A Little Less Than Perfect

A recent fortune cookie of mine

How do you define perfect?

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines perfection in the following way:

“The quality of state or of being finished: COMPLETION, WHOLENESS. The condition of having reached full development: MATURITY, RIPENESS… an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence.”

Full development? Maturity? Oh, dear. Ripeness has been tossed my way a few times in my life. But rarely, if ever, the previous two; they remain safely in the “goal” column.

In his excellent 1990 book on baseball, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, author George Will focused on the individual disciplines of hitting, pitching, fielding and managing. He chose as his subjects Tony Gwynn (hitting), Orel Hershiser (pitching), Cal Ripken (fielding), and Tony LaRussa (managing). In an interview for the book at the time, I remember Will singling out Ripken and Gwynn in particular as examples of perfection. The comment struck me as both enlightened and audacious. How can one really identify it?

Perfection is subjective.

I know I recall seeing it in a Greg Louganis dive, or more recently in a Simone Biles floor exercise. And indeed I also recall moments when both Ripken and Gwynn — two absolute gentlemen of sport — thrilling me with their brilliance on the diamond. They weren’t always flawless, but they sure they came close to it more often than not.

Of course, I also recall the time when Louganis hit his head on diving board at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. I gasped along with everyone else watching. That wasn’t perfection at all, was it? Yet, he went on to ultimately win the gold medal in that competition, bringing him back to perfection once again. Full circle.

If getting an A on an exam is considered by some to be perfect, so should that act of winning a gold medal.

Hell, we’ve recently learned that even a phone conversation can be called perfect. Talk about grade inflation! But I’m going to give that man a slight break here. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. One doesn’t really need the weathercaster to tell us it’s a perfect day; we can check on that all by our lonesome.

Narcissism aside, I don’t feel we need to be world-class athletes to get a glimmer of perfection now and then. A good friend of ours recently sent us some chocolate which she bought on a European trip (thanks, T!). Talk about about a perfect gift. I snapped it up and immediately claimed it as mine. Selfish and perfect.

Mine, all mine

We certainly shouldn’t look to our elected officials for perfection. In the last several months I’ve been closely scrutinizing each of the Democrat candidates running for president. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a perfect choice amongst them. With each one I’m having to swallow a policy position not in line with my own views. I had dreams a year ago that any candidate would be a veritable Michael Jordan, a perfect savior for our democracy. Instead I’m seeing they’re all rather like me: imperfect and frustratingly inconsistent. Just hopefully not as selfish.

Gorgeous and I often have contrary views on what is perfect. For instance, I love a good road trip. I enjoy the scenery: laughing at the billboards, reading the names on signposts of unfamiliar roads and towns. I love the stops for gas: they’re filled with opportunities to buy lottery tickets sold by smiling cashiers, each one always inspiring me to think that this time I’m finally going to win. I love the taste of that Dunkin’ Donut I’ll buy because I rarely ever do so in my regular routines while at home. These are perfect moments to me, with the freedom of the open road and a figurative opportunity to spread wings.

For Gorgeous, however, road trips are endless hours of tedium and gastrointestinal challenges. She likes the destination but can’t stand the journey. Perfection for her is being at home under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good magazine. Especially the magazine. I’ve never seen anyone love magazines as much as this person. Visits to the grocery store are always delayed because they’ll invariably include a long stop at the main magazine aisle. And she wonders why I’m constantly pulling out my phone!

But I digress. It was that love for magazines that got me thinking prior to a recent road trip that we took. What if… we loaded her up with magazines prior to the trip?

Reading on the road

The result was a smashing success. She was engrossed in all of her just-purchased reading material, and I never heard a peep of complaint on either leg of the trip. Perfection along with a lesson learned for future excursions.

I’m turning the big 6-0 in a handful of weeks from now. To many that’s still considered young. I suppose in most respects it is. Marriott, however, won’t even give me a discount for another two years, those greedy bastards. I long ago transitioned from trying to be perfect to merely wishing to experience perfect: drinking the perfect martini, listening to a perfect jazz recording, watching the perfect movie, experiencing the perfect trip, etc. It’s all a state of mind.

George Will, if you’re reading this, I’m ready to be interviewed.

Until next time…

34 thoughts on “A Little Less Than Perfect

  1. I think this was the perfect post… I wasn’t sure where you were going, but I enjoyed the journey. Your story about Gorgeous and her magazines reminded me of our family camping trips when I was young. My brothers and I would load up on comic books before hitting the road. I think my parents figured it was a cheap way to keep us occupied while they drove for long stretches.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wasn’t sure what the punch line would be but I enjoyed the trip…without magazines. When we go to the shore, I load up on magazines for light reading and books for engorgement. When I’m there, I may go to the beach or read on the deck. Don’t make me do what I don’t want to do unless it’s time to eat seafood. Then I’ll gladly put my reading aside. As for politics, any of the imperfect candidates is better than the one we have. Happy early birthday and make it a good one! A perfect one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This post is probably a work in progress, Kate. Submit your punchlines for consideration! In the end, I’m with you on any of the declared candidates. Well… I’m not so sure about that one from Hawaii, but I suppose we don’t need to worry about her.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Heading photo, instant smile, Marty. I need to recheck my About page (since my memory is not “perfect”). I think I wrote something about one of my mantras “perfection is the enemy of good.” This mantra has helped me on many occasions, especially when I went back to school as a mature student and recently, when I began blogging.

