« storm | Main | My current opinion of the new season of Lost »

January 06, 2008



Beautiful writing about a beautiful and revelatory moment. Thank you.


Beautiful writing about a beautiful and revelatory moment. Thank you.


By all means, name it Oscar. It's your "award" for realizing that nothing is "perfect," which is "perfectly" OK! And one more thing---age will take care of lots of that feeling of trying to impress others. I am old enough to just smile & say, "What the f---!"


I like your new tagline, and your new-style content. Keep it coming!


I love you, so very very much.

(Does this means shoes are allowed on the carpet now?)

Jennifer Jeffrey

Catherine, this is a beautiful piece, and you're amazing. Ever since I saw your office, I've been frantically trying to figure out where you keep all your papers + magazines + books + paper clips + the odd tube of chapstick... it has seriously been driving me mad!

You have the most beautiful desk arrangement I've ever seen. I wish I could have the same, but I know it would last about 3.9 minutes. The stain on your living room rug makes me feel the teensiest bit better about the disaster on my desk...


Wow. First of all, we are so much alike. I rarely try anything unless I am confident that I'll do well. The best thing I ever did in my life was to start embracing (what I thought of as) mediocrity. It's made all the difference.

Second, you are an amazing writer and this is such a lovely, enlightening piece!


Jesus woman, how much this piece spoke to me. My teeny tiny apartment *must* look perfect before people arrive, and I am loathe to ask for help or even really cry out at times because I'm convinced that I can handle everything. That I have to handle it. At least, on the outside.

It's only been in recent years that I've learned it's okay to be messy and it's okay to be less than strong.


Genius post. Thank you for sharing.


I only just read this - whilst eating my [delicious, actually] WW lunch. Yes it made me cry. [Your writing, not the lunch]. I don't really give a crap about appearances - people have to take me as I come. And really I am not ever going to ever get upset about anybody ruining one of my possessions UNLESS it is something with sentimental value which I can't replace. Yes, crying over a friends post, clinging to the memories of a received gift. My problem isn't with perfection, it's with being a really soppy idiot.


I loved this. Wonderful.


delurking to say this was a beautiful piece. I had a similar experience when i had my first child and realized that nothing in my life would ever be perfect (let alone completed!) again and that that was ok. It makes you appreciate what i call the "little victories" of life == a big gulp of fresh air in the morning, empyting the dishwasher, finding a pefectly round rock at Baker Beach, a snuggle with my kids. If you look for them, they happen much more frequently than you think.


Excellent! Catherine, you need to go to FlyLady.net! She talks all about how perfectionism can ruin lives and how just to take it easy and not go overboard in any direction.


I feel so empowered by you, this is the first time I have ever heard anyone say out loud that they prefer to half-ass most things. My sisters have called me "the queen of wing" for years. I too am a perfectionist and control freak when it comes to what I enjoy doing and am very good at.(Food) Everything else, well Done is Better as they say!


Oh how you have empowered me this morning! Never in all of my life has anyone said out loud or in print that their approach to life is crap-tacular and half-assed. My sisters have called me the "Queen of Wing" for decades now and I admit I am very good at it. On the other hand i am hardest on myself and a perfectionist when it comes to food (I am a chef) as well as a control-freak. But i am very happy and proud to have hot-glued my curtains to the wall. Glad to meet another Miss-Halfway!


What awesome comments! I feel compelled to answer each one.

Zoomie -- thank you. That means a lot to me.

Mom -- I don't think it's as much about impressing others as it is coping with feeling out of control. But I love your name suggestion and I have, in fact, begun referring to him as Oscar!

Fatemeh -- I love you too. And no. They aren't. :)

Jennifer -- I hate to say it, but my desk is always that neat :) Mostly. The secret is an under-the-desk filing cabinet...

Tiffany -- now that it's too late to vote, I'd vote you skip Delaware, move to SF, and we can compulsively clean and avoid new things all the time. We could even create a club!

