Perfect game

perfect-gameJayson was on the verge of an epic accomplishment. His team had overcome enormous odds. The shelves of the trophy cabinet outside the principal’s office were collecting dust. Now, the Titans were an out away from a state championship and that coveted first trophy.

Jayson toed the rubber. He shouldn’t have been pitching this game. He was a reliever, responsible for filling innings when their team was woefully behind. He had become a regular contributor, before this improbable season. With their ace pitcher twisting an ankle just minutes before the first pitch, Jayson was given the impromptu start.

It was agonizing. Each inning, Jayson had thrown up a seemingly endless supply of donuts. No runs, no hits, nothing. How long could his mediocre pitcher defy the odds? Everyone could sense the coach’s thoughts. He kept doubling down, and that’s how Jayson arrived at a different form of the baker’s dozen, twice over, twenty-six consecutive outs.

The single blemish was the batter he just pelted. Up by one run, a single out would earn Jayson a championship and a no-hitter, a holy grail for pitchers at any level.

Jayson saw Chloe in the bleachers. He’d always been smitten with her, but she was out of his league. He knew she’d come to watch Troy smack homers. Everyone did. Focus. Jayson exhaled before beginning his windup.

It took under a second for Jayson’s pitch to reach home plate, and even shorter to realize the consequences of his concentration lapse, the bat launching his offering over the fence. A perfect game had already eluded Jayson. Gone now was the no-hitter and the championship.

Jayson looked around, convincing himself this wasn’t real, that he hadn’t made that fateful pitch. The opposing team hoisting the trophy reaffirmed the reality of his nightmare. Chloe was walking towards the dugout, probably to console Troy. Jayson could see her make a mark on the dugout pole before strolling out to him still on the mound.

“Hey.” Smiling with empathy, Chloe leaned over and pecked Jayson on the cheek.

Spinning in an emotional maelstrom, Jayson was unable to grasp anything, so he returned to the last thing he remembered. “What did you do? On that post?”

Chloe blushed. “I made a mark, for every game I’ve come to watch you.”

“Me? I thought …” Honestly, Jayson wasn’t sure what he thought.

“I was waiting to see how long it would take for you to ask me out. I decided next season is too far away. How about some pizza?”

She stood on her tiptoes, removed Jayson’s cap, and slipped her ponytail through it as she nestled it on her head. With fingers intertwined, Chloe led them to a quiet table away from the celebration, two slices of pizza creating a small slice of heaven.

Numbers don’t lie. Jayson had lost his chance at baseball perfection. The once in a lifetime opportunity sitting across from him right now, however, reminded him this particular game couldn’t have ended any more perfectly.

Looking back

yellow-traffic-lightThe approaching traffic light, color turning from green to yellow, beckons a decision. I look forward to assess the traffic flow ahead of me, I glance in the rear view mirror to gauge the distance of the vehicle trailing behind me, and I take notice of my present position on the road. Neurons fire in my brain that sends a conflicting message to my right foot. Depress the accelerator to avoid getting rear-ended, or apply full brakes to avoid running a red light. In a split second, I have looked forward, looked back, and somehow also remained in the present.

We are presented with what seems like an infinite number of choices, every second of every day. Some provide more significant consequences than others, but they are decisions to be made nonetheless. Accelerator or brake? Chicken sandwich or hamburger? Remain in the comfort of your hometown or move a thousand miles away to a new job and a fresh beginning?

As I sit at the red light that I have successfully navigated, the single engine airplane flying overhead reminds me of the delicate balance between looking forward, glancing back, and staying present.

During the practical test required as a part of obtaining my private pilot license, I knew it was coming. It was a skill that needed to be tested in order to assess my aptitude for operating an aircraft as pilot-in-command. You are taught to always remain two steps ahead of the airplane. Remain cognizant of every potential pitfall that may arise while you are thousands of feet in the air. It’s not only required to pass the practical test. It’s essential to remaining safe.

The mesmerizing murmur from the piston engine through your headset and the spinning propeller lures you into a complacent state. Until that sound and that movement is no longer present. The aviation examiner has reached across with her left hand and retracted the throttle lever to idle. “You have just lost your engine”, she says. “What do you do now?” There is a checklist for everything, so I carefully work through the memorized steps: assessing my altitude, locating a suitable landing spot, reporting an emergency over the proper communication channel, and attempting to restart the engine, all while gently and slowly bringing the aircraft closer to the earth as a glider. After living this experience firsthand, it is easier to appreciate why staying ahead of the airplane, looking forward, is more important than staying in the present and admiring the scenery.

I think about how this relates to my everyday life outside of an airplane cockpit. How much time do I spend looking forward, looking back, and staying present? And what is the right amount of each? As evidenced by my experience as a pilot, looking forward keeps you from enjoying the present, those moments right in front of you. Living in the past leads you to stagnate, either constantly relishing in past accomplishments and experiences or playing the “if only” game that plagues our psyche at times. And staying too present prevents you from learning from the past and planning for the future.

