It gets in my way sometimes, the fact that I am a perfectionist. And I don’t say that lightly like it is an icebreaker to tell strangers at parties. I have been known to fold a piece of paper repeatedly so I could get the crease right. When I take my service dog for a walk on the bike trail outside of our house, we always turn around at the same spot so that I know we have gone our typical distance. When tearing up spinach to put in a salad, every piece has to be about the same size. The ones that are too big or too little don’t make it in the bowl with the rest of the group. It’s not really a compulsion. And I am not really obsessed with anything. It is just that when I am putting effort into something, I feel like I did my best only when I did everything I could not to cut corners and get rid of all the mistakes.
It’s hard to be a perfectionist with my kind of disability. My limited finger dexterity means that I can’t always cut things into the same size or shape and my spasm means that I can’t always move the way I want to. That makes the simplest transfers a nightmare sometimes and means that I can’t always lend my help to a caregiver trying to assist me.
But there are other ways that my perfectionism stresses me out as well. And one of the most prevalent ways came to light a few days ago. It should have been an exciting day. Amazon had delivered 100 copies of my new book, “More the Same than Different” to my front door. The plan is to have them available at a book signing that I have scheduled at the Lawrence Arts Center on May 20th. When I opened up the box, a surge of pride sprang from inside as I looked at the gorgeous covers and started skimming through the books. It took a few minutes for me to see them. There was a typo and another word that I had meant to delete but neglected to. The pride that had welled up within me sank like an anchor trying to find safe ground. Instantly I was mad at myself. Why hadn’t I caught them? Was everybody who would potentially read this book think less of me? It seems like a small thing. To me, it was anything but.
When I talked to some people who know me well, they understood my frustration. The also told me that they had found at least one mistake in most of the books they had read and that at no time had a small mistake or two taken away from them the impact of the book. I was skeptical but willing to concede that just maybe the world wasn’t going to end because I had missed a typo and there was an extra word included in my book that I had planned to remove.
Then I talked to another friend who chose to tell me a story she had heard once. She said that when women were weaving rugs (I forget the country she mentioned) they intentionally put a mistake in their weaving because they believed that only God was perfect so that the rugs they were weaving had to contain something that went against the pattern.
That conversation made me think of the context of disability as a whole. For all of my adult life, I have encouraged people to look at disability as a diversity, a difference, instead of a weakness. I’ve encountered so many people who feel sorry for me and a few who think my life is tragic. But they are wrong. I never would have accomplished many of the things I have done without my disability. It is one of the things that has helped shape who I am. In the context of disability, I cannot focus on perfectionism and live the life that I do.
So maybe it is time for a new perspective on the books with the typo and the extra word. Maybe those “mistakes” are exactly what makes me human and approachable and similar to everyone else. Which is exactly, at my core, who I want to be. Maybe it is precisely these “flaws” that do make me More the Same than Different. Besides, if I waited until the book had no mistakes at all, then I never would have released it. This way, it can easily get into the hands of many people who might benefit from it right now.
And that is pretty darn perfect.
P.S. If you would like to support the effort of getting the word out about my new book to as many people as possible, please go to the link below and sign up to support the “More the Same than Different” campaign on Thunderclap. By doing so, on May 9that 8 p.m., everyone who signed up to support the campaign will get a message about the book with a link to it on Amazon. The same message will also go out to all of the supporter’s friends on social media. Thunderclap does not keep any personal information and does not keep track of friends. This is a one-time message. So please support this campaign click on the following link and encourage your friends to do the same. That kindness is sincerely appreciated!