Stephanie -- I can tell that about you. We must convince one another to keep along the messy path!

Sam -- your soppiness is part of what makes everyone love you so much ;)

Elizabeth -- thank you so much for saying so.

Jaybee -- so glad to meet you! I love the things you point out and have begun trying to find those in my day more and more. A kid would shatter my fragile perfect ecosystem beyond repair...I can only imagine the heap of a person I would become ;)

Sylvia -- thanks for the suggestion.

Emily -- yeah, it's freeing to admit all my weaknesses and foibles. As I get older, I'm learning that.


Oooh, I love this one! As a former perfectionist (attempted, at least) I can relate. I used to not only clean the bathroom before people came over--I *painted* the place, more than once. Then I realized that my favorite moments of the parties I threw were the moments before people showed up, when everything was perfectly arranged and pretty, and I was forgetting to enjoy the time with my friends.

I also got to spend some time with people whose houses/cars/desks etc were never tidy, but they were infinitely more at home with themselves and having far more fun with life than I was. It was a good lesson to learn.

Karen Estey

Tiny Dancer - buy the throw rug - K

catherine ross

What an awesome piece of writing! Isn't it a relief to just put it out there?
I really relate to your situation. I was anorexic in high school (it's all about this perfectionist stuff) and I, too, would only do things I was a natural at. I, too, experienced a major crisis: my son was diagonsed with autism. I kept that perfectionist thing up for as long as I could in crisis, determinded to out-will my Fate, then I collapsed. Big time. It was awful, but I had to face the reality that I couldn't actually control everything. Then, as I grew back into myself, less perfect, but me, my husband left me for another woman.

So I decided to change. For the first time, I just started telling people how it really was - not perfect, actually kinda shitty and stressful. And to my amazement, instead of judging or avoiding me (my fear and expectation), people rallied for me, supported me, encouraged me. This never happened when I was "perfect".

We all have messy lives and, truth is, that pefectionist thing is ultimately alienating and a serious waste of energy. You are who you are, regardless of how anybody else sees you.
And, you know, nothing has been more freeing, made me feel more connected, than sharing my very stained life as it really is. And, I believe, admitting the stains ultimately frees you to really shine. So shine!

White On Rice Couple

Your site is such a great read. I can spend lots of time here. Thanks for your musings!


Yes. Oh yes.

I still call myself a recovering perfectionist. When I was in my 20s, I didn't have much in my life, and so I held onto every tiny thing I did have. It took several years of therapy, a near-fatal car accident, and my celiac diagnosis to finally release me. No one believes me now that I was ever a perfectionist.

But I still understand that tendency to not want to try something new because we might be bad at it. That's why I push myself toward that, because it's so damned humbling.

One of my favorite lines ever? My friend Tita, who is so wonderful and so damned hard on herself, once said: "I can't be a perfectionist. I'm not good enough to be a perfectionist."

Dance around the stain on the rug. Sounds like a new beginning.

And thank you so much for writing this.

The Cooking Ninja

Lovely post. As I grow older, I have learnt to let go out certain things in life.


I recognized the perfectionist in you because I'm that way too. It can really limit how much fun you can have when you let your fear control what you're willing to try. Ultimately most of us learn that we can't control much in our world. I go out and work in the yard and see that once again the weeds are ahead of me, out of control. So mother nature constantly reminds me that I can't do it all, or keep up with it all.

Since you like birds, you should decorate Oscar to look like a bird. So instead of a stain, you'll have a work of art. So you could call the stain Art instead of Oscar.


Hi Catharine,

I just found your blog today, and happened upon this particular post. First, though, congratulations on your engagement! Second, this little story could be the story of my life. If you weren't you, I might think you were me. :) In any event, your writing is funny and lovely, and I'm glad to have stumbled into your world.

All the best,

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • Creative Commons License

  • Buy content through ScooptWords
Blog powered by Typepad