thing (or at the very least to avoid saying the wrong thing). I can keep this up for a few days or as long as a week, and then I start to falter and quickly descend into chaos, from where I then lift myself out via perfectionism and the cycle begins again.

What’s interesting to me is that the chaos I feel inside doesn’t seem to show itself on the outside. We had dinner out with some friends from North Carolina last night whom we hadn’t seen in seven years. I don’t know how we got to it, but at one point the other three adults at the table all emphatically declared that I am very organized. I don’t often feel organized. I wonder if this suggests that the chaos and disorder I feel are mostly on my insides but because I don’t recognize that reality, I try to eliminate the chaos by changing my outsides.

My mom’s visit was like an orgy of perfectionism. Oh, look! This thing I’ve not done anything about because, you know, I’ve got two kids and I’m homeschooling…I can complete it and 15 other things I’ve not even thought of doing because my mom’s here to help. It was awesome and it was exhausting and now I’m trying to let myself down easy so I don’t drop into a pit of disappointment at my relative lack of productivity.

So here’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to follow my own advice and Not Jump to Solutions. When I feel that “wrong” feeling, I’m going to just sit with it. I’m going to observe it, take note of it, and just move along. I’ve got my decluttering, which I think will help to relieve some of the pressure that builds up when I just need to pull out the stove and clean behind it at 11:30 at night. But I’m going to do my best to avoid going to extremes and focusing so much on cleaning or on scheduling or on finding the perfect spot for the coffee table that I ignore the underlying feelings and beliefs that are driving my need to change things.

Last night I had a dream that I was in charge of planning nine weddings that would take place over the course of three hours. And I still had my kids to take care of. I had all of these favors and table decorations to assemble and the kids kept walking off with things I needed. I would stare at these tables covered in supplies and try to reason through how to get everything put together before the weddings began. Two of the weddings were for people I knew and one was for myself (the other six were for people I didn’t know). I updated my Facebook status (in the dream) saying that I was getting help from my friend in fixing my hair for my wedding. I remarked that it was something of a lost cause. My friend was getting exasperated with me because I was so clueless about how to pretty up my hair for an important occasion and because I kept trying to do more prep work for the other weddings. Then, even though I’d not finished all of the things I’d planned for the first wedding before it began, I saw that everyone was having a great time and the bride looked gorgeous. I cautiously considered devoting the rest of my energies to preparations for my own wedding, which was the last of the nine.

I don’t know. I think this dream just reinforces the importance, for me, of paying better attention to my own needs and improving my skills at observing and caring for myself. Most everything else can pretty much take care of itself, or at the very least won’t fall apart if I’m not in complete control 100% of the time. Another bit of my own advice comes to mind: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.

Like Alice, however, I always give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.