By Mary Elizabeth Bardsley
So, my mom is a Virgo, which is the perfectionist of the zodiac. Supposedly, Virgos have a perfect version of themselves that they hold in their minds, and they are very self-critical by nature. Growing up in my household, I would have to say that my mom definitely fits these traits of her astrological sign. She is extremely talented and creative, with a ukulele and guitar, piles of fabric in a room designated just for sewing, fancy cake decorating utensils, and loads of watercolor supplies and blank canvases. She has all the creative gadgets and gizmos, and is now retired and able to devote full attention to these soul nourishing ventures…but...she wants to be perfect, at everything she does. That means that the musical instruments are in their cases, the sewing room is collecting dust, she can’t recall where the cake tools are, and her canvases remain blank, though full of promise. If she could only be more like my dad’s laid back Libra sign, she may be more inclined to create, unabashedly, and without limitation. If that were the case, she may end up with a whole gallery of paintings, and a line of clothes, and a catering business!
I can’t help but think of her when I think of pursuing my own creative endeavors. I’m not a Virgo or a Libra, so I’m not sure what my excuse is for holding back. That said, I am absolutely a perfectionist, and that is no doubt a learned behavior.
At a recent training for work, we were learning about how to utilize technology to increase engagement in the classroom, and the speaker’s resounding message was this: “Perfection is the enemy of done”. I wrote this old adage down, as it resonates so much with me. Just start, just write; don’t over analyze and criticize and talk yourself out of following what you know will fulfill you.
In helping me with this, I’ve found the list making strategy effective, and it’s even one I use with my students. Here’s how it works: write a list of 20 memories (or more). Start with “I remember…” and go from there, adding a few lines of detail to bring the memory to life. Once you have your list, choose one or more to expand on, or even weave a few together that could have a similar theme or tie. A lover of memoir, making a memory list is what I often turn to when I want to delve into more topics. Suddenly, halfway through the list, I think about that time when I was five and lost my sock monkey, or that boy I loved when I was 21 and just discovering how to use a martini shaker, and I’m off and running with all kinds of ideas, from the light and dark times of my life.
Here’s one I’ll share here, in this blog, to give you an idea of this process.
Memory #12- I remember getting my first car. It was a baby blue Escort I named Essie.
I was 17 years old and terrified to drive. I had completed driver’s ed, but the videos of what happens when you don’t wear your seatbelt or how quickly something can happen if you take your eyes off the road to change the radio station played in my mind. One thing was for sure though, I did not want to be stuck driving my parent’s old caravan around any longer! As a teen, I thought it was, for lack of a better way to say it, totally uncool.
The day my parents gave me my car, it was a total surprise. ‘Really? Really?’ I kept asking as I jumped around the entire car, honking the horn and turning the steering wheel. I still couldn’t parallel park or back up very straight, but I had freedom. Baby blue, tape deck, only the right side stereo crackled.
I went everywhere in that car, Essie. I named all my cars. She was my gal pal on the road. She took me to my first days of college as I drove too fast because of nerves. She took me on a roadtrip to Chicago to see my best friend Catherine, to The Mall of America to wander the endless stores, and all the way to Tennessee to visit a boyfriend I never should have made the drive for. I danced at stoplights to her music, and I saw my future out her front dash. A long highway stretched out in front of me, sunglasses on, windows down, and hands at 10 and 2.
When I finally had to trade her in, I cried, all the way to Junior’s Used Car Lot. Junior, a sensible and practical business man, looked at my tear stained face with with a curious expression. “It’s just a car, young lady,” he stated matter of factly. “Now, let me show you a beaut I just got on the lot, with a CD player!! Real nice.”
With a look over my shoulder at Essie, I dropped the keys into Junior’s hand. I hesitated. Yes, she was just a car, but she took me places. I grew up behind that wheel. I made dust in that car. And I will never go back to where she took me.
Whatever you zodiac sign, perfectionist or not, just do. “Perfect is the enemy of done.” Make that memory list. Get that guitar out of its case and start strumming. Clean the lens on your camera. Rinse your paint brushes. Sign up for that poetry slam. And, while you’re at it, read your horoscope, laugh, put it aside, and then submit to Backchannels. We’re open to all zodiac signs.