I sit here. Alone. At my little table and my little Starbucks. Outside the vast windows, fat flakes of snow tumble down. Bundled souls amble by, wrestling mangled umbrellas, fighting impossible gales of winter wind.
And I am inside. And warm. But exhausted. Exquisitely exhausted. My coffee is gone. It's time for another. But I will wait for my refill. I want to get this down first. And I apologize in advance for this post. I am not sure it will be that terrific. I have a hunch it will whip around in different directions like the snow that swirls outside. But that's okay.
It is a deadline day. This morning, final edits for LIFE AFTER YES were due to my editor. And I have spent the last twenty-four hours poring through my own story, furrowing my brow, scrutinizing the splash of words. I didn't sleep much last night. No. I couldn't really sleep because I knew this was my last chance to coddle my creation, to caress its pages. This was my last chance to make sure it was perfect.
And you know what? It isn't. Because there is no such thing.
Last night, I stood in the kitchen with Husband. Nervously, I clutched my book in my hand. And because he knows me and he loves me, he said what I needed to hear.
He said, "It's okay if there are mistakes. You are allowed to have mistakes."
And I fought him on this. I told him that he was wrong, that this is it. That it's time for perfection. But then I thought about it a bit more and realized that maybe he was right. (He usually is.) Have you ever read a book and found a typo? Because I have. Many times. Even in books I love.
And then I realized something else. Maybe Husband wasn't just talking about my book. Maybe he was talking about something bigger. Maybe he was talking about life. Because life is a story, isn't it? And we can polish it and polish it, but there will always be pages that are better and worse. There will always be mistakes. And this is okay, isn't it?
This is real.
But even after having this mini-epiphany about the futility of obsessing over the manuscript of existence, I worked furiously to make sure my story was just right. I dogeared pages. Made little notes in the margins. I reworked some sentences. I chose some new words.
But you know what? It is not just right. Because there is no such thing.
Minutes ago, I hit send. I let go. Of my story. Of a creature I have protected for years now.
And as I sit here watching snow dance, shaking from caffeine and pride and awareness, I realize something. Something simple and profound. Something hardly revolutionary. That something?
I am not good at letting go.
And I need to work on this. Because isn't life about letting go of things? Of moments and hours and days and years? Of people we love? Of places that are no longer home? Isn't life about progress, about stumbling along sidewalks slick with existential snow? We might slip, but we must walk anyway. We might fall, but then we will stand and keep going.
Lao Tzu said, "By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning."
And so. Today, I did it. I let go of something big. And I am scared and relieved and happy and sad. I am all of these things. Like those flakes, I am all over the place. Worried about the typos on my pages, the mistakes in my world, the cracks in my concrete. Inching toward acceptance of all these things.
And now. Instead of spending another thirty minutes combing through these words, these ones right here that you are reading, to make sure that they are perfectly punctuated and shrouded with the right level of metaphorical gloss, I will publish them.
I will let go.
Are you a perfectionist like I am when it comes to your life or your writing? Are you good at letting go of things? Of people or the past? Do you forgive yourself when you notice mistakes in the manuscript of life? If we all acknowledge that there is no such thing as perfection then why do we strive for it so fervently? Is it snowing where you are?