Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Enemy of Good

I took a sewing class last night with my friend K and although the class ran an hour longer than scheduled and my baby was mighty glad to see me my boobs when I got home, we had a very productive evening and whipped up some cute projects.

While we were sewing, I shared with K my sewing mantra--the little chant I repeat to myself during every sewing project that I undertake:

Perfect is the enemy of good.

I'm not a good enough seamstress to make it perfect.  I'm just not.  If I try for perfection, it will take forever and I'll never be satisfied.  There will also be lots of crying and cursing.  (I mean, even more than usual--some cursing is generally par for the course when it comes to me and sewing.)

(For the record, I neither cried nor cursed last night--this project went pretty smoothly!)

When I sew, I force myself to let go of my perfectionist tendencies.  I know that no one else will notice that slightly crooked seam, or the way that corner is just a little bit wonky.  I remind myself that people who receive things I've sewn are focused on the project as a whole, not on the piecing or the stitching.  I try to remember that the other awesome thing about sewing is that it's sort of a rare skill these days, so most people are just amazed that I can use a sewing machine to make anything--they aren't inspecting it to see if the item is meticulously put together.  I also keep in mind that if you look at a lot of store-bought things--clothing, curtains, etc.--they don't always have perfect seams or stitches either.

After some hard-fought battles with myself and my sewing machine, I've discovered that sewing is only fun for me if I let go of perfect and settle for good.

And "good" doesn't necessarily mean "mediocre."  Sometimes--when my machine cooperates and the stars align--good can be really great!  Never perfect, but definitely more than good enough.

So each time I have to rip out a seam, or I frown at a mistake that seems glaring in the moment, I say to myself:  "Perfect is the enemy of good."

I can apply this to sewing projects, but I sure as hell have a hard time letting go of "perfect" when it comes to my life.

Here's the thing.  However we define "perfect," my life will never be perfect.  Because I'll never get to have a life that includes Eliza here with me.  That will always be my greatest sorrow, my everlasting regret.

Obviously I could not equate losing my daughter to screwing up a pillow cover.  But it's not too much of a leap to realize that if I can't let go of perfect in this life, I'll risk missing out on what's good.

Refusing to live a less than perfect life means I'm not living at all.

Christmas will never be perfect for me and my family.  That knowledge breaks my heart into a million pieces.  I can't tell you how many tears I've cried (am crying, will continue to cry) over the imperfection of celebrating a holiday without Eliza here.

But if I can (eventually?) accept that perfection is unattainable, then I can make do with all the good things that we do have.  It will never be what I wish it could be, but it doesn't have to be utterly ruined either.

That's my sewing class revelation:  Life--like curtains, skirts, shopping cart covers, and tote bags--does not have to be perfect to be good.


  1. Wow, who knew a sewing class could reveal such a life lesson?

    But you're exactly right. We do need to let go of our expectations and disapointments/heartbreaks sometimes and learn to enjoy the things we do have.

    I'm back blogging and I'm happy to see you're still writing here. I've missed this place and the people I've "met" along the way.

    I hope to get better at posting and commenting now that life isn't quite as crazy.

  2. I said "crap!" a couple of times - does that count?

    You're right - it's not perfect. And even though I've only known you a short while, it still makes me sad that I can't somehow make it perfect for you. But I am glad to get to share the good with you a bit, and the good that sweet baby brings into our mornings and our conversations (oh how Frances loves her!) is really, really good.

    Next class we need to bust out the cameras and take step by step photos - you'd think we were blogging newbies or something. Disappointing. Maybe even a well edited video with kicking soundtrack as well.

    You must post your creation sometime for all to see.

  3. I am a total shit seamstress and I almost threw my MiL's machine down the stairs last weekend. It hates me I know it. Nonetheless I continue to try new things and alter my clothes pretty regularly. Maybe someday I'll get better at it.

    I have been contemplating scrapping Christmas completely next year. Including this one there's 3 years of just awfulness around this holiday. Maybe I should try for less instead of bailing completely. Accepting life is out of my control is not the easiest things to come to terms with, but it would probably be helpful if I did.

  4. I don't know how to sew on a button. But? I can relate, because that's how I feel about my painted projects. I have to tell myself not to look at the imperfections and to, for the love of all that's holy, STOP touching up. Last night, I gave a painted wooden sign to my friend and as I was walking out the door, I had an internal discussion over whether or not to touch it up. I'm a freak.

  5. Oh B - you are so wise. Such a deep message in a sewing class.

    I think that's what I struggle with though - even though I know things are good, really good, I sometimes lose focus on that because I think "they should be better" - but that's just not going to be my reality. Ever. So I need to try to make the good as good as it's going to get.

  6. You teach me to sew something other than a straight lined curtain or quilt...I'll show you how to crochet! :)

    And I whole-heartedly does not have to be perfect to be good!

  7. Yeah I'm still working on this and by working I mean that I have thought about it, but that's as far as I can get because I just can't get there yet. I want to, but I can't...hmpf

  8. This is so true. Life will always have this painful thorn, unfortunate bend, dent ding -- whatever you want to call it. No matter how much gratitude and greatness the rest of life has. Working on embracing this as part of my life, because that's the only way my daughter is in it and I wouldn't give that up for anything!
    Also, I should take up sewing.

  9. Stopping by from Karen's. Congrats on your award!

  10. I actually just took a sewing class, well actually a quilting and sewing class the other week. I am determined that I am going to make quilts and clothes for my future babies. Of course I am a perfectionist and need to learn to let go of that or I will never get anything accomplished. Speaking of which I was wondering if you have heard of the book "The Knitting Circle" My grief group lady had me read it about a month ago and I feel it kind of relates to what you just wrote about it. It kind of makes me want to give knitting another try. Not to give it away if you haven't read it yet or would even want to but the lady in the book, who also lost her daughter, talks about knitting helped her through her grief and how she felt each stitch was like this stitch of love for her daughter. I really liked the book. Anyways, I concur with you about life never being perfect because Liam and Evelynn aren't here just as your sweet Eliza isn't either.
    Merry Christmas to you, your husband, Eliza, and Caroline

  11. Perfect is the enemy of good!


    I wish I was better at sewing but love that I can. I also love giving home sewn items to people...

    it makes people feel special. A lot of work is put into home made things. A lot of love and cussing :)

    I completely relate to your analogy. I would like to take a class, but it will have to wait until Harlow is a little bit older.

  12. So true. This is a work in progress for me too...but a good perspective for sure. Especially for us lifelong perfectionists.