    Early Happy Birthday Wishes, Marty. Every year is special, including 60. 🙂 I think Denny’s might have a meal with your name on it.

    By the way, I have met only one perfect person in my life. My Husband. And we both know how true that is. 🙂

    Like

  4. Perfection is a journey, isn’t it. When you set out, you have a goal in mind, but along the way you discover unforeseen bumps. Next trip, you modify your expectations, but maybe the weather doesn’t cooperate. Every now and again, though, we experience perfection – sunshine, no detours, easy sailing. Or driving. Plus, magazines.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like you, Marty, I’ve changed my strategy to look for perfection in the smaller moments. They’re easier to find and feel sublime.

    Otherwise, it’s as Laurel said … I’m perfectly imperfect just like everyone else 🙂

    Early Happy Birthday wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. debscarey

    I absolutely love the contrasting aspects in the description you’ve showcased – that of being finished or completed, against that of unsurpassable excellence. I’d never thought of perfect as a state of completion or maturity, regardless where it appears on the grading scale. As a lifelong perfectionist, I shall work to adopt the first part of that description over the second.

    As for politicians and perfection. I feel your pain. I no longer hear from my once closest friend after I stated I felt unrepresented politically speaking, and suggested that there’s a significant and growing percentage of the UK populace who feel likewise. She’s an ardent fan and supporter of one of the party leaders and I guess anything less than the same from me is a problem for her, which has made me sad. I’ve another very close friend with whom I’m on the opposing side of the Brexit fence, but we manage to respect each other’s views and not allow it to damage the friendship. I hope the Democrats find one candidate to wholeheartedly unite behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a bit surprised by that definition too, Deb. Completeness I’ve never equated with perfection either. Then again, I sure got many a lecture from my parents about how I never finished anything while I was growing up. I’m sure in their eyes I was far from perfect. 🙂

      Oh, dear, Brexit. The American press (print and broadcast) has done and absolutely horrendous job of covering it. But I’ve persevered in reading about it because the same nationalist winds we’re facing here are certainly blowing hard over there too. I do hope the tide will turn at some point, but I fear we’re stuck in this angry period of division worldwide for a long period yet. Hang on tight and keep your bearings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. debscarey

        I don’t think the American press are alone in their dreadful coverage – the British press have a HUGE amount to answer for in that area. You are right, I’m afraid, that it’s those nationalist winds we’re facing here as well. I hope the tide will turn for both countries, and the sooner the better, but I fear it’s going to be a long haul. The sane amongst us (well on this topic anyway 🙂 ) need to do as you suggest – hold on tight & keep our bearings – as well as keep gaining re-assurance from whatever like-minded community we can find.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I am not perfect nor do I want to be. I’m much too lazy to strive for that goal. I am comfortable with being a B+ person, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire all of you who attain perfection. I’ll just do it while reading magazines at home munching on a yummy chocolate bar, if it’s all the same to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Marty, First off, an early Happy Birthday to you! I’m a recovering perfectionist. Not so sure about the recovery success however. As I’ve delved into self-discovery, my need for perfectionism, for being the good-girl, and meeting or exceeding expectations all came through as to how I was living, and why I was not very happy. Dropping the internal belief that you need to be perfect is a tough shift. Anything that sounds like a criticism or making a mistake (any mistake!) can still send me into a negative spiral. I do like your shift from trying to be perfect to experiencing a perfect moment…. and there are amazingly perfect moments all day long.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This wasn’t one of my more focused posts, Pat, but I did make that ending pivot to enjoying moments. I think it did it with the most sincerest intent and not just to find an exit ramp! 🙂

      I do understand who you were in that earlier (i.e. working) life of yours. You’ve blogged so eloquently about the transfer to “civilian” life that I can’t really add much to it, except to say I think you’re doing a great job. You’re very self-aware which is a huge thing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You got me thinking about perfection in sports, Marty. They called it the “Perfect 10” when Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci achieved that perfect score seven times in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Who can forget the 1972 Miami Dolphins and their undefeated “perfect” season? Those are amazing achievements, but I think that the closest thing to perfection in sports history was Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 world series. It is such a rare feat, occurring only once in world series history. By the way, have you noticed that my SF 49ers are 8 and 0 so far this season?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure, Joe. The 49ers are on fire, unlike my perennially lowly Redskins. I moved away in 2004 and they’ve been taking it out on me ever since!

      I do recall Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympics, particularly her floor routine. She was amazing. For me, though, it was always Edwin Moses in the 400 meter hurdles that year; mostly because I was a hurdler myself in h.s. at the time, but also because I was in awe of his sheer artistry.

      Liked by 1 person

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