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Reframing Perfect

Reframing Perfect

Just when you think things are going a little too well….

How many of us are perfectionist? Show of hands? Some of you won’t admit it but you know deep down that you are. If I mispelled a word, you wouldn’t be able to read any further before you fumed a little. I can hear some of you that I know. “If she’s going to write this blog, shouldn’t she be able to at least spell misspelled???” ( Yes I know how to spell it. Auto-correct tells me even if I didn’t know so it is okay to move on.)

It seems we are all looking for perfection in various aspects of our lives. We are looking for the perfect vacation, the perfect hike, the perfect outfit of the day and so on. We agonize over the perfect shoes, what the perfect quote is for our Instagram captions and want our lives to appear perfect. There have been a few times in my life that I feel like a I’m being a perfectionist or that I’m striving to find perfection.

Then I usually do something incredibly stupid or embarrassing. And BOOM! Its all over but the hysterical crying or laughter-you choose.

Such a time happened recently at a conference for work. I was actually an honored guest at this particular conference. Hold your applause! I won an award from the state, the top dogs, the higher ups in my field-meaning I had achieved perfection at work right?

My coworker and our clock awards

No. Shake your head no, because no just no.   Now I’m not telling you this for you to say “hey congratulations” or “good job, you rockstar you!” I’m telling you because in my moment of “perfection” I proved that there is absolutely no such thing.

Let me try to explain…..

Perfection really was already out the window with the submission of my head shot that I was required to send in. It was the worst picture. I hate getting my own picture made. I tried to take a few selfies and learned quickly that was not going to work. So I had my son take a few. He has a new phone and and is pretty good at photography, but this was not his best work. Then I had the Sheriff take some that actually turned out to be decent and submittable but on the way home, he locked his phone and the only solution was to reset the whole thing, which means, you guessed it-he lost all those pictures. So in the end, I submitted the one my son took, deleted all the selfies and just forgot about it. Several weeks later, when I got to the conference, took my seat, I looked up at this huge screen,and there it was-that perfectly horrible picture. I hoped nobody would really notice and like most times in life when you think you want to be swallowed up by a giant hole in the earth, nobody was really paying attention at that point. I thought to myself, I’m good, I’m invisible. Nobody will know that’s a terrible photo of my giant head. I’m used to being invisible. I work night shift, rarely set foot in an office and love to dart around in the dark to do my job. I’m really, really good with invisible on most days.

Okay moving on. So now you know when you go to conference hall and there’s always a sound and/or audio visual guy/gal who spends hours I’m sure, setting up that projector that going to show that worst picture of me ever, setting up mics, speakers and carefully TAPING DOWN all those wires that goes to all of those things. There was a lot of that at this conference and it just so happened that to go in and out of the conference hall you had to step over said tape to get to the configuration of tables and chairs.

Before we move on (some of you may be ahead of me) can I just ask? What happened to WIRELESS? I mean were ALL those cables and wires really necessary? Hello, Bluetooth!! It is the 21st century I mean shouldn’t we be moving on by now????

Anyway, after my terrible head shot gets plastered on the screen about 40-50 times in slideshow fashion and the award was given out on stage in front of everybody at the conference, I am no longer invisible but its okay. It was a very nice gesture. I return to my seat, kind of proud of myself, not going to lie. (I’ve only been doing this job 23 years-give a rookie a break!). And thankfully, the return to my seat was without incident.


During lunch, I was congratulated by my peers from across the whole state. One co-worker even commented on my outfit. My coworkers and I enjoyed a nice lunch, took some funny group pictures in the ever so trendy photo booth type area wearing
funky hats and sunglasses, except we were  holding signs that said zero suicide, call crisis, there’s always hope!  We are a fun bunch, us mental health professionals.

It was the return from lunch that threatened to take me down. I don’t know if it was too much cheesecake or that great conference center coffee that’s always on tap, but I almost didn’t make it back in. Remember those TAPED DOWN wires? Yep, they jumped right up and snagged my Birkenstock’s (the required shoes for an old therapist) and a full fledged face plant almost occurred.

Keep picturing in your head, terrible head shot up on the big screen slide show about 40 times by now, on stage, with state officials, cute outfit, my whole name mentioned, I am not my usual inconspicuous self at this point. They know who I am. I am definitely not invisible.

Luckily, due to my cat like reflexes (think taxidermied cat), I quickly recovered and walked to my seat without even looking around to see if anybody saw me. I didn’t have to look around because, I KNOW they saw me. Thank goodness I’m not walking for a living right?

The kicker is not only did I do that once but twice! In. The. Same. Conference.

Yes, yes I did. And no, fortunately for me, they didn’t take my award away. But I somehow think it could be another 23 years before I get another. Which is okay for me because I am not eager to try to maneuver flat ground in front of a crowd anytime soon.

Afterward, while still blushing from my moment of fame (hush, It doesn’t matter why I’m having a moment of fame), I rushed to the car where my ever so supportive husband was waiting patiently for me. I pulled out the award and said “hey look what I got!”  He hadn’t seen me trip so I knew I wouldn’t have to hear it from him just yet.

The clock award


His response was “Nice! What’s the clock for? So you’ll be on time?”

In that moment, when I could’ve laughed or cried, his response was perfection at its best! 

For us, at least. We don’t gush. We are not usually mushy or lovey dovey. We laugh at each other, and we laugh with each other. So I knew I had his attention with what I was about to tell him about what had just transpired.

You see sometimes a perfection is the great story you are going to get to tell or the belly laugh that you will share with your favorite person. Sometimes, its the great experience of your whole messy day all wrapped up at night as you close your eyes. You get to make your own perfect. You can re-frame it any way you want it.

You can let go of what is accepted as society’s perfect and make your own. I, personally cannot and will not ever live up to any, not ANY at all, of what society’s definition of perfection is. So for now, I will just re-frame and redefine what perfect means to me and I might have some great stories to tell. So far it’s working out just fine. I’ll let you know if doesn’t. Stay tuned!

I am very grateful to Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for presenting me with this beautiful award. It is an honor to be recognized. Please check out the good work that the TDMHSAS does by clicking here. (You can also see that horrible picture of me in that newsletter if you scroll down far enough.)

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the whiny hiker

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