A perfectionists first attempts

Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we want

When I was ready to tackle a real project, like usual, I opt for the hardest thing first, something that requires skills I don’t have–not yet anyway. I’ve been trying to learn how to lay tile and I suck at it. It’s hard work, especially when the tiles are 13 X 13 and have to be hauled down to the basement family room. I cut them outside on the driveway where the water can spray and stain the worn black top (another thing I need to fix). Then I carry them three or four at a time down the stairs and fit them together much in the same way I do jigsaw puzzles. If it looks like a piece sorta fits, I shove it in the empty space just to fill the hole. So what if when I step back to look at it, the piece that is supposed to be the chimney of the little red cabin is really the one for the fallen tree trunk on the other side of the lake. The leaves around them are all the same color, aren’t they?

Trouble is, that way of doing things often leads to examples such as what we see in this picture. One where, I don’t know, maybe I was tired, maybe my contacts weren’t floating right, but well, you end up with something like this. I know I do this with a lot of things. I make it work even when it shouldn’t or doesn’t want to, or has outlived its usefulness. And truthfully, whatever it is, it never works very well. But sucking at things is not something perfectionists are good at.

I am teaching myself piano and my fingers are growing stronger and I can play chords now. I am learning how to do other home repairs and I’m getting pretty good at using tools. But I suck so much at tiling that I’m in danger of going down a path of compunction and never making it back. I know being a perfectionist isn’t a positive personality trait. It’s a bad one. We make everyone around us miserable because nothing is ever good enough and we spend most of our time feeling frustrated and unhappy. We care way too much what everyone else thinks and live in fear of making a mistake, as if mistakes are some kind of grand failures and we are too super-human to ever fail. As a consequence, we never do anything very exciting. I know because I struggle with this every day. Doing things like laying tile with these types of results can send someone like me into hiding for days while I sit and pray for someone to come and deliver me from it–or do it for me, to be more exact. But deliverance never comes.

I’m sure there’s something I’m supposed to be learning from this, like ‘just keep trying and you’ll get better,’ or ‘try, try, again.’ But I don’t have time for all that learning the slow way. I’ve gotten lots of good advice though, and even some offers to help. But the people who have really put down tile before and are good at it know how horrid it really is and never offer help. From other people—those who have never done it before–I’ve gotten lots of helpful comments like, “My husband just took that wet saw thing down to the basement one weekend and came up Sunday night and it was all done.” I wish I lived in a magical world of tile fairies like that.

But when it’s late and I’ve been working hard for several hours and I have a section of tile that looks like this, I can do one of two things: I can rip it out and try shoving more pieces in where they don’t want to go, or I can move on to the next section and try to forget about making everything turn out the way I want it to, just try to do better next time. So for today, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just going to move on for now and if I get the rest of this project done and that section of uneven edges and weird lines is still bothering me, I’ll go back and fix it later–if I can. Otherwise, I will just have to get it through my head that everything can’t be perfect all the time, and throw a rug over it.

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