Perfect(ish)ism.

“The difference between passion and addiction is that between a divine spark and a flame that incinerates. Passion is divine fire while it enlivens and makes holy. It gives light and yields inspiration. Passion is generous because it’s not ego-driven, while addiction is self-centered and a thief. Passion gives and enriches.” — Gabor Maté

Starting somewhere, starting here, because there are too many scraps of paper with notes on them scattered across the surface area of my life. I’ve started this blog to compile my thoughts, ideas, and goals in one place.

Since childhood I’ve never been able to write in a journal for fear of messing its fresh pages—what if I start something that I can’t finish? Or that is inconsistent? Wouldn’t that be a (shameful) waste?

A work friend called me a perfectionist today. I don’t label myself as one, mostly because I don’t think I’ve ever completed anything perfectly…

I’ll leave the diagnosis to the professionals.

What types of books do I normally read? Overwhelming non-fiction, usually science-driven and data-heavy books. Or informative biographies and historical accounts. If I take the time to read, I have the propensity that it must be in order to learn something new—it must help me in some tangible way. These books would often be categorized under self-help, but I’d be embarrassed to admit this genre as my most read; I guess because a self-help junkie sounds like someone unsuccessful at helping themselves. And, baby, I’m all about success.

My personal calendar is one of my most intimate items. At the moment, it has 17 sub-calendars, all color-coded, all representing different sectors of my life. More often than not, my days are accounted for down to every 15 minutes I am awake. It’s been some version of this since senior year of high school.

I absolutely love my calendars. It gives me a sense of calm and control, and I can truthfully credit it to supporting the successes of my life. It also acts as an exquisite itinerary of my past, prompting what could be easily forgotten details of my life’s story. Sometimes, though, “calendaring” is something I do to procrastinate, veiled as productivity. In order to counteract that and “test the fence”, so to speak, I often challenge the systems of how I calendar—what am I tracking and why?

Probably the dangerous relationship I have with my planning habit is that I look to it as a means to a perfect ending, and when I fall short of those expectations, it robs me of the joy of the moment or the appreciation for what I was still able to accomplish. Per Maté’s quote, it brings to light the self-centered thief that is addiction.

Yet striving for perfection—in the sense of striving to be my best self—also brings me joy and passion.

Maté also talks about how the same activity can be an addiction for some and a passion for other. Can I figure out how to toe the line? What does the spectrum of perfectionism look like for me and where on it gives me the most happiness and fulfillment?

2023 is around the corner, and my aspirations are as high as ever. I’m going for another shot at a perfect(ish) year, but this time I’m challenging myself to track the process, document my feelings, and consider the facts. And maybe after some reflection, I can separate the addictions from the passions in my life.

— CK


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