Oct, 2014: The strand of hair in front of your son’s face on picture day. The tiniest stain in your daughter’s brand new dress worn only once on the first day of school. The beautiful 3-D rubber ducky cake that took hours to make and looks just like the picture on the box (just don’t turn it around, because the wing just fell off). Every day we see and admittedly get pretty annoyed at the tiny imperfections around us. The crux is, no matter how hard we try to achieve perfection, there’s always a little something there to remind us that perfection really just might be unattainable.
Not that this bit of reality stops us from pursuing perfection. Relentlessly in fact. Perfectionists the world over (and you know who you are) are struggling from project to project, grooming children, spouses, gardens, and decorating homes, efforts all pursuing the truly unattainable; yet onward we strive.
I was reminded of this when I took this month’s newsletter picture. I kept driving by that brilliant tree right outside my daughter’s school every day. And every day, it kept looking prettier and prettier, with more and more oranges and reds popping by the day. There is was in the morning, with the bright sunshine bouncing right off the leaves. There it was in the evening, with the pink and purple hues of sunset simultaneously highlighting and shadowing the leaves of this mighty maple. There it was again very early this morning, rays of sunshine popping right out of those leaves. I could no longer resist. I HAD to take this picture.
So I did. I tried to take it from every angle I could. From the left, from the right, from below, from the middle of the road. You see, no matter how I took the picture, I could not separate those ugly utility lines from the picture of that most beautiful tree. Not for lack of trying, the picture you see above was the best of the bunch.
Then it hit me. We try so hard to make everything so beautiful, that we miss the beauty of imperfection. Maybe there is something to be learned from the stark contrast of breathtaking fall colors and the most unflattering utility lines cutting right through. When you look at the picture again, what do you see? The stunning fall colors, or do you see the utility lines? In this picture, and in life, what are we choosing to see? If I choose the tree, I am choosing joy, brilliance, and beauty. I see nothing else. If I choose the utility lines, I have devalued the priceless picture before me.
This week and this month, I challenge you and myself to choose to see the beautiful in the imperfection all around us. Maybe it’s something little we cannot change, but it is worth the love and the grace to look beyond to truly see the beauty before us. I could have chosen another picture for this month’s fall headline photo, but then I would have missed the lesson- that beauty can have flaws and still be breathtaking. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn something from the stark contrast in the picture. I want to grow from it, to become wiser, more tolerant, more patient, and more forgiving of myself and others.
The month of October in Wisconsin makes it easy, but still actually stop what you are doing, go take a Sunday drive, or better yet take a weekend away just to appreciate those amazing fall colors on every hillside and in every stand of trees, and reflect on the good, beautiful things and people we have in life, and look past the ugliness of the imperfections all around us. Choose to see the good, and see what happens. I think your outlook may become that much more optimistic, hopeful, and positive. And who knows where that may lead?