Years ago, during my clinic days, one of my coworkers volunteered that she liked me, but she didn’t like my speed. I nodded in agreement. I knew exactly what she meant. I was always going 1000 MPH, careening from one thing to the next with little time to catch a breath, much less stop and smell the roses. I talked fast; I walked fast. I had little time for non-essential chit chat. I was a woman on a mission – and, at that time, my mission was running an urban clinic for outpatient substance abusers. I could easily say that doing was my drug of choice. After all, I was a woman with a clipboard. I had my “to do” list and my need to make it all perfect.
“Perfect”… there’s a loaded word. It can bring a human doing quickly to her knees. We are, after all, human, and, by definition, that means we are not perfect, right? We are here to learn, grow, expand, experiment, create, and unfold. Perfection is so binary: you are either perfect or you’re not. Perfect is pristine, band-box precise, very neat and orderly. Not perfect is in development; there is nothing rigid, static, or stuck about it. From my perspective, not perfect is easier and more fun. It is chock-a-block with possibility.
Speaking of which, back at the clinic, we were planning a retirement party for Pearl, she had been our administrative lynchpin for decades. All of our satellite offices were invited. I was in charge of this surprise soiree; we were serving lunch and given the bare-bones structure of the place, this meant we were providing lunch. When people called from all the various offices and asked what they should bring, I responded bring what you want. “What?” they sputtered. They were none too happy with me. I was not demanding salad or hummus or cupcakes from them. Clearly, I had temporarily been taken over by pod people – or, maybe, a bit of grace. This was not my usual style. I had no checklists for decorations, appetizers, salads, entrées, or beverages. There were going to be 30 – 40 people looking for lunch.
Interestingly, the party was not overflowing with platters of crudités, baskets of chips, or pans of brownies. People talked to one another, brought what worked for each of them. We had decorations and a great lunch full of real food. It was a very fun party — and stress-free for everyone. My co-workers were amazed; they were convinced we would have been knee-deep in cookies and pretzels.
It was a good lesson for me. Who knows what can happen when I let go of the master control of my universe?