Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Imperfection is Perfection

One of the best friends anyone could hope to have I've only met once.

When I first started beading, Mecca was the Bead and Button shopping days.  I had NO idea what I was getting into, but I was starting out like gangbusters with my business, had a wide-open budget, and lordy lordy, stars in my eyes.

Allegra is the dearest of dear to me -- a friend, a surrogate mother, a confidante, a teacher, a mentor. It was no surprise when I knocked on her hotel door and we literally jumped up and down like school children. Two happier people were not in that hotel (including the ladies buying up all the beads!). She, her husband, and a small group of friends who bonded when Yahoo Groups ruled and Facebook didn't exist spent glorious days shopping and relaxing over occasionally raucous nights dining out. Our lovely guide, Ann, lived in the area and knew allll the good places, including the hotel that had, tucked away in a quiet corner, the equivalent of a $100,000 wedding dessert table full of chocolate this and chocolate that and omg that chocolate-filled-chocolate-covered thing over there! I don't know which was worse, my bead budget that day or my dessert tab. We had coffee afterwards to be all civilized and proper (however giddily), but believe me, there were some serious delicacies going down!

Maybe I'm exaggerating about the cost of the set-up but you know those shows, "Four Weddings", where the brides try to outdo each other and some have more money than sense? It was like that without the $100,000 bill! Gorgeous venue, quiet music, and a long bar full of delicacies. We were the only ones there, so it was our own fairyland. And did I mention the chocolate?

Those few days were when we knew we were EXPERIENCING LIFE!  We knew we had to savor every. single. second. because it would be impossible to encounter all of those things for the first time again ... to see those smiling faces for the first time again .. to learn and to laugh and to love for the first time .. to be blessed with joy the way a group of people like us, who were just meant to be together, could be so fortunate.

What does that have to do with my word of the day, kintsukuroi? Well, it has to do with what I'm trying to do with my life now that I've had surgery and am improving and healing yet am afraid I'll never find joy again. I feel broken and lost and quite often sorry for myself. Feeling exactly that way tonight, I got out of bed and wrote this blog post (so please excuse the grammar and typos!).

Again, Allegra. 

Allegra took me under her wing from day one on the Yahoo Groups and taught me more than she will ever know, both about beads and about life. For instance, she taught me there is no such desirable thing as a perfect Persian rug. A Persian rug is meant to be perfectly imperfect, and precisely imperfect. Traditional, hand-made Persian rugs have intentional flaws because the Muslim artists feel that only Allah is perfect and has the right to create perfectly.

That makes me think. Why am I trying to be so darned perfect?

Now, it matters not whether you believe in God or Allah or the Great Spaghetti Monster. The point is perfection shouldn't hound us like dogs nipping at our heels, forcing us on and on to be the epitome of "this is sublimely exceptional perfect", and often losing our way in the process.

Yet so many of us push ourselves that way, don't we?

What we should be asking ourselves is...


Another word Allegra taught me was kintsukuroi, a lovely Japanese word that also embraces the imperfect by making broken bits, cracks, and chips even more beautiful and embracing the flaws. Combine the idea of the Persian rug and kintsukuroi, and you have a pretty good road map for life. 

We all knew those four days were going to end, but while we were together, it felt blissfully like time stopped, and I've only had a precious few moments in my life like that. All of us knew this was special, imperfectly so. We lost one friend to cancer. Another is fighting cancer. One drifted away. Ann and I still shop together whenever I can make it out to Milwaukee, which has been a while, but she's a dear and I love her, and I hope to see her next year at the show.

Allegra, though -- she is indeed one of a kind. Like the ropes binding the pier above, she was the glue, the one with the funniest anecdotes and the most interesting stories, the one we were all drawn to. She knew which bead artist to visit and in what order, she knew when to put our feet up and tell more stories, and she taught us all what a Scotch egg was. She was just -- perfect. But if she were here, she would remind me of those beautiful rules of imperfection ... and I love her all the more for it. 

I pray with all I have that I will get to see Allegra again. It's been sixteen years since that trip, and a whole lot of frayed threads and cracked porcelain have happened during that time. Somehow I wonder how we stand it. But then I think of my little boy painting joyfully over vases that were supposedly already perfect, my dropping dozens of 3 mm gemstones all over the floor over and over again, and Allegra's rug with the flaw you can barely see, but is comforted that it's there. These flaws -- they keep us human. Imperfectly so.

One of my original blog headers sums it up well. Life should be full of beautiful experiences and pretty things. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be valued or important. We don't have to worry about the chocolate dribble on our cheek or being afraid of a Scotch egg (they're delicious, by the way). We're all there for the moment, and life is full of moments, I like to think, rather than a long tedious, stressful path we never deviate from. 

May you find your bowl with cracks and chips and paint it gold.


Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Stay Optimistic

If we think this way, the troubles of today matter a lot less, don't they?

With all the scary weather and the uncertainties of the world, why not cut this out and put it on your fridge, in your wallet, on your computer .... or make someone else's day change by taping it to the mirror in a public restroom, the bulletin board of the library, or leave it with the tip for your waitress.

Love to all, and stay optimistic.