Home[builder] owner[mortgage]ship is [hopefully] a once-in-a-lifetime experience [been here and still doing this]. I’m getting too old for this [cuss]!
I remember moving into our first home, giving it a fresh coat of paint, in color because the selling system always required pure white. Blah! Painting those lines where the wall edges along the ceiling was easy back then. I was just painting in the lines.
Now, decades later, I’m painting the lines again, but this experience is quite a mindful exercise. And as difficult as always. And I’m not talking about navigating the ladder steps, although that is quite an unsteady practice now as well.
Step 1: Setting Myself Up for Preparation of Perfectionism
I mulled over a plethora of poetically-named color cards—moonlight, good morning sunshine, sundance, wildflowers, good vibrations, finally settling upon [choosing, really] mellow yellow—as if the marketing name of the color would somehow affect the tone of the room.
I envisioned painting flawlessly straight lines like the Photoshop versions in all the color booklets I collected from the paint store. Upon walking into this mellow yellow room, people’s eyes [my perfect knack for seeing imperfections] would not be drawn toward glaring flaws.
As the paint companies would cleverly have it, I had already set myself up for the preparation of painting perfection. This perfectionism trap is one in which a lot of us became ensnared and entangled. The trap convinces us to become attached to expectations of self that aren’t real.
Step 2: [Cuss]ing Out Loud and Laying the Blame On Thick
So here I am, still teetering on the brink of perfectionism, tottering up this sturdy ladder, dipping the brush into the paint, and dabbing off the excess so as not to drip. How difficult can it be? I’ll just start in right here, and end up right over there. Dip, dab, repeat. Easy peasy.
Cuss! Look at this line! This wall and this ceiling are not even close to straight. There is no way any human being could paint a straight line along this edge. There is no edge. It’s [cuss]ing Kansas ⊥ Kansas (even flatter than a Kansasian pancake)! There’s no place like om, I try to jest.
But my perfectionism has got me by the ovaries. Or maybe the prefrontal cortex. Or even the amygdala. I suppose I suspected that blaming the wall and ceiling for not being straight would actually excuse my crooked lines and end my distress, but it didn’t. That’s blame’s game. I decided to lay the paint on thick instead of the blame.
Step 3: [Cuss]ing Under My Breath and a Straight Brush-Off
Okay, so these walls and this ceiling have a texture that is seriously not flat [see photo of Kansas ⊥ Kansas above]. There is a sweet spot, a squiggly line really [a squiggly line, really?], that separates the wall from the ceiling. If I can just ignore this squiggly line [figuratively, although not geometrically figuratively] and just keep my vision, my focus, I can paint a really straight line [aha! geometry's line segment!].
From my perfectionist perch atop the ladder, I mimic a kiwi wearing cheaters, tilting my head up and down so I can judge this line [yes, segment] and its painter. I can now see that I can actually see only a part of the line segment, that the rest of Kansas ⊥ Kansas on the western front of homebuilder heaven is only visible via the big picture. So each time I step down to move the ladder, I trek over to the eastern border to take in the whole segment [hey! oxymoron!]
Step 4: Kiddie Cussing Whoops! and Seeing It As It Really Is
Hey! this is so scientific—Kansas really does look flat from this perspective. And the western border line segment actually appears straight, enough. I spend a little more time in eastern Kansas than I should. It’s like The Emerald City, only in mellow yellow—I’m in awe of its beauty, mesmerized by its brilliance. Ding-dong! the witch is dead.
But then I remember who’s really behind the curtain in The Mellow Yellow City, of what this great and powerful painter truly is capable, upon closer perfection inspection. I snap myself out of my own reverie [nothing new here]—mindless holiday’s over. I arm myself with the brush and plenty of paint. But as I ascend the ladder, I remember.
And I remind myself to be a little more mindful [okay, a lot more] in this work. And to be gentler with this simple painter who’s often hard on herself. Each time the brush strays from the line segment, I simply say whoops! and then continue painting. I know the line segment is straight enough, from a real-life perspective. It is. Look-see here now!
Step 5: Seeing the Perfectly Imperfect, Squiggly Flaws and All
Pretty soon I’m atop the ladder, oohing and awing over this nook and that cranny, this bump and that hump, intrigued by this whole, new, real-life, right-now perspective thing. I see how the paint swirls above and below the imaginary line segment, sometimes altogether unable to creep into a crevice. Turns out, Kansas, this whole state I’m now in, is perfectly imperfect.
There are little flaws all over the place and real big ones that drew a little more attention and breath than whoops! But I’m on a mindful roll [okay, brush] and I’m rolling right along, right past the flaws, all of them. This perfectly imperfect painter behind the curtain of human vulnerability really is getting good at this practice.
Step 6: Stand Down Now and Touch Up Real-Life Flaws Later
I finish up where I started [I just know there's some lesson here] and decide to give it a rest, to give this half-centenarian a much-needed and well-deserved break. I descend the ladder and head to dead-center Kansas, where it’s flat as far as the eye can see. I’m no longer micro-managing this amateur painter. She works way better without perfectionist pressure.
It’s time to stand down. It’s time to give this peaceful practice some time. I decide to let it set [the paint], to sit with it a while [this state], and to return later on and touch up real-life flaws. They’re here [see photo below], and they’re easily resolved. Like so many things in life, practice makes perfectly imperfect. Dip, dab, repeat. Easy peasy.
How have you been ensnared and entangled in the perfectionism trap? And how did you free yourself?