Both Sides of Perfection


I’m not so sure the universe is as mysterious as it is playful.

It is Sunday night and finally, after hitting the ground running with Lizzie’s eighth grade graduation and then mazing through two days of tournaments and two graduation parties, I can pause and be here with you … which really just feels like being here with me, and that is long overdue.

Sean and I both took Elizabeth to her tournament in Crystal Lake yesterday. We never do that and it struck me that it was the first time since Christmas that I spent the entire day with my husband. The weather was beautiful and in-between matches, we sat on the grass and stared at the blue sky and that felt like a luxury. It felt luxurious just to be with two people I love at the same time without an agenda, with nothing but time to kill. The girls ended the day undefeated and each time Lizzie made a kill, she glanced over at us to see if we saw it, which was kind of darling.

Today, just Lizzie and I made the drive. The girls played three matches, eight games, and won seven of them. The gold bracket, championship round was so intense that I had to walk away and just pace the floor. 9-9. 10-10, 11-11, and so on. We lost by two, and just like the last game of her eighth grade school season, the final mistake that ended the game was Lizzie’s, and once again, she fell flat on the floor in heartbreak.

So it goes, I suppose. We left to eat and to let her sob and swear for a bit, until the hurt was out of her and I got her to laugh. Like my friend Julie said, “Give her ten minutes, feed her, and she’ll be fine.” Lizzie plays for a pretty la-dee-dah club … pretty sure that is not how they refer to themselves, but I just call it la-dee-dah. They will tell you they are the best in the state. I have always hated their motto, “Strive for perfection. Attain excellence.” These words have made me cringe for years, but today, on our ride home, it clicked and I got it, and now I feel stupid for not getting it earlier.

I am someone who is constantly getting my students to understand the dangers of perfectionism. As someone who literally, daily quotes Anne Lamott on the pitfalls of perfectionism (“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”), the club motto has always put a bug up my ass.

After stuffing ourselves with pasta, the two of us started the long drive home, but between the heat and the long day inside of a gym that smelled like dirty knee pads and nachos, I could hardly keep my eyes open. I used an app to locate a Starbucks before we left the parking lot, but it kept glitching out on me, so I just kept driving. As luck or fate would have it, a Starbucks showed up anyway, but they did not have a drive thru. Too tired to care, I  parked, left the air-conditioned van running with Lizzie in it and went to wait in a forever long line of other folks in need of a caffeine fix. As I waited for our drinks, I noticed that these green coffee sleeves were piled in a giant basket and they all had Oprah quotes on them, advertising her new chai tea latte. I reached into the stack and randomly pulled out one for my coffee. It read, “Know what sparks the light in you and then use that light to illuminate the world.” I will have to save how random and amazing that was for another blog post, because right now this is about Lizzie and perfectionism. I pulled out a sleeve for her chai. It read, “Live from the heart of yourself. Strive to be whole, not perfect.”

For a second, I felt like God was producing an episode of Candid Camera. I looked to see if anyone else was looking at me. When I got back to the car, I showed it to Elizabeth and she smiled and sighed and said it was perfect (ha). She put the seat back and soon slept and I drove through green hilly landscape, dotted with farms and antique garden shops.

When I was very young my parents had a general motors blue Hornet with a front seat that went all the way across. I would put my head in my mom’s lap and my feet in my dad’s and I would fall asleep, listening to music and the sound of the wheels wiping pavement. I felt nostalgic, taking that sunny drive today, watching my girl sleep, and I played music loudly, hoping that it might filter into her consciousness and one day be the kind of music that makes her think about me. I played Bridge Over Troubled Water, cause I want to be her bridge for sure, and I played Judy Collins and Joan Baez and anything else I could think of that reminded me of sleeping in that blue Hornet.

Right in the middle of Both Sides Now, I was reflecting on match two and about how brilliantly the girls were playing. It was, as they say, like clock work. They were practically dancing, the rhythm was so beautiful. It was, surely, a glimmer of perfection. Right when Judy Collins sang, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now,from win and lose, and still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall” it hit me. The volleyball motto does not mean one needs to be perfect to attain excellence. THE MOTTO IS NOT SEQUENTIAL. Experience perfection. Float like that butterfly and sting like that bee, but to attain excellence means to live from the heart of oneself and that if you can experience that, you will begin to know what it means to be whole.

As a non-athlete, I am always surprised when I learn lessons about life from my volleyball loving daughter, even if this time, Oprah had to give me a nudge. Here we come, Orlando. I am officially ready for nationals.


About kellyinrepeat

mom, wife, artist, writer, teacher, dog lover, pie maker, who believes that all things are possible
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4 Responses to Both Sides of Perfection

  1. jgroeber says:

    You just disappear for a bit and then you pop right back up and you hit it out of the park. (Or off the court? In volleyball it’s a court, right?) Love this. It’s our definition of excellence that gets us. We are perfect when we’re in the now, following our heart.
    (Thanks. I needed this today.)

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