I have been looking in the rear view mirror more often lately, in my personal life, in my professional life, and in what I like to call my writing life. And they have some very interesting parallels to one another.

There are things I wish I would have said. There are things I had hoped to handle differently. The decisions themselves and their consequences are irrelevant. What was significant for me was deciding to acknowledge the decisions that were made and reflect on them accordingly. I didn’t obsess on my choices, although it was tempting. The key to my sanity was the decision to glance, as I did when looking in the rear view mirror of my car, and not hyper focus on the past.

In my writing life, I look back at the first few posts that I composed as a part of this blog. Looking at those pieces, I often mutter under my breath, “What in the world was I thinking?” and almost laugh at the absurdity of the content. Poorly written, maybe. Embarrassing, likely. Authentic, absolutely.

I am what most would call a recovering perfectionist. And you would think that my desire to go back and tinker with those pieces from the past would be impossible to resist. Truth is, I never have done so. Maybe it’s because it would be too much work, Maybe it’s because I’m lazy. But, more than anything, I know that it’s because one of my guiding principles is to remain vulnerable and authentic.

Those pieces, however malformed they may have been, were an accurate reflection of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions at that time in my life. Going back and reading them may be difficult for my discerning perfectionist eye. But, there is more to a piece of writing than the words. There is the emotion and feeling held in the space between the words and decisions. And in that sense, to me, these are works of art. They tell a story of my growth as a writer and as a human being.

Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life – and it was you. It is not too late to find that person again. ~Robert Brault

rear-view-mirrorI am sure that another year from now, I will look back on a piece I wrote today, on decisions that were made and mutter the same thing beneath my breath, “What was I thinking?” And in a strange and somewhat peculiar sort of way, I actually hope that is exactly what happens. It means I will have grown just a little bit more.

 

Be perfectly imperfect

Perfection_within_Imperfection_by_meitantei

I think that it’s safe to say we all want to excel in whatever we do. In other words, we all strive for perfection even when we know it may be technically unattainable. Striving for perfection can be a positive force since it allows us to set stretch goals and push ourselves to higher levels of achievement in whatever we pursue. It can also be a negative force when it keeps us from completing or even beginning a task.

Believe me, I can relate to the latter negative effects. I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist. So much so that I will probably tweak this post countless times before I actually hit the publish button. My perfectionist tendencies, at times, have proven beneficial to both my personal and professional life. But, there are so many other times that they have done the opposite. Projects too many to number remain unfinished strewn around the house. Creative ideas are left to simmer on the back-burner of my mind not yet started because I know they probably won’t come off “perfectly”.

How many of us have made resolutions on New Year’s Day? How many of us have held true to those resolutions for the entire calendar year? Or even the first month? Sometimes resolutions fail due to a lack of commitment, but more often than not my resolutions fall by the wayside because my desire for perfection gets in the way. This is certainly no way to live your life passionately.

The point is that each of us needs to realize just how much we can accomplish by simply doing our best. We can create so many amazing things while being imperfect. I know better than anyone that saying something like this and acting in accordance with it are two completely different animals. I am constantly working on taming my perfectionist mind so that second animal is more manageable. How do I do this? Funny you should ask …

I have realized that certain hobbies have allowed me to strive for perfection and cultivate excellence without obsessing over it.

preparing foodI love to cook. Hold on, don’t change the channel yet. I know that a large number of you may consider boiling water for pasta either a challenge or a chore, maybe both. Even if you don’t know the difference between julienne and minced, you can still be the prized chef of your kitchen. No one can deny that we need food to survive. If we need to eat, why not enjoy preparing the food that we need? It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal. Maybe you have a recipe in the family that you’ve always wanted to try or maybe you have a favorite dish that you’ve always wanted to see if you could improve. Hey, what’s the worst that can happen? You can always order out (been there, done that). You know what one of the coolest things about cooking is … it is one of the few activities that I can think of where you get to use all five of your senses. It provides a very visceral experience and it’s also a perfect opportunity to try a new chardonnay with your next meal.

But what does this have to do with alleviating obsessive perfectionism? Perfectionists tend to want to tweak things when they are finished. They want to look at them from every different angle and find the most minute detail that can be altered to make it that much better or to meet their expectations. When you finish cooking a meal, all you want to do is eat. It is an elemental need. And once you have eaten, it’s pretty difficult to tweak your creation 🙂 But, you can always try something new the next time.

The bottom line is that we all need to make an imperfect commitment. We can all be perfectly imperfect. We won’t always stick to our resolutions, desires, or promises. But, if we keep putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy the journey along the way, we are going to create some great “things”. More importantly, however, we are going to create some even greater experiences which is really what makes our lives meaningful.

Always remember, life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderfull.