Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Things are nuts over here. It's all wonderful stuff . . but even wonderful stuff can seem overwhelming.

Our second son, Adam, is getting married in Ohio, during August, to a girl who makes his eyes crinkle with joy. That absolutely thrills us.

We're getting our entire family together for the big Looney Lew vacation in two weeks--our second favorite week of the entire year, so what's not to love about that?

And then we're hosting a reception here in Maryland for about a million of Adam's closest friends and relatives. Still good, right? So why am I feeling buried?

It's the Currier and Ives Syndrome.

You know how you imagine Christmas--the house decked out in evergreen regalia and the children dressed in satin, with a perfectly-roasted goose on a table set by Martha Stewart herself? Never gonna happen. And yet I frequently aim for such picture perfection, landing somewhere nearer reality, only to find myself feeling disappointed.

Mother's Day? Same deal. For years I dreamed of the perfect day, being lauded and lavished upon. Then, after wrestling kids in church, cooking the meal, doing the dishes and collapsing on the sofa as I watched the runs in my stocking race one another up to my thigh, I declared the day-set-aside-to-honor-mothers a big fat lie, and I ate a cake and went to bed.

A wise friend and I had a talk one day, discovering that these feelings were almost universal. Pooling our exceptional wisdom, we rooted out the problem and got to the source--those Currier and Ives cards depicting perfect holidays! How we wanted that! But was it worth the pain and stress to achieve it? We concluded that it probably wasn't.

That left us with one choice--we needed to alter our expectations--to distill them down to the most essential elements. And what we discovered was that the only thing we really longed for was peace. That was what those perfect cards represented to us--peace, warmth, love. . .

So we gave up on satin-clad children and roasted geese, choosing a quiet telling of the Christmas story instead. And Mother's Day? We settled for a bucket of Kentucky Fried, purchased the night before. It was something Dad could reheat and the children cheered with delight. I got my day off, everyone was happy, and peace was achieved.

My mind is consumed with perfection again--the perfect family firesides during vacation, the perfect menu for the reception here. . . When the details begin to crush in on me, a voice whispers, "Peace and happiness, remember? All the people involved love each other."

Ahhhh. . . that's right. . .

I knew a wonderful woman who loved to sing, though her voice was shrill, trill and off-pitch. The members of the choir would hear a sequence of off-notes, we'd smile and carry on, wondering if she knew how she sounded. One day I sat beside her in choir. She was planning on singing a solo in church. I worried for her, and my expression must have revealed that.

"I know I don't have a great voice," she explained. "But the way I see it, if I can't sing here in church for the people I love, and who love me, where can I sing?"

I had an Epiphany that day. Reproved and humbled, I realized that she was absolutely right, about a lot more than mere music. She sang her solo, and she never sounded better than on that day.

After all, who's to say what perfection actually is?

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