50. Perfectionism, Part 1: the curse

All our lives we’re told, “Do your best.” “If you do your best, that’s all anyone can ask.”
And what, exactly, is our best?
How many times can we have a do over?
When and how do we draw the line between “our best” and OCD?
And who ultimately gives us the final grade? Friends? Lovers? Bosses? Ourselves? Society? God?
Oh my. These are such hard questions I’d better stop now and have a cup of tea. I hope you’re having one with me…


Several events have precipitated these musings on perfectionism.

  • The Color of my Kitchen

I spent (or wasted) hours poring over paint samples. After purchasing a sample jar of Benjamin Moore Blooming Grove, I fell in love. There were even signs to let me know I’d chosen well:

I bought a gallon at a store that shall remain nameless. I do have to say that when the mixologist opened the can to show me the paint, I said, “That’s too yellow.”
“No,” he assured me. “It’s Blooming Grove. It will dry darker.”

Blooming grove samples on kitchen wall
On the wall is the paint from the sample can. The cabinet door is divided in half–the bottom is the sample can; the top is from the gallon that would dry darker.
I have struggled with this. I don’t want to be the whiny perfectionist lady customer demanding a new gallon be mixed because it isn’t exactly right.
Nevertheless, one can plainly see that it isn’t  exactly right.
Does God want me obsessing over a paint color, because, in the scheme of the universe, paint color just isn’t that important. I know this. Where does the line fall here?

  • The Last Glitch in the Kitchen Window Process

Two weeks ago we were ready to put up the windows in the kitchen. The left side just had to be finish coated and we were ready to go. As I sat down to paint them (paint poured and brush dipped) I could see that the primer on the glazing wasn’t sticking. So instead of finish coating, I spent the next three hours peeling little strips of paint/primer off the glazed window panes.
There are no photos of this event.
And then instead of putting up windows, we were back to priming/drying/painting/drying.
It was discouraging.
And I wondered as I was sitting on the floor in the late afternoon sun peeling off little strips, “Is this normal?”
Would other people just say, “Oh for goodness sake, just paint the stupid windows and put them up!”

I wanted to do that. But I knew it was peeling. Done poorly. Failed event. Where does the line fall here?

  • Life in General; Rehabbing a Cottage in Particular

I don’t mind little imperfections in wood or paint or people — I myself have little imperfections.
I am not a complete dorky perfectionist all the time. (The jury is still out on Mr. H.C.)
I have buried uncleaned paintbrushes in the bottom of a garbage can because A. I didn’t want to clean them, or B. I did clean them but not good enough and they dried out stiff and I didn’t want any other perfectionist who lives in the house to find them.
I mean, really, one could spend hours cleaning a paintbrush. Or peeling paint from an imperfectly primed window…Or redoing a board because it is a quarter inch off…Or choosing the right color of paint… I don’t have any answers here folks. The age old question — blessing or curse — is still a question. But I can tell you that just last week I read a quote from Thomas Merton (much wiser than I…) who said this:

We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life.

That gives me hope. So does the wise quote from Mr. H. C. who says to me all the time — there’s nothing perfect in this world.

And now I have to go demand a new gallon of paint. (Nicely, of course.)


8 thoughts on “50. Perfectionism, Part 1: the curse

  1. I am so glad you are going back for corrected paint. It’s not about perfectionism or what god wants or being OCD (all of which have their own problems)… it’s about good service and getting what you paid for! – The penny-pinching, OCD daughter.


  2. Ron’s dad has a saying, if you don’t have the time to do it right the first time, you surely won’t have the time to do it a second time. Of course he’s a CPA!


    • Yes, it’s easy to say, “Oh, that’s not my gift.” when really, we just don’t want to do it badly. But the revelation came to me as I was writing this post — God has made us so that we strive to be like him. Wanting to be perfect is a gift from God; at least, I’m going to try to see it like that from now on…


Comments are closed.