Make Peace With Imperfection


This is something that I write on the board in my classroom when we are working on new forms of writing – like the analytic essay. I think that I will enshrine it permanently with my one classroom rule: Don’t be a jerk.**

Last week a dear friend asked me what was going on, what was I thinking about.  I dumped a huge bag of issues on the table, and faced with the mountain (leadership issues at work, scattered attention span in the wake of Mom’s death, projects to grade, journals to read, children and their activities, high school transition for the Littles, college admissions process for my eldest, a wedding of my beloved niece approaching, my house is a mess,  parentstuff with my in-laws) it was momentarily overwhelming. Today this poem arrived in my in-box from the Writer’s Almanac. It was a good reminder to me.

“Perfection, Perfection”

by Kilian McDonnell,

(“I will walk the way of perfection.” Psalm 101:2)

I have had it with perfection.
I have packed my bags,
I am out of here.

As certain as rain
will make you wet,
perfection will do you

It droppeth not as dew
upon the summer grass
to give liberty and green

Perfection straineth out
the quality of mercy,
withers rapture at its

Before the battle is half begun,
cold probity thinks
it can’t be won, concedes the

I’ve handed in my notice,
given back my keys,
signed my severance check, I

Hints I could have taken:
Even the perfect chiseled form of
Michelangelo’s radiant David

the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is

from Swift, Lord, You Are Not. © Saint John’s University Press, 2003.


One thing at a time. And everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

** (Thank you, Gary Stager for that succinct summation of the rules.)

The image is of Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, as he reclines on his “couch” – the thousand headed serpent at the bottom of the primordial ocean – by vaticanus

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Mortality changes us all.

    My Auntie Beth called today–she keeps pond water inside through the winter, and a dragonfly hatched yesterday. Alas, no other insects have hatched, and so she asked if I wanted to take the dragonfly to school. I thought I did, then I thought better of it.

    So the dragonfly will be released outside, on a reasonably warm day, and more likely than not, it will be eaten by sunset.

    And at dawn, the energy of the dragonfly will be found in the song of the bird.

    Accepting imperfection, accepting death, neither is done easily, both will make us more aware of the world, our world.

    Prayers and thoughts.


    1. Kate Tabor says:

      Thanks, Michael –
      I am tired of the cold. Today’s sunshine gave me energy in a psychological as well as a physical sense.
      I will be the best teacher I can be this week.
      I will be the best mother that I can be.
      I will lead as well as I can.
      And I think that I will take the dog for a walk. She can harry the squirrels from their posts on the neighborhood maples.

      And we will all know that we are alive.

  2. Sharon says:

    I have long been in favor of ditching perfection. B+ is good enough for so many things.

    Take care of yourself, Katie. A parent’s death is always going to be a rough time no matter what.

    1. Kate Tabor says:

      B+ is an excellent grade. Above average in every way. Good, even great. Just not perfect. I shall aspire to B+.

      Some of the first boxes arrived from Mom’s house. This is going to take some time getting used to, isn’t it?

      But it is sunny today. And that gives me hope for so many things.

      Thanks, Sharon.

      1. Sharon says:

        We still have boxes and stuff! from Steve’s mom in the basement. Neither of us wants to deal with it. So we don’t. I don’t advise that you take that route necessarily.

        On the other hand, it *can* just sit there. Park it and deal with it later. There is no timetable, no schedule that must be adhered to.

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