THERE IS NO PERFECT

To those of us with perfectionist tendencies, remember, there is no perfect.  Perfect is an illusion and a fiction and an impossibility.  Perfect suggests that time is static, that there’s some kind of end state, that you can distill process into a snapshot and preserve it for posterity.

I’m reminded of a time when I went walking in an old growth Redwood forest in Northern California.  The canopy of gigantic trees muffled sound, creating a strange but friendly feeling of enclosed quiet.  Giant ferns were scattered among the even more giant tree trunks, giving the impression that dinosaurs and wooly mammoths might come crashing through the brush at any moment.  Winding through the mulchy earth were intricate veins of running water.  In the muffled silence, I crouched beside a small babbling brook and listened to the gentle tones the water made as it streamed over well-worn river rocks.  It reminded me of the sound of marimbas, and I imagined composing a song that mimicked the music made by this little stream in the forest.

Streams of water dry up or are diverted, they ebb and flow and change course over time.  And yet there’s something about their constant movement that reminded me of the greater process at work in our lives.  Seeking perfection is like trying to stop the flow of a babbling brook.  It narrows our focus, and it attempts to freeze in time something that necessarily flows.

Let the process flow.

BE QUIET

A few nights ago, my husband and I lay in bed together without reading, without watching TV or checking our phones, and without talking.  We just lay there staring at the ceiling as we processed our days and let our thoughts run away with themselves.

For me, lying in bed and letting my thoughts drift as I stare at the ceiling is quite familiar – I’ve done it for as long as I can remember.  In my last apartment in Oakland, CA, my bed was in the corner of a room next to two windows.  A west-facing window at the head of the bed was filled with leaves from a neighbor’s tree that shimmied in the wind, dappled the light of the setting sun, and partially obscured a distant view of the Macarthur BART station.  From here I could watch tiny humans waiting on the platform and hear long whooshes as the trains slowed and started.  The adjacent north-facing window offered a view of the Berkeley hills and, depending on my angle, the thermal panels on the roof of the apartments next door.  In certain phases of the year, if I was lucky enough to catch it, I could watch the moon as it slowly rose over the hills.  Straight ahead was an open doorway connecting my deep and dark blue bedroom to the bright red kitchen, where a lamp with an accordion shade cast warm light on my breakfast table.

I spent many hours at the end of my days lying on my bed and staring at the concentric rectangles formed by the windows, blue bedroom walls, doorway, and warm, red kitchen behind it.  My mind wandered and I would sometimes fall asleep with lights on and teeth unbrushed. This room was my sanctuary, a place where I could unwind from long, stimulating, and challenging days.  I enjoyed my solitude and silence; I also waited and hoped for companionship.

My husband is less familiar with silence.  He’s a talker. He’s also a news junkie and a gamer, the type to bring his phone into the bathroom while he poops.  Last night, he told me how much he had enjoyed lying in bed with me in silence.  His thoughts go down some interesting tracks when he doesn’t immediately share them, he said.  It made me think about the media-saturated moment we are living through — the rapid fire images, words, and sound bites we are bombarded with whether or not we seek them.  The endless options for instantaneously sharing our thoughts, our emotions, and images from our daily lives.  Maybe resisting the urge to share, and allowing our thoughts to proceed uninterrupted, could lead to depth and thoroughness in an age that more often feels superficial and partial.

Let this be an ode to the pleasures of silent companionship. May your thoughts be long trains.