The perfection in mediocrity

My grandmother has a new idea. She wants me to wear a t-shirt when I go on dates that says:

I know how to bake bread and apple pie. I’m an amazing balabaste. With me you surly will never know hunger.

It’s a gimmick, for sure, but it just might work. As long as it’s a flattering t-shirt.

Another year has gone by and I’m still single. Often, at this time of year, I think about my singlehood, I feel pretty badly about it, and I hope that in the coming year I’ll meet my beloved.

But this year is different. So much has happened this year and I have so much going on even as I write this, that I hardly have time to focus just on that. There are many matters that are much more pressing.

I see that I am most definitely dealing with issues that are forcing me to grow in very interesting ways, and I am thankful for this. Although I am most definitely sad that I am still alone, I think that I am living a full life.

Even in the dating arena I can’t have many regrets. I am a very proactive dater and as I become more refined over the years – I am like good wine – I understand more about what is important for me and what is not. As a result, this year I dated quite a few guys who were on the right track. As other singles can attest, this is a huge accomplishment.

I have heard the idea that if there is a goal that is very important to you, then you should put a certain amount of time towards it on a daily basis – maybe half an hour a day. Well, I can definitely say that I put at least that amount of time towards this goal. The fact I’m still alone continues to bother me, but I know I’m doing what I can to remedy that and all the meanwhile, I’m involved in a many other good things too.

While I cannot feel too badly about my relationship status, I am feeling very frustrated by my writing. Writing is so important to me but something has created a huge block in me over the last year or so and it isn’t letting up. Yes, I wrote some of my most “successful” pieces this year but I know there is so much more where that came from and I yearn to be getting many more pieces out on a regular bases.

But I have been very down on myself about my writing – my style, my vocabulary… It’s been poisonous the thoughts I’ve been feeding myself.

As a young girl, writing was never considered my thing. On the contrary – my mother always called my spelling creative because it was so far removed from proper spelling. I have come to love writing but am aware of my shortcomings. My lack of vocabulary, my sometimes preachy tone… One of my biggest challenges is the fact that I don’t write about extremely personal things, especially if they involve others, which removes the option of writing about a huge amount of stuff about which I have a ton to say.

It’s been difficult and upsetting. I walk around wishing I could write more but it’s not happening.

And so I know what I want to work on in the new year. Well, besides all the other things. I want to work on seeing the perfection in mediocrity. So often I stop myself from creating something or doing something because I am scared it will be insignificant. So often I do get myself to do things but the actions are accompanied by a great amount of fear because I am scared I’m going to do them imperfectly and possibly cause harm.

Basically I’m scared to act. I push myself and I do a lot of things that are very scary but I know I’d have a real blast if I decided to do my best – the key being “do” – and hope for the best. And whatever comes, let it come.

It means having faith in my ability to deal with whatever comes… But of course I can do that.

I want to publish posts that aren’t great and be OK with it. I want to then move on to the next post without dwelling on the success of the last one.

I want to hone the skills I know I have and discover the ones I don’t yet know about. And this will happen if I let go of the need for perfection.

I have a belief that unless you are one of the greatest – musicians, artists, writers, actors – you aren’t making a significant change in the world. I want to contemplate what it is that leads me to have this black and white belief and work on throwing it away.

My perfectionism has, to a large extent, frozen me in place. The modern world trains you to believe that perfect is something that exists. For example, I just bought a new computer bag and keep thinking that maybe I should have held out for something better. For something more perfect.

What a waste of energy.

Perfectionism is a freezer. It doesn’t allow me to act because I know the chances of me being perfect are so slim that it’s a lost cause before I even start.

And I want to stop this destructive way of thinking.

I just saw an old woman, being taken on a stretcher out of her building to an ambulance. She seemed lucid; she was looking around. If she is in fact lucid, she could have been thinking many things. But I imagine she was thinking, “How did I get here? I’m not old.”

And she grew up in a time when time went more slowly. Today, time is zipping by quicker than we can grasp. That day is going to come sooner than we realize and we won’t feel old but we’ll be old and that’ll be a simple fact. And maybe we’ll be able to remember facts from our lives and maybe not.

All those things are out of our control. What is in our control is to look at our lives today, see what we have control over, and take action there.

Someone recently taught me that you need to look at a situation and figure out until what point you can have an effect and from what point it is not your responsibility because you simply lack control – even if you lie to yourself that you have it.

I hope to work on all these things this year.

To put it in one short sentence:

והעיקר לא לפחד כלל – the main thing is to not be scared one bit.

Shana tova.

Read about my mediocre success one year later.


8 thoughts on “The perfection in mediocrity

Add yours

  1. I enjoyed the piece, Deena. I have a few years on you – not that this alone confers more wisdom – and I still have trouble seeing the beauty in my own imperfections. Not only those as a writer – which is one of my most cherished identities, and profession.

    So, keep doing what you’re doing as I think writing is your “thing.” And wear whatever t-shirt that pleases you, although if you sport one with your bubbe’s suggested slogan, watch out for creative spellings. “Surly”, you meant to type “surely,” right?

    Shana Tova,

  2. deena, I love how you phrased this: “It’s been poisonous the thoughts I’ve been feeding myself.”

    I’ve been doing a lot of research/reading about rumination and traditional chinese medicine lately. tcm recognizes the inextricable link between mind and body so if the body is having difficulty digesting food it may lead to difficulty in processing thoughts and the opposite, troubling thoughts left “undigested”, ruminating, repeating the same negative thoughts in your head can lead to poor digestion and processing of food. some articles literally called rumination feeding yourself poison. the good news is that this mind-body relationship also means we have several avenues to treat ourselves to get out of the rut of rumination and feed ourselves positive, nurturing, compassionate thoughts. feeding ourselves wholesome foods will nourish both our body and mind. whether we work on purifying our thoughts (perhaps the highest stage of tshuva) or providing our tummy with nutrition dense foods, each provides us with a path to clarity of thoughts and ultimately pursue and succeed at the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

    behatzlacha in 5773, and beyond! excited to

  3. Hi Deena – it has been a long time

    I hope things have gotten better on the perfectionism front. I have a quote from when I worked for a consulting company: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

    I always liked the idea that when talking to type A overachievers it is good to remind themselves of this fact. In the world of communication it is a 2 way street. If you do not get your ideas out there no one can respond.

    Why don’t you try the opposite extreme? Make it so you have to write everyday. It can be no more than 2 sentences and and no less than 5 words. Every post needs an image or picture. The only place you can communicate is in the comments with other people.


    PS my only relationship advice is to stop trying to solve and fix everything – you are an interesting person and have a lot to offer – enough said – stop thinking

    1. Michael, great to hear from you! I’ve wondered what you’re up to. I suppose you were just waiting for an opportunity to comment on my blog. Do you still get email notifications every time I write here?

      It’s a crazy coincidence that you wrote that quote “Perfect is the enemy of good” because I had just heard it for the first time, a few days before you quoted it to me again. A sign? Maybe. :)

      I hope you’re well.

      1. I only get emails to the posts I comment on.
        I am well. I have not been doing much Jewish writing. I have been trying to improve my website for my professional side. see
        I have a question: Since you are a writer you may know the answer. If I were to go out there and try to write articles for business magazines and the such, how do go about finding places that take your writing and how do you usually contact them?

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