Perfectionist Seeking Happiness

Browsing in an art store, I found someone who picked up my book, Raw Art Journaling. I watched, not knowing if I should say “thank you for looking at my book,” or just not say anything. Deciding that saying something might make her feel pressured to buy it, I decided to say nothing unless she put it in the shopping basket. Which she did. So I stepped up and said, “Thanks for buying my book. If you want, I’ll sign it for you once you are through the checkout line.” She looked at me and said, “This is a joke, right?”

“Nope, I’m the author. I can show you my driver’s license.”

“So, did this book make you happy?” She asked

“Well, I was already happy, but this book makes me happy, yes.”

“Do you have the perfect job being a writer?”

Ahh, someone in search of the perfect. “I do. I own my business and I do more than write, but I love it all.”

She looked doubtful. “So you don’t have problems? Or days you hate?”

“Well, sure,” I said. “I hate administrative work, and I hate when I feel overwhelmed from time to time. I also hate it when it looks like there won’t be enough work. But as a recovering perfectionist, I realize that if it comes down to the day when I have completed it all, and done it all perfectly, there will be no challenges left, nothing to look forward to. I think perfection would be, well, boring.”

She looked at me for a long time. “So if your life is not perfect, how can you think it is?”

I smiled. “There is a Zen saying, ‘Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” The difference is what you think of the work, and how you approach it. If everything is a drudgery, my life is drudgery. If everything is a chance, an opportunity, a fresh approach, well, then, I’m more enthusiastic. It’s not life. It’s how I tackle it.”

She looked at the book. “Write that in the book, about enlightenment.

And so I did.

–Quinn McDonald is the happy author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art. You can buy the book on this page of her website and get the code (way at the bottom of the page) for free shipping in the U.S. through December, 2011.