Tag Archives: perfection

Embracing failure

In theory, I love the concept of failure. Perfection leaves me cold. Where there is a trail of untarnished perfection, you are often likely to find a life devoid of risk.

In theory, I know that failure shouldn’t be something to be afraid of.

And then there is the reality.

I spent a large portion of my first thirteen years writing stories. Up until that point I was a consistent child – all I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’ was write. And then for some reason, I stopped. My pen didn’t touch a page for fifteen years.

On a silent retreat 18 months ago I realised that writing is still at the heart of who I am. I find it frustrating and incredibly difficult at times, but I love it and know that without it there is a part of me that isn’t being expressed.

I decided to take it up again and wrote the first few chapters of a book. In the words of Ernest Hemingway “The first draft of anything is shit.” And it really was. I became so overwhelmed by the possibility of writing an entire first draft that…well, could have been written by a ten year old on a sugar-high, that I gave up half way through chapter five.

In my head I’m a great novelist. If I actually try it out in the real world, I may find out that I’m not. It’s hard to keep fooling yourself when the harsh glare of your failure informs you otherwise. Dreaming, rather than actually trying, is a safe bet because you can control the outcome and avoid falling short of your own self-belief.

But.

This year I’m going to try to write a book. The end result might be the literary equivalent of a drunk penguin on a unicycle, but my fear will just have to deal with it. This is happening.

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Every stain tells a story

Last Summer I did something that really scared me.  I packed a bag and headed off to hang out in a monastery.  No internet.  No mobile phone.  No TV.  Three days of walking, thinking, and reading.  Aside from God, I didn’t converse much with anyone apart from one chat with Father Vincent, a chilled out monk who gave me a few tips on how to be… silent.

I’ve never been great with silence.  The very thought of being still terrified me for years.  I was the girl who watched TV whilst checking twitter whilst downloading the latest Radiohead album.  Distraction was my addiction.

However, my time in stillness had quite an odd effect.  After three days of being cut off from the outside world several things became apparent.  One of the most notable was that I no longer felt the need to wear make up.  In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt happier with my appearance.

I believe there were probably several factors that contributed to this, although I can’t deny that the absence of a constant stream of multi media must have been instrumental to this change.

As a woman, I’m constantly bombarded with the pressure to be ‘perfect’.  Anything less is just not good enough.  Adverts, touched-up magazine covers and glamorised TV dramas all play their part. The average person living in the Western world is exposed to hundreds, and according to some reports – thousands, of commercial messages every day. They say ‘Hey there! You’re inadequate as you are, but if you buy this mascara you’ll be acceptable again.’  Lucky you.  Consumerism steals our dignity and then sells it back to us[1].

Apparently we all need whitened teeth, abnormally long eyelashes, hardcore abs and minimal body hair.  And by the way, we need to spend our hard earned cash on perfect lives too – the car, the holiday, the latest brand of toothpaste.  Last year’s model is no longer powerful enough to banish the unwanted disease of imperfection.

However, I’m not sure that perfection is necessarily where beauty lives.  This doesn’t just apply to physical appearance, but all aspects of life.  Sometimes it is within the broken, messed up things in this world that we find that which is most captivating.  We just need to learn how to see without the constraints of a restrictive culture.

So here’s my confession.  I am not perfect.  I don’t think I’ve ever painted my nails without smudging the edges.  I fall on my ass roughly twice a month.  It’s not elegant.  I have noticeable stains on my front teeth and my elbows bend in the wrong direction (no kidding).  After some consideration, I’ve decided to hang on to these special features.

Perfection is… well, it’s rather boring really, isn’t it?  Should we all just conform to an acceptable ‘type’?  I’m not sure I want to be like everybody else.  The stains are staying put.


[1] I wish to God that I came up with this line myself, but I stole it from a dude with ginger dreadlocks.