Making Peace with Imperfection

Autumn leaves“That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

Thus begins Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, and I think of it every autumn–but most of all in the weeks that move steadily toward winter, just as we come to the end of that second line when only few leaves remain. “Saddest of all,” Professor Willard Spiegelman said in a lecture on the poem. Those forlorn, left-behind leaves and the incomplete, half-dressed tree from which they flutter.

I guess I haven’t written about why I’m writing this blog every single day for a year. I’m approaching a full three weeks of daily posts, and I think it’s time. Like my student in an earlier post, I’m a perfectionist. But unlike her, I don’t find it hard to write. I just find it hard to stop and call a piece “good enough” and send it out into the world.

But I have to get over that. Some of my posts may be a little half-cooked. A bit medium-rare. Which isn’t how I like my writing. I’ll take well done, thank you. But I learned in the restaurant industry that you have to produce just as much as you have to care about quality. One without the other is no good.

So I’m working on putting things out there. Even if half-complete. Not quite polished. Truth is, those yellow leaves are still beautiful–even when there’s only one left.

And sometimes we all have to prove something to ourselves–to take that risk we’re afraid to take, both eyes squeezed tight shut, and jump.

And then we open one eye, then both. And we find we’ve survived. And it’s not half so bad as we expected. Or maybe it is. But we’re still here, and we go on to fight another day. Shakespeare made something beautiful out of those forlorn leaves. Maybe I just have to show up and try, every day, to eventually make something of my own, too.

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