Tolerance for imperfection

6 Apr 2019

I was speaking with a friend recently who works freelance. She is currently out of work awaiting the next contract and was working on her own project, as was I. She mentioned she was feeling a bit low, so I suggested that she came to stay for a few days for a break from her surroundings and that she brought her project with her. To my delight and surprise, she accepted and turned up a few days later.

For four days we laughed, shared stories, worked creatively and productively during the day and in the evening, we cooked for each other and ate together continuing our conversation. Overall, we had a relaxed, fun and productive time.

The day she was leaving however we had an unexpectedly strange heated exchange over a parked van in a petrol station. It was simply a mis-understanding or language failure – who knows, I certainly don't understand what happened. Her first language is not English and I think she mistook what I thought was a helpful suggestion, for interfering (my back seat driving maybe?). I tried to explain that I was just trying to help at which point she exploded.

Suffice to say, we parted company politely but frostily and I can't help but reflect on the fact that 4 days of getting on really well together was undone in 4 seconds at an "out of order" petrol pump with both of us parting company with a slightly bitter taste around the visit.

Of course clearly the heated exchange wasn't over the parked van at the petrol pump, there must've been more to it. Was anxiety setting in about the drive ahead or of going back to being on her own after 4 days of company, or of the stress of living in the City that she wants to leave, the neighbour that she doesn't get on with, or of the waiting for the phone to ring with a new contract?

I don't know, but I am left reflecting on the fact that for 99% of our time together we had fun, we laughed and were generally very at ease with the other, yet what we are both left with is the 1% - the slightly starchy feeling towards the other.

I am being balanced around the incident and hold no ill feeling, I see it for what it was, a mis-understanding and unimportant on the scale of things but it's made me think of a beautifully hand painted china mug. One day the rims gets a little chip and so the 99% of intricate hand painting stops getting noticed while the attention now goes to the tiny 1% of imperfection. Why?

Why throw away a mug because 1% of it is less than perfect? Why focus on what is not right about the mug especially when the rest of it is functional and beautiful? Are we really saying that things are only worth having if they are perfect, have we no tolerance for imperfection? And does the same apply to friendships, relationships, the working environment, are we judging it all too harshly, focusing on the small chip meanwhile missing the overall beauty?


A Moodscope member.

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