The Choice

Note: For full-screen slides, click on the small dotted box on the bottom right side of the slide screen. If you’re on a mobile device, you may need to swipe slides to advance screen.

The Story

I hate my neighbor. Okay, maybe “hate” is too strong a word. Maybe “actively dislike” is better. I actively dislike my neighbor. She constantly complains about almost everything: the leaves littering the lawns in the fall, the icy streets in the winter.  If it’s sunny, the flowers will whither. If it’s raining, the meadow will flood. Behind her back, I call her “Chicken Little” because she’s the neighborhood doomsday crier – always telling folks that “The sky is falling!” – metaphorically speaking, of course.

And yet, if I were to be completely honest, I know that deep down inside myself, there is a part of me that is like her. A part that always notices what is wrong with everything and never what is right. A part that always sees the glass as half-empty, never half-full. A part that wants everything to be perfect, all the time.

It has taken me the better part of six decades to recognize this not-so-nice part of my personality and to choose NOT to give it a voice. It has taken thousands of inner conversations with myself to understand that this criticizing part of my nature has ancient roots left over from childhood. And it has taken a great deal of self-kindness to ease the pain brought on by my not being able to control everything, by my not being able to make everything perfect for everyone, and by my not being able to make everything right with the world by telling everyone else what to do.

I just reread the paragraph above and it was a bit shocking for me to admit that about myself out loud, in writing! You, dear reader, probably don’t harbor that desperate need for perfection. You probably don’t have the compulsion to complain about imperfect things like my neighbor Chicken Little does.

If you’re not afflicted with perfectionism, I applaud you! There is a lot of self-inflicted pain in trying to be perfect and in trying to make everything else perfect. There is a lot of self-blame and regret that comes with being a very ordinary, imperfect human trying her best to be perfect all of the time. 

So, with a bit of kindness and compassion for both myself and my neighbor, I offer the slides and poem above, with the hope that it will ease the pain of those of us who are perfectionists at heart.