Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simple Suggestion #160... Embrace imperfection

The other day (before the Marathon bombings -- my heart goes out to its victims...) I put on my favourite sweatshirt, one that Lee bought for me on a business trip to Boston some years ago, and I noticed that it's showing its age.The edges of the sleeves are frayed, as is the collar, but the rest of the shirt is in good shape. I sighed, thinking that I should probably tear it up for rags (we're going through a lot of those these days due to Shadow-the-puppy). After all, the shirt's probably not fit to be worn in public anymore.

Then I thought, wait a minute, if it's good except for the cuffs, it's still mostly good, and isn't that good enough? Just because it isn't in perfect shape doesn't mean it should go into the rag bag. And why can't I wear it out in public? Because I'm afraid that someone will think less of me for wearing a shirt that's a little tattered around the edges? Lots of my clothes fit that category! And who cares what others think of me? And why not embrace a little more imperfection in my life? 

The problem is that, like the rest of the human race in North America, I've become conditioned to believe that once something starts to look old or has an imperfection, it's not good enough. Who goes out and buys the apple with the blemish? The shoe with a scuff on the leather? The chair with a tear in the upholstery? Those things are often discarded, offered at clearance prices, or donated to the food bank. Savvy consumers know that we deserve the very best and are entitled to better than second-class stuff -- or at least that's what the marketers are constantly telling us. Shopping at The Gap is cooler than browsing at Goodwill or Valoo Villaaaje (Value Village, pronounced with a French accent) any day! Used and second-hand and slightly tattered? Forget it!

The trouble with this kind of 'I-deserve-only-the-best' thinking is that it pervades our society to the point that we are wasting a lot of our planet's resources out of our too-high-mindedness. And when we carry an elevated sense of entitlement, it's too easy to become judgmental about 'quality', and there's always the danger that we may start to look down our noses at those who don't meet the high standards we set for ourselves. 

A society that wants only the best of everything also misses out on dragonflies in the amber of life. Like my Uncle Louis, whose funeral I attended last week. To a world looking for perfection, he certainly wasn't it. His developmental disability left him on the margins of life in so many ways, but in the ways that really count, he was front and center. His imperfections called for love and compassion from his family and friends, and made them into more beautiful people over a lifetime of caring. 

A society that wants only the best of everything also becomes enslaved to an ever-changing ideal of what is 'best.' Many of us are slaves to trends in fashion, food, entertainment, home renovation, transportation, travel, you name it... not realizing that freedom lies in being open to imperfection, to listening to our hearts and souls rather than consumer culture, and to choosing simplicity over the latest and greatest thing since sliced salami. It means sprucing up the Charlie Brown Christmas tree! And becoming less judgmental, less wasteful, and more compassionate people in the process.

Which is why I am holding on to my favourite vintage sweatshirt (why not embrace the vintage movement, too?). Wearing it will remind me that life isn't about perfection. It's about living lightly. It's about humility. It's about relationship, and freedom, and simplicity.

So if you see me wearing my slightly-tattered sweatshirt in public, don't be surprised!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.


  1. I will see you and smile, saying to myself Right on Sister. I like your style.

  2. I'm with you on this topic!!
    I am quite a fan of HGTV and their home shows, but I am always saddened when people go into a house and immediately say 'the kitchen needs to be completely replaced', just because they don't like the shade of the cabinets. Amazingly expensive kitchens, with beautiful countertops and cupboards get ripped out and replaced with 'new ones'. Why? When I was younger I remember that my parents only replaced something when it was broken, but now we replace anything we dislike!

    1. So true, Nicola. It kills me when good things are thrown away for no real good reason. If you don't like the colour, why not refinish? Half the time the newer stuff isn't as well made, either...


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