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[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. — Annette Funicello[/mk_blockquote]
I have always loved dinner parties. There is something so festive about drawing a meal out for hours, chatting and laughing with a handful of friends. I particularly like to host dinner parties, but the way I do so has changed dramatically over the years.
Through my 20s and well into my 30s, hosting a dinner party was all about setting a beautiful table, planning an elaborate menu and creating interesting guest lists. I would scour magazines and books for pictures of centerpieces and recipes. I would consult with the owner of the wine store about his newest discoveries. It was possible for me to start preparing for the party a week in advance – making lists, shopping, and even preparing some of the food ahead of time. The day of the party would be completely consumed with cleaning, setting up, cooking and baking — frantic scurrying around to create a perfect setting and perfect meal. While I enjoyed these preparations, by the time our friends arrived I would often be running on sheer adrenaline.
Sometime along the way, however, my notion of the perfect dinner party changed. I haven’t stopped hosting them, but my focus has shifted away from the trappings of the table and the meal to the sheer pleasure of sitting around a table, laughing with people I love to be with. Some of the nights I remember most fondly involve sitting on our patio next to the grill, drinking a cold beer and eating off paper plates. If we get our act together for brownie sundaes or s’mores I consider the evening a homerun. While the simple food is always fresh and delicious, with or without dessert, the reason these nights are so wonderful is the kicked back feeling of relaxing with friends with no schedule, no agenda and certainly no “fanciness.”
Full disclosure: I am a recovering perfectionist. As such, my journey to this easier, more relaxed vision of “wonderful” has been a long one. Dinner parties aren’t the only aspects of my life that have evolved. I’ve backed off – at least somewhat – on my endless battle with clutter and the inevitable mess that comes from cohabitating with three busy teens. I’m getting better at allowing projects around the house to remain unfinished for another day if something more fun comes our way. And I’ve come to embrace all kinds of family togetherness as meaningful even if it doesn’t resemble the perfect “moments” portrayed in Norman Rockwell paintings. After all, the quick conversations I have in the car with my kids, our Sunday morning breakfasts at the decidedly un-fancy Bagel Factory and the hilarious laughter as my children make faces at their travelling father over FaceTime are actually the stuff that make our highly imperfect life feel pretty wonderful.
Yoga has supported me greatly as I’ve evolved from someone who seeks perfection into someone who seeks wonderful. Getting on my mat and moving my highly imperfect body into whatever quirky version of yoga postures that are available to me each day has brought me face to face with the reality that “good enough” is not only good enough – it is profoundly beneficial. My body didn’t have to wait until I could flatten my torso to my thighs to benefit from a forward fold. My hamstrings were lengthening, my low back was opening and my core was strengthening long before I could get all the way into those poses. While my forward folds were far from perfect, they were changing my body in wonderful ways.
As the years have passed, I have achieved proficiency in postures that once eluded me. But yoga hasn’t given me the opportunity to rest on my laurels for long. With each milestone I’ve finally reached, I’ve been rewarded with a new posture to work on or – even more educational for this recovering perfectionist – a new nuance to explore in an old posture that I imagined I’d perfected. In fact, when I look back at the whole of my practice, I can see that it is essentially an endless exercise in continual growth and development. Somehow, rather than being frustrating, this is wildly liberating. On my mat, I can honestly say that while I still crave growth and I still seek change, I’ve lost the desire for finish lines and have no delusions that I will ever achieve perfection. In fact, even the idea of perfection seems stagnant and dull compared to the wonderful experience of becoming that I have on my mat each day.
And this is really at the heart of it. Even if it were attainable, perfection just doesn’t look that great any more. Given the choice, I’ll choose wonderful (even when it’s messy, changing, shifting and silly) over perfect. Every single time.
What about you?