Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday perfectionism

Last night I went with a group of friends to our town’s annual Candlelight Homes Tour, wherein you hand over a chunk of cash in exchange for license to snoop through other people’s festively decorated magazine-layout homes. Today I started the process of decorating our own house for Christmas—possibly not the best conjunction of events for a would-be perfectionist.

I say would-be because I don’t think I actually am a perfectionist: when push comes to shove, I’m too slapdash and impatient to be as painstaking as true perfectionism requires. Whether it’s an ingrained characteristic or a logical outgrowth of permanently having too much to do, I don’t know. I just know that I constantly tell myself, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”—and then periodically, when would-be perfectionism gets the better of me, berate myself for the good not being good enough.

This time of year is particularly bad for that, I find. As I mentioned earlier in the week, nearly everyone else on my street had their houses fully decorated by the end of Thanksgiving weekend; I, on the other hand, finally managed to remove the pumpkins from the front steps 3 days ago. Which shouldn’t really be a big deal, you know? It was still November, after all. The problem is that I care. I like the way other people’s lavishly decorated houses look. I’m even secretly thrilled by those completely tacky, over-the-top houses where the whole front yard is full of lit-up stuff, but I swoon for the really elegant presentation. I even think I could achieve it, if I was willing to spend enough time and money. But when it gets down to it, I’m usually not in a position to do either in the quantities that seem necessary.

So sometimes the gap between the two—what I’d like to do for the holidays and what I actually feel able to do—makes me a little cranky. And that’s really missing the point of what it’s all supposed to be about. Lucky for me, I have Miss B around to help me regain my perspective. After a fairly frustrating hour or two today spent wrestling with garlands and light strings and decoration-destroying kittens, I sat down for a few minutes to make the one thing she had asked for: a big red bow for her bedroom door. It took me seven minutes, tops, including refashioning a paper clip into a hanger to hook it over the doorknob. But her joy in seeing it there (imperfections and all), bubbling over into asking if we could make them for all the doors, was infectious, and suddenly it didn’t feel like a who’s-got-the-best-looking-house contest anymore. Suddenly it was back to being what it should be: a heartfelt expression of joy, goodwill, and festive spirit.

My goal this year is to keep it that way.

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