Nov 1, 2011 18

Perfect

neatly stacked eggshells

Once upon a time there was a man who would, from time to time, play a friendly game of tennis with his much-younger wife.

The wife was naturally athletic, highly competitive, and devoted hours to practice and instruction; the man was riddled with infirmities, profoundly disinterested in sports, and played as seldom as the bounds of his conscience and her nagging would allow.

Yet he regularly wiped the court with her.

After each fresh loss, she’d complain (with no small bitterness) that he was hitting the ball all wrong, that he hacked away at it with same lack of form and style and basic respect for the game exhibited by his droopy, borderline-impermissible outfits. Forget fair—how was it even possible that he won with such maddening regularity?

To which he’d inevitably reply that he simply did the easiest thing for himself, which was to put the ball in the most difficult place for her.

* * * * *

Do you wish for things to be perfect? I do. Or did. There was a time when I owned (no lie) two crystal decanters (one for bourbon, one for scotch) and ironed my cloth napkins by hand. As a small girl, I used to drive my mother crazy by depositing into the laundry hamper t-shirts that I’d tried on and decided not to wear; tried-on jersey knits, I argued, get stretched out in the trying-on, and thus needed to be washed and dried again to be properly considered “clean.”

These days, unless company is imminent I rarely notice dirt smaller than my forearm, and we will not discuss how many days in a row I will wear a pair of yoga pants or how, say, I eat most of my meals. (Okay, we will: as quickly as possible, usually in front of some kind of screen.) But the longing for perfection dies hard. While I’m no longer squeamish about a sticky kitchen floor or a little black mold on the tub caulking (at least, not in my own bathroom), I still lose days to reorganizing the files on my hard drive. I am sure there is a right way to name my files, and that someone else knows what it is, and that if I listen to just one more podcast about workflow, the secrets of a clean, orderly hard drive will be revealed to me, and life (by which, of course, I mean my work) will finally be perfect.

And by “finally be perfect,” I mean, of course, that I will feel safe and loved, welcomed warmly by the legions of happy, well-adjusted, together people with clean, orderly hard drives as I step through the secret Willy Wonka door at the back of the wardrobe that was there all along, had I just chosen to see it.

* * * * *

Speaking of hard drives, I have spent the past two weeks wrestling with mine. Actually, because of the way hard drives work (or don’t), we’ve apparently been wrestling for more like two months; only as the slowdowns and hangs and crashes begin to outweigh the up time did I figure out what was what.1

While I defy you to pick a good time for your hard drive to melt down, this really was an exceptionally bad one. Coming off of my massive birthday project (fulfillment of which has only just begun), I’d immediately dived into a little speaking tour for my fine photography clients, while simultaneously prepping a brand new talk deconstructing the project. When it became clear I’d reached the point of no return in Laptop Land, I took a cold, hard look at my calendar: it was Friday afternoon; my first scheduled delivery of the presentation was on Tuesday evening. If everything went perfectly, I would be able to hit things hard on Sunday, and still have three solid days to work on my slides.

First of all, never use the terms “perfectly” and “computers” in the same sentence; you’re asking for trouble. Secondly, things went so not-perfectly that come Sunday, I’d been reduced to a tangled knot of gassy intestines surrounded by an alarming number of index cards. By Monday night, I straight-up gave in and bought a new laptop. Which is awesome in many ways, starting with the one where I live on a planet where that’s possible and ending with a brand-new Macbook Air in my shoulder bag, but bad as an indicator of how smoothly things were going overall. Because brother, I am cheap, and I wasn’t planning on Computer #2 for another six months.

Anyway, my brand-new Air and I hunkered down on Tuesday and put together what was so far from a perfect presentation as to be laughable, but a presentation it was. At the appointed hour, I trundled everything over to the little Meetup group that was kind enough to be my guinea pig, took a deep breath, did the disclaimer dance of a lifetime, and let ‘er rip.

Roughly two hours and a million-billion excellent questions (and answers) later, we were done, and I was finished. But in the most wonderful, wonderful way—used up, like you’re supposed to be. It had been slow in places and too fast in other places and bumpy in lots of places, but it worked: we got the information from one place (me) to another (them), with excellent feedback in the opposite direction. Because somewhere in there, I’ve managed to play enough tennis that I can put the ball in the right places when I need to. Only in this case, nobody lost, and everybody won, and a pretty good time was had by all.

So much for perfect.

* * * * *

Seven years ago today, I hit “publish” on the first of, at this counting, 1,375 posts on communicatrix-dot-com. Ever since that first day, I’ve harbored visions of turning this blog into something spectacular—fast-loading, with loads of features and a terrific, user-friendly design and REAL categories and an actual search function that works. The perfect, perfect place I see glimpses of in my dreams. Someday, when I have the money, when I have the time, when I have the energy.

