Last year, I had one of those days that left me shaking my head in disbelief over how futile perfection-seeking can be. My family and I had been traveling in Africa and arrived home to a frenzy of activity. My nanny had resigned so that she could start a family, Noonday was launching a new collection and also starting the first of a series of design meetings for the next collection, it was still summer vacation and every kid was going in every different direction, and I was throwing a birthday party for Holden and a going-away party for my friend Jennie, for which I had been assigned dessert because I had been out of the country when tasks were being claimed. (I am usually the first to very generously volunteer to bring napkins.) Any one of these things would have been stressful enough; the combination of them … and their arrival when I was in such a depleted and jet-lagged state … nearly did me in. But none of these to-do’s was negotiable; I had to power through.
The going-away party for my friend was the most pressing item on my list, so I decided to focus there first. Now, based on the specialness of my friend, I knew that a special dessert was in order. Flying through the grocery store to pick up a tray of premade cookies en route to the party was not going to cut it this time. It was well over one hundred degrees in Austin that week, which made the idea of popsicles come to mind. How fun would that be! But I couldn’t get just any popsicle; for this special friend, I would need special, fancy-flavored, locally-made, social-impact popsicles that come in flavors such as hibiscus mint and coconut lime. Those were the popsicles for me.
After tracking down such a company, and arranging a pick-up time that I could not actually make, I made a request of my ever-patient husband: “Can you track down a few coolers, pick up some dry ice, and be at the popsicle place by their closing time of noon tomorrow?”
As Joe vaguely nodded his head, I Amazon-Primed cute silver buckets, self-sticking chalk labels, and the perfect little chalk pen. All would come together the following day, I figured; miraculously, I was going to pull dessert off.
My husband was on point for kid duty that week, and as helpful as he always is, he had put his foot down at the dry-ice portion of my request, which he only told me as we were driving to the party. Which meant that when we arrived, not only were the popsicles a melty mess, but I was a melty mess too. “Why did they assign a working mom the dessert?” I whined, in full-on pity-party mode. “Why didn’t I just pick up store-bought cookies, like any sane person would have done?”
All that perfection-seeking, for nothing. The dessert was so very far from perfect, and I was a jumble of frazzled nerves. I remember driving home from Jennie’s party thinking, “I lost sight of some important things today.”
Perfection-seeking has a terrible ripple effect, drowning everyone in its wake.
In pursuing the perfect popsicles, I’d made myself crazy, I’d made Joe crazy, and I’d failed to honor my friend in the end. The truth of the matter? Jennie couldn’t have cared less about my efforts to “go above and beyond.” Heck, the very next day, she hosted her son Cooper’s birthday party in her furniture-less house, while the moving trucks sat parked in the driveway and we guests perched on boxes in the living room eating pink cupcakes with pink frosting, because that’s all that was left at the store. With icing still on my lips, I said to myself, “Note to self: Sometimes the store-bought stuff works just fine.” And it might even give you, and the people around you, some much-needed space to breath.