Creeping Perfection

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

Early in November, Husband and I spent a Friday in our church basement making lefse. We were there for about 7 hours rolling and frying. In addition to sore and tired backs and arms, we took away a strange new sense of perfectionism that I hope ends soon.

It is exhausting us.

I am not a perfectionist, not really, especially when it comes to housekeeping and baking. As long as it tastes good and there is nothing for the cats to eat off of the floor, I think I have success. I have learned since the new DSM-5 has come out that people like me,  who chew their nails,  have an official diagnosis of Other Specified Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have to think about that more carefully regarding my own psychological makeup. I don’t know if I accept it yet. I fear that it is true.

20161202_160925Now, the lefse ladies in my church basement are perfectionists! We were set at different stations around the kitchen, and the lefse manager had the nerve to tell me that my first lefse sheet wasn’t thin enough. My standard for lefse thinness is that you can read the words “Bethany Pastry Cloth” through the lefse before you take it off the cloth and fry it. Her standard is that you roll the 1/2 cup of lefse dough into a round that is at least 12 inches in diameter. All the other lefse rollers were doing it, so I swallowed my pride and rolled thinner. I also was put on notice that I was far too splashy with the flour, and that I had better sweep up the flour I got on the floor before someone slipped on it. My lefse didn’t stick as I rolled it out, but no one had as much flour on the counter, the floor, and themselves as I did.  My critic also complained that the flour on the edges of the lefse was going to make edges lefse hard. Well, we can’t have that now, can we, so she made a point to brush the flour off the fried lefses as they came off the griddle. We rolled almost 700 sheets of lefse that day.

20161202_161019Ever since we had our lefse day, Husband and I have been cleaning the house in strange and finicky ways. We spent the whole day after lefse Friday cleaning out all our kitchen cupboards and cabinets, meticulously wiping down the cabinet fronts and interiors and every spice jar and objects contained therein.  It wasn’t planned. We just started to do it at 6:00 am and didn’t stop until nightfall.  The next week I cleaned the basement carpets with vinegar water, and we washed windows for the first time in two years. All our stray papers and mail got sorted and put away. I have been dusting like a fiend.

I think we caught the Creeping Perfection Virus in the church basement. I am hopeful that it will start waning now that we are doing our Christmas baking, but I still wince every time I touch a cabinet front with floury hands, and everything that comes out of the cabinets gets wiped off before they go back in. I never realized how addicting perfection is. After all, how can you argue that something is too clean?

What symptoms indicate the onset of YOUR Creeping Perfection Virus?  

 

68 thoughts on “Creeping Perfection”

  1. Perfectionism is as alien to me as fighting in bars. I didn’t get the gene for either of them.

    There is one tiny exception: I can be persnickety about prose intended for publication. I write my personal letters and blog posts “first draft,” without editing of any sort. (As you all surely know, given how often my posts have clinkers that editing would have eliminated.) But when I write for publication, I will edit and edit and edit.

    There is a famous quote on this, a thought sometimes ascribed to Oscar Wilde. “I spent all morning taking out a comma and all afternoon putting it back in again.” The quote isn’t about punctuation. It reflects the habit many authors have of compulsively editing their work.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A very close friend of mine, Ned, a retired therapist, has been writing a book for five years now and emailing me each chapter as it’s written. I guess I’m his “test audience”. His book is the fictional story of an older man whose wife suddenly dies. I read each chapter with rapture, and impatiently awaited the next one. It’s an extremely compelling story.

      Ned is slowly going blind due to a congenital atrophying conal condition, but he’s able to feel the keyboard. At this point, he’s done two full revisions and is working on his third draft. Reading his stuff, I’ve come to realize that my writing is pretty shitty because I truly thought that his first draft was perfect! I hadn’t realized how much effort and knowledge is involved in writing a really good piece – be it a poem, an short story, or a novel. Learning this through Ned kind of discourage me from “taking it to the next level”.

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  2. R and S Bsboons!

    Sitting in Milly’s Breakfast Cafe in Albuquerque typing on phone. Argh! Also sick and have laryngitis so I cannot effectively yell at Lou when he makes a driving error. Happy guy, that Lou. Renee, I can offer a series of exposure sessions to reduce symptoms if you are willing to tolerate the anxiety of skewed or crooked lefse.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. i have fond memories of visiting albuquerque when i was 12. my aunt and uncle were there and it was 104 outside. i remember my aunt commenting on how we should go easy running around outside in the heat. we told her it didnt feel that hot and she told us it was 104. humidity was 4% so you didnt get sweaty
        old town and mexican food were the best if my memory serve me all these years later.
        i drove the vw van through but just passed through. i was in a hurry to get to somewhere.
        oh how differently i would travel if i had a chance to do it again

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We arrived in Fountain Hills yesterday afternoon, hacking and sneezing our way through the Western part of USA. We stopped eat only one place for the fun of it (due to the bug we are no fun at all right now!) We stopped at Knife City outside of Holbrook, AZ. Eerie. You walk into the place, which is full of spears, swords, knives, sharpeners, to be greeted by a standing suit of armor.