In my lucid moments, I realize that these things are all excellent, they are not the point. What matters is getting the thoughts from here to there; what matters is that I have a place to take what I’ve lived and learned and spin it into some kind of yarn that someone else might find useful. A little knotty in places, but useful, nonetheless.

Were we living in a perfect world, this post would have flowed like water—from my brain, through my fingers, out to you. And it would have done so yesterday, on a non-travel day, ready to go up at the stroke of midnight.

As it is, I have my friend Dyana to thank for getting it up in time, period. You see, I’d forgotten that today was my blogiversary until I got her email congratulating me on it this morning. Shamed, I decided to forgo my usual travel-day ritual—freaking out about getting to the airport on time, followed by lots of reading on my Kindle—and write instead.

It is neither the best nor the worst thing I have ever written; it lies pretty squarely in the middle.

But here it is, just over the net, just inside the line. Right where it’s supposed to be.

xxx
c

1A major shout-out here to the fine folk at ShirtPocket, makers of the must-have backup utility, SuperDuper, both for the free troubleshooting and for making a product that has more than once saved my bacon.

ALL THE “ANNIVERSARY” POSTS:

Image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Posted in: The Personal Ones

Tanya November 2, 2011 at 3:58 am

It’s perfect. Happy blogiversary, C.

Am so happy you’re here, placing the balls right over there…just out of reach enough for us to strive but not so impossible to imagine reaching one day.
xo
TG

Robert November 2, 2011 at 5:57 am

Happy Anniversary, and thanks for a good piece!

Jess November 2, 2011 at 7:08 am

Happy Anniversary! I look forward to every new post, and your blog has inspired several new ideas (work and personal) that I’ve successfully implemented this year. Thanks so much for doing what you do!

Noreen November 2, 2011 at 8:17 am

The way I found your site was kismetty and the fact that my subscription started today, on your anniversary, makes it feel like something out of the Matrix.

It’s kind of perfect…

Mike November 2, 2011 at 8:51 am

Happy, Happy blogaversary. with many more to come. Now, May go do something on this blogaversary that will make you blush when you recall it on your 25th blogaversary!

Julie Perkins November 2, 2011 at 9:01 am

It flowed perfectly into my brain in no time at all and left me smiling and feeling a little less alone in Everyone Else Is Perfect Land.

Thanks for your blog and happy anniversary!

Julie Pee

Rebecca Gray November 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Chris DeWan said I’d fall in love with you and he was right.
Beyond happy I came to read you today, and that you’re around. And about. Happy anniversary!
PS I actually have nothing to do with elsewherepublicworks.com, but I wish I did (Yay Webosphere, where I can dream it & be it)!!

claire November 2, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Happy blogiversary! About 5 more months and mine will be 7 too. And yes, I do keep thinking, “When I have time, I’ll redesign the layout…”

Sloane November 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Happy Anniversary! Nice post…hate to think how many times my own perfectionism has prevented me from moving forward!

Jermaine Lane November 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm

“What matters is getting the thoughts from here to there; what matters is that I have a place to take what I’ve lived and learned and spin it into some kind of yarn that someone else might find useful.”

Yes, that is it exactly. Happy anniversary and thank you for not letting resistance, I mean perfection win. Spankin’ perfection, SMH…

Lisa November 3, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Oh Colleen, I am so fond of you. And your presence and your writing has helped keep me going. Thank you. And happy blogiversary.

kristin November 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm

hey there,
happy anniversary!
also, i saw you speak yesterday at the seattle interactive conference and your talk was totally my favorite of the whole conference. you have a great stage presence and your message was both interesting and entertaining. keep it up–you’re awesome!

Jana November 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

Congrats on the blogiversary! I’ve been reading since 2006 and hope to read for many more years to come. :)

Ellie Di November 8, 2011 at 7:12 am

“And by “finally be perfect,” I mean, of course, that I will feel safe and loved” – Deep insight there, my dear. The drive to be perfect is almost always, at its root and even if it’s secret, outwardly motivated. Somehow being perfect (according to someone else’s expectations) will make us worthy. Which is bullshit, as I’m sure you know.

And, of course, many happy returns of the blogversary (or however that’s supposed to be spelled). I’ve only been stalking you on the internet for a few months, but the impact you’ve made in my life has been huge. Thank you for writing the way you do, for being successful without being a jerk, and for simply being brilliant. Here’s to another seven years.

Karen J November 10, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Oh, Colleen ~ may you always and easily *feel* safe and loved, because you always are!
Happy Blogiversary ~ and many more!

Bright blessings :))

Rebekah November 11, 2011 at 10:30 am

“what matters is that I have a place to take what I’ve lived and learned and spin it into some kind of yarn that someone else might find useful. A little knotty in places, but useful, nonetheless.” You gave voice perfectly to what I want for my projects. Thank you, and happy blogiversary.

Becky November 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Happy anniversary, lady. As always you lead me – starting here six days before I started mine. Thanks for holding the beacon high and shedding so much light for the rest of us.

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