I am a type A personality and strive to make everything perfect. I do not always succeed, but I do try. A prime example of this obsessive behavior is my Thanksgiving table. I set it so far ahead of the holiday that I have to dust the plates and Windex the glasses on the big day. I do that because I want the centerpieces and setting to be perfect and have no last-minute surprises.
When it comes to my home, I want every room to be always appear orderly and inviting. I never leave the house without making my bed and emptying all the trash cans. Dishes never sit in the sink. They are either put away or stashed in the dishwasher. Now that I look at this compulsive behavior, I see how ridiculous it is. Anyone visiting me that is turned off and won't come back because a few Kleenex tissues or magazines are visible in a trashcan in the den, probably don't like me much anyway and are just looking for something to criticize.
As I grow older, I have given up some of my compulsive behavior - but not all. I occasionally leave a book I'm reading, lying open on the sofa or forget to wipe out the sink after I've brushed my teeth. The world has not stopped and to my knowledge, I haven't lost any friends because of it. I guess I have come to realize that being Martha Stewart is not necessarily the path to happiness. (After all, she went to jail...but being a perfectionist herself, she used her time well and learned to crochet and made ponchos. Upon her release she even showed them on her television show.)
I've had to figure out what is being simply super-organized and what is being an obnoxious perfectionist. I have come to accept that by setting my dining room table on the early side, whether for a holiday meal or just for a small dinner party, puts me at ease and gives me one less thing to worry about. So, I continue to do it. But, if the plates are not exactly 12 inched apart and the silverware not precisely lined up, (think the magnificent Downton Abby dining room table) the meal will not suffer and the guests will never notice.) If on the other hand, I vacuum the living room carpet and then back out of the room so not to make footprints on the rug, that is being too much of a perfectionist. (I copied that particular habit from my father.)
I learned a great lesson on perfection (or lack thereof) from my good friend, Linda. She made a wonderful holiday meal for close friends a few years ago. Her home was gorgeously decorated. Gifts were beautifully wrapped and set under her tree and all around the living room. A delicious potpourri of smells wafted from the kitchen. Lights were muted and little white candles twinkled everywhere. The scene was perfection and any hostess would be proud.
Dinner was served and every course was better than the previous one. Conversation was lively and the guests were relaxed and happy. Finally, Linda stood up and announced that she had made a homemade pumpkin pie for the first time and went to retrieve it. It smelled heavenly when she proudly placed it on the counter. Amid the oohs and awes from the guests, it suddenly collapsed and completely deflated.
We all laughed so hard that tears were in our eyes... Linda laughed harder than anyone else. It was a great lesson. No one ate the pie, but now, many years later, it is a treasured memory and always makes those of us at that dinner, smile.
In the end, isn't laughter and happy guests more important than the inches between the plates? Perfection is not necessary. It's the effort you make...the thought that counts.
Until my next inspiration...ciao.