Life is imperfect. The sooner we all come to terms with that the happier we’ll all be. There is no such thing as perfection, in anything, including life. It is wholly unrealistic to expect to execute a single day to perfection, and most certainly not life as a whole.
When we are young, with our youthful optimism, we just know that our lives will go pretty much according to plan and will someday live up to that ideal of “perfection”. The finish line just keeps getting pushed out a little. And we keep racing towards it, our chests pushed out, just waiting to feel the finish line break across our breast and be the winner. As soon as we’re in middle school, life will become perfect. And it isn’t. But it will be once we get to high school. And it isn’t. For certain when we get to college. And it isn’t. Then once we graduate from college. The disillusionment and disappointment at each stage mounts. We are always so sure that life is going to get easier, yet with each milestone, the race seems to become longer, the finish line is further off, and we realize we are beginning to tire.
There is a way out, and I’m not talking suicide.
We need to find perfect imperfection. This will be a personal journey, no two people will travel the same path. Perfect imperfection is a state of mind where you come to peace with all the imperfections in your life, accept it, and live it. I’m not saying to settle and become complacent, to become a martyr, no, you need to find a balance and then strive to keep it. Imagine standing on one foot on an uneven surface. It takes some time to find your balance and hold it. Now imagine the surface shifts and moves without warning, what do you do to keep your balance? You may have to flail your arms, touch your other foot to the ground just long enough to stabilize so you can achieve your balance again. It takes a lot of core strength, which develops over time. Many fine muscles and ligaments in your legs will have to develop to be able to hold the position and adjust as needed. Of course, all of this takes time. And this is just like life, the perfectly imperfect life.
Trying to balance on one foot on a flat, perfectly motionless surface is difficult enough. As with life, it is difficult enough. What we consider stable may indeed shift. Perhaps frequently. We need to be strong at our core, flexible and able to adjust as the very things we stand on shift.
To achieve this metaphorical ability to balance on ever shifting, uneven footing, we need to develop our inner selves. We need to eliminate those things that will cause us to tip too far to one side or the other. We need to be lean and fit, in our being, to manage the fluctuations life is bound to bring.
If we can just step back from everything for a moment, maybe a for a little more than a moment, things may fall into clearer view. We need to find a way to be quiet in our very noisy worlds, to find a time and a place to be calm, regularly. In this quiet, we need to just sit and think, without an agenda, without a time limit, without a plan. Some people call it meditating. I find once you label it in such a manner, “I’m going to meditate now”, that it becomes completely impossible to sit still and be calm. Perhaps that’s just me. For some, sitting in quiet is difficult. I often find my most zen moments in motion; hiking or running. I can slip into the deepest of self when rhythmically breathing, climbing a steep trail, or putting some miles on my running shoes. In this routine of quiet, just sit peacefully and consider what’s really important right now. Put yourself in a place where possessions and ambitions and plans are absent, where you are alone with your breath and your pulse, which are really the only things you need at any one moment to survive, the barest minimum. Consider in this quiet; do I need money at this precise moment in time? No one is there with their hand out asking for money as you sit and breathe, it is not important now. Is the size of your house, the type of car you drive, the brand of watch you wear, where you shop for clothes, important in this moment of quiet. No. Once you strip yourself of all this clutter, you begin to discover the truest of self. Your core.
When all the clutter of the world falls away, and you have only your breath and your pulse, what else is truly important? What actually matters? Your family, perhaps. Your health. Your friends. These are what would be left if something were to happen that caused you to lose your house, your car, your watch and your fancy wardrobe. Write those few things down. That is what is really important now. And for these things, be grateful. And express your gratitude for them regularly, as part of your quiet routine.
Now that you have identified what is truly, truly important, now, and you have mentally and perhaps even emotionally disregarded all the other clutter of your life, even if only for a few moments a day, make yourself become comfortable with the fact that if everything else fell away, you would be fine. If you lost your house, your car, your watch, for designer, name brand clothes but you had your family, your health and your friends, your would still be rich, or you would be left with what you’ve already decided truly, truly matters now. And it is always now. This is a discipline, this is an acquired thought process, one that takes practice. There are those of us in society, more today probably than there have been since the Great Depression, that have lost everything and now realize, out of necessity, what in this imperfect life is actually perfect, what it is in life that is truly important, now.
This, like anything worthwhile, will take time. No sculptor ever took a slab of stone and chiseled a work of art in moments. So it will be with the practice of quietly coming to identify and appreciate those few things important in your life. A temple could never be built in a day, not in ancient times, and even in our technologically advanced society, perhaps because of our technological advancements, a temple still would take a great deal of time to construct. In building the temple of your beautifully imperfect life, expect to labor, expect to strain, expect to struggle. Build it one block, one stone, one board at a time. Focus on it only one brick at a time, only what you can accomplish in the now. In time, your life, beautifully imperfect, will take form and shape. It will first be just a cornerstone you can rest upon. In some time, it will be a small wall you can sit and rest against. Then a wall that provides some shelter from the wind. Eventually, with diligence and perseverance, you will have a sturdy shelter that will protect you from whatever storms life may offer. Those who master this will have a large, sturdy castle, greater than any home money could buy. And this should be our single ambition, to find bliss in our perfectly, imperfect lives.