          Lou is about 2 days behind me with the bug which we caught from our grand nephew, age 18 months, at a big family wedding. Toddlers are germ factories. I will try to blog about the wedding–my sister and I made 46 wedding pies for our niece in place of wedding cake–after I recover and get adjusted to being in AZ.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Jacque, Fountain Hills is one of our favorites places. Or, at least, it was a few years back when Kellys Uncle still had a place there in the Copperwynd area…
          Haven’t been back since he passed, but we always enjoyed our visits there. (I remember a pizza place that had THE BEST garlic bread… and ‘HaHa Chinese’ that really wasn’t that good.)
          Safe travels!

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  3. When it refers to cooking and baking I have no perfection virus…including the clean up.
    I do have that perfection with all of my artwork and writing of published word/books…’tho my studio would not reflect when in process or complete. It must be clean and organized prior to beginning anything but once into a project my work areas look in complete dissray. I know where everything is located…and have no problem continuing a project…just can’t start anew until it is clear and cleaned again.

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        1. This was my grandmother’s recipe (so you know it has real Norwegian authority, not some fancy schmancy thing from a magazine or something):

          6 eggs
          1 cup sugar
          1 cup melted butter
          1 1/2 cup flour
          1 tsp vanilla
          salt

          Start with the eggs, then add sugar, flour, vanilla and a dash of salt. Add the melted butter last. “Beat long and hard with an electric beater.” (No indication what “long and hard” truly means – I have always guessed – though I keep the mixer going until it starts to thicken up nicely – maybe enough that a spoon stood up in it doesn’t immediately tip over, but the spoon should tip eventually.)

          1 tsp on a hot krumkake iron and bake

          And at our house you keep baking soda handy should some of all that butter melt into the open gas flame under the iron and start a small kitchen fire…also a certain amount of “owie owie hot hot hot” should be exclaimed while rolling the fresh krumkake around a stout wooden spoon handle.

          They will harden/crisp up as they cool (as you probably know). One trick I learned from Grandma to keep them crispy: store them in metal tins or shirt boxes with a bit of waxed paper for liner. Never anything too airtight like plastic. At first I thought this was thrift on her part – then I realized it was probably some unspoken genius.

          Liked by 4 people

  4. My lack of perfectionism was on display loud and proud last night at a goofy craft event I went to with friends. There is a place nearby called Leonardo’s Basement that offers classes mostly for kids that allows them to explore and experiment and make stuff and be messy – it’s a huge warehouse space filled with, well, stuff and leftovers and who knows what that also has a good stock of tools, cool things like a laser cutter, and lots of space to build things. The idea is to get kids interested in engineering-related skills without it being about the engineering as such (so they don’t build Lego robots, they build robots out of part of a tricycle, an old wheelbarrow, a bit of wood, someone’s leftover quilting fabric, and a doll head). For those of you who would know it, it’s like taking Axman Surplus, throwing in some leftover kids toys and craft supplies here and there, making some space for workbenches and having elves who keep the tools in tidy groups and bins. Heaven.

    Last night was an even for adults only that let us play in all that madness. Beer and wine were included (not too much if you planned on using power tools). Having been let loose on the place with little more than “these sorts of things are here, more oddball things are over there in those bins and drawers” and a “if you want help with the laser cutter, we have a guy…” away my two friends and I went. One friend, I think stymied by too many options, wound up making a series of small things and became quite fond of the button maker. The other friend played some with the laser cutter, dabbled with copper etching, and wound up mounting a stuffed reindeer head on what used to be someones fabulous award plaque with an LED light in his nose – vegan taxidermy. She fussed a lot about getting him exactly centered, making sure the fabric she covered the plaque with was not wrinkled, and wound up using the laser cutter again to make the part of the plaque for the words because she couldn’t get the letters to align up to her liking using the metal stamps.

    Me – I found a small bag of plastic dinosaur bones and decided they needed to become something. So I started opening drawers and digging in bins and gathering piles of stuff on a workbench. My cache included the bones, some silk flower parts, the round bits off of a couple of trophies, some big faux jewels, ribbon, sparkly fabric, an old frame (no backing), a red plastic goat, a green plastic goose, some sparkly earrings, a bejeweled brooch of the sort like your grandmother might have worn, more sparkly jewelry bits, a triple strand of pink beads, parts from what I’m guessing was Christmas light strings, a vinyl record came and went…did I mention the dinosaur bones? I arranged, rearranged, had more supplies whisked in my the helpful (and amused) staff like gold paint to sponge onto the frame (which had also appeared via the woman who was running the event), went in search of different things and eventually settled into what I can only call a hot melt glue fugue. Perfection was nowhere in this picture (unless keeping stray glue strings and globs from showing or sticking counts). The result is a sort-of-kind-of saintly icon to a critter I have dubbed “Bonita – Patron Saint of the Short Limbed.” She has a scepter and everything. Also a fabulous dangle-y earring hanging from her skull. She is wonderful and awful all at once. And definitely not perfect. But like all the best faux saints, she is “good enough.”

    Liked by 9 people

    1. I gotta check out Leonardo’s Basement when we return to MN. Just leaving Holbrook AZ near Petrified Forest. There is an Antique Store made out of pieces of petrified wood here, instead of bricks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not like a regular store that has open hours or even regular open studio hours – though they do offer events like this fairly regularly (a Friday evening with time to do stuff related to whatever they dream up). It is, however, pretty cool.

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  5. I have no perfectionism, creeping or otherwise. I was never (and never will be) a straight-A student, have a house that could grace the pages of a magazine, or have picture-perfect baked goods (I usually have lots of baked goods, but they’re not picture-perfect!). I know of some people who are perfectionists – I think they like being that way because they can feel superior to people like me – and one in particular is a good incentive to me to not stress over doing things perfectly. When her kids were little, she did not allow them to decorate the Christmas tree. Our kids were similar ages and if you looked at her tree, you would be “wowed” by how splendid it was, but if you looked at my tree, you would guess it was decorated by young children and you would be right – ornaments clustered together at kid-height with large bare patches of no ornaments. But my kids had tons of fun hanging up the ornaments and thought it looked great, so that’s what counted to me. Likewise her birthday cakes looked amazing – different shapes and decorations – but were made from a box mix and tasted not-so-great, while I made layer cakes that may have been crooked and a little messy but were homemade and tasted great (and my kids liked them!).

    Liked by 4 people

  6. OT – I have a moral dilemma. Should I go to book club tomorrow – I didn’t read either of the assigned books. In fact, I hardly tried.

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  7. Littlejailbird’s comments remind me of a time I had to deal with the issue of perfectionism. I was never trained to be an editor. I just fell into the job of editing a fairly significant magazine, and so I had to learn editing on the job while being an editor. As time went on I became aware of the way the word “editor” referred to two extremely different sorts of people.

    Some editors I dealt with were perfectionists. Nitpickers. Fuddy duddies. Rule-bound folks who hated the idea of making a mistake or being inconsistent. I dealt with editors like that from time to time. They hated my copy and I dreaded their red ink.

    The other kind of editor–MY kind of editor–were folks convinced that the biggest mistake possible was being boring. I knew my magazine could be wildly inconsistent in style without bothering a single reader. Instead of fussing about doing something wrong or inconsistent, as an editor I was passionate about saying something worth saying and defending our core values.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was a perfectionist editor, to the point where we were ready to print. Then never tired to read it again. But when I did, I immediately found something that I missed. But with my partner’s writing it required massive editing and many arguments. Our tech person who created the document was a perfectionist with a massive ego, who on sight decided he would disagree with me on everything he could.

      In one year I read 1400 pages four times. I wrote about 650 of those pages, which meant that I had to read those pages very closely.

      Correcting AP English and College Prep papers meant choosing the right point of emphasis with each student. So I had to remember what had happened on the last couple of papers for, in my last semester of teaching, 120 students. That was more exhausting than fighting with the wonderkind of our company if not the universe. Ironically his last name was Breiter. I think he took it too seriously, that last name.

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  8. To beat the computer at the Deity level while playing Civilization V, every move and decision must be perfect, so saving every turn for possible replay can be done. However, even the most innocuous of plays can be disastrous in the long run. Back tracking is possible but it takes a very long time and a map of the maze. I’m trying for perfection but I think I’ll give up. It gets to be little like the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. Repeating the same moves over and over takes the fun out of the game.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I don’t have perfectionist tendencies in most areas. The list of things I am sloppy about could go on for pages. I do think I’d have made a good proofreader, though. I spot other people’s errors really well, although I often miss my own.

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    1. In his usual, fussy way, he reminds me to say that he seasoned it with ginger, mustard, and brown sugar, reminiscent of a brisket that would be popular in North Sea countries so that it would go well with Klaben, a Bremen Christmas bread, that I made on Friday.

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  10. I spent all day thinking about this and couldn’t come up with one single thing that I’m a perfectionist about. At first I thought this was a problem but have decided it’s not. I had a colleague a ways back who always said “Done is better than perfect.” I should adopt this as my motto!

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