When John and I were first married I read a book about marriage. I have no idea what it was titled – that was a LONG time ago. What I do remember is that the author had all kinds of fun ideas for couples to have time away together for a minimal cost. One of those ideas was to pack a picnic basket with special cloth napkins, champagne glasses, sparkling cider and a lovely picnic dinner. “Why that’s brilliant,” I thought. So, of course, I went out and bought special picnic napkins and special picnic champagne glasses (because I didn’t want to break my good ones.) Fortunately we already had a picnic basket so I didn’t need to buy one of those. We used said napkins and glasses once. Just once.
Do you know why? Because while the idea of making a special picnic for just the two of us sounded like fun, the follow through required advance planning – and cooking – and getting a babysitter – and just the thought of all that wore me out. I think there were ants at our picnic, too. Or possibly mosquitoes. Or both. It just wasn’t quite as perfect and romantic as I had hoped it would be. And there were no flowers sticking out of the edge of the basket like in the movies. Clearly that ruined the entire evening.
Fast-forward about 35 years to last fall. We were having a series of warm days and the weather was expected to turn cold in about 24 hours. For two days I had thought about how fun it would be to pick John up at work and take him for a picnic lunch along the river. The mosquitoes were already dead so I had that going for me and I’d given up on the whole sparkling cider thing. But two of the three warm days had passed and I hadn’t found the time to get the food prepared before the lunch hour arrived. So, here it was, just hours before the big cool down, there was still no picnic food ready, and lunchtime was only 30 minutes away. I thought to myself, “Oh rats, I messed up again. There isn’t time now to put a picnic together. I guess I missed my opportunity.” Then I realized something. John doesn’t care what I make for lunch. He’s happy with McDonalds and though I can’t eat McDonald’s due to my food intolerances I could easily pack apples and almond butter for myself and pick up a chicken sandwich for John. The food isn’t the purpose of the picnic, or the flowers, or the fancy napkins, or the sparkling cider in cheap crystal glasses. The purpose of the picnic is to spend some quality time together and, in this case, sit in the sun soaking in the last warm day of the year.
I quickly threw some food, water bottles and paper towels for napkins into a bag and headed to McDonald’s. There’s always a blanket in the car so I didn’t even have to stop for that. It wasn’t pretty. Martha Stewart would not have been impressed, but you know what? We had a good time at our perfectly imperfect 45-minute picnic.
Six months have passed and now we’re in the midst of my husband’s stem cell transplant. We’ve had some really kind nurses and I wanted to do something nice for them. I had this “vision” in my head of homemade cookies, tied together in small bundles with cute curling ribbon, artistically placed in a special basket. It would look so cute when I delivered it on our next visit to the hospital. But that didn’t happen. Instead I made the cookies, put about 18 into a baggie, tied it with curling ribbon, and added a tag with a note of thanks.
When I sold Creative Memories scrapbooks we had a saying, “Done is better than perfect.” It takes on a special meaning after watching someone spend an entire day doing one scrapbook page with only four pictures. Seriously people, you’ll never finish a scrapbook that way. But the saying, “done is better than perfect” very aptly applies to each of the situations I’ve described above.
After I delivered the cookies the other day I got to thinking about what all I’ve missed out on for want of perfect. Isn’t an imperfect picnic better than no picnic at all? Doesn’t a gift of thanks that isn’t quite the same as the vision in my head better than not expressing my gratitude?
I’m not suggesting that we give up on performing with excellence in the workplace, or in the care of our families or homes. But I am suggesting that we let go of perfection in favor of enjoying life to its fullest.
What about you? What have you missed out on for want of perfect? Maybe it’s time to let that go.