I am a perfectionist. Which means a lot of things. Some good, some bad.
If you’re a perfectionist too, you know. If you’re not, be thankful–while perfectionism isn’t all bad, it nurtures a lot of life-long frustrations.
I was dialoguing with a friend about my WIP not long ago, and as I put my struggles into words, I realized how often the words “perfectionist” and “perfectionism” came up. How my aspiration for perfection (whatever perfection is) is hindering my writing process, paralyzing me. How my focus on the product has undermined my joy in the process.
I wrote about it in my journal, and God led me through some helpful thought processes about enjoying the journey, letting go of expectations, being willing to get my hands dirty, embracing the mess, living in the moment, wanting to try even if I fail, and finding joy in the process.
I couldn’t help but think of all the times I’ve watched my nephews play, or “played” with them but not really played because I in my adultness didn’t want to or was afraid to join them in their childness. Once I stopped being an adult, however, and let myself be a kid again, I had so much more fun. I didn’t care about the results. I thrived in the moment.
I put my journal away, and as I put my head down to sleep, the phrase came to me, “Come play, Mama.” I felt as if my characters–my brainchildren, whom I sometimes still call my kids :)–were calling for me to come play with them. Not to stand on the sidelines and watch but to join them. To have fun with them.
I scribbled down the phrase, and over the next few days this poem took shape.
Come Play, Mama
I walk past the living room,
Past the toys left all over the floor,
the blankets draped from couch to couch,
the half-read books and half-played games piled on the coffee table.
My child sits in the middle of the room.
One block after another,
Placed with abandon,
I crouch outside the sandbox,
Out of reach of the stained and filthy yogurt containers,
the broken sticks and rotted leaves,
the matchbox cars with peeling paint and grit-filled wheels.
My child kneels in the sand.
One house after another,
Patted with care,
I stand beside the garden hose,
Beside the Arm and Hammer soap bucket,
the warped plastic soup ladle,
the tangled clump of weeds and grass from the lawn.
My child leans into the bucket.
One handful after another,
Stirred with delight,
Blocks crash to the floor.
Sand sprays into the air.
Water splashes across his legs.
He looks up at me. “Come play, Mama!”
How can I?
I want to tell him
once I clean up the other toys first.
as long as I don’t get sand on my clothes or in my hair or under my nails.
if I turn the hose off after a few minutes so we don’t waste water.
How can I?
I sit down with the toys.
I shove my hands into the sand.
I turn on the hose.
We build a tower that leans and sways and wobbles until it crashes down into our laps.
We shape a sand house and push a bent stick into its not-center and ram our cars into it until it erupts in our faces.
We fill the bucket with water and grass and stir it and pretend to eat it until it overflows around our feet.
And I laugh.