They're Too Perfect!
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
I love journals. I request them for birthdays and other gift-giving opportunities where I can actually tell people what they can buy for me. They're going to buy me something, so it may as well be what I want, right? Journals are beautiful inside and out, and I must have them. Plus, I have never found a reason to re-gift a journal. Ever. Because that would be wrong.
But here's the problem. You knew there would be one, right? Yes, there's a problem. It's the girdle of perfection that squeezes the daring out of me. See, my beloved journals are perfect. I adore them. I fondle their smooth edges and bindings and dream of the worthy thoughts and ideas that only I can pour inside. I covet them like Scrooge covets his bags of gold, all for myself. The one thing I don't do is write in them. They are simply too perfect.
I currently have a collection of a dozen beautiful journals that now serve only to taunt me because they’re gathering dust and slowly disintegrating, as all things do with the passage of time, without the glory of someone's pen (mine) scrawling and jotting and doodling and masterpiecing across their pages. I know. This could be the very definition of sad. *Sheds pitiful writer’s tears.*
So, obviously, this is a bit of a conundrum because the reason I ask for journals in the first place is precisely because they're beautiful, and I really do want to write in them. One would be perfect for recounting my life so my children would actually learn who I am after I'm dead. One would be perfect for writing my innermost thoughts about men and relationships and sex—but, er, what if someone finds it after I'm dead? And still another without lines would be perfect for drawing and sketching and arting, except that I'm no Michelangelo. I’m not even a Southpark Trey Parker. And there I'd be, embarrassing my children from the grave. *Pauses. Considers the merits of this one.*
I have intended to change this situation for a long time, coaxing and finagling, and bribing myself into writing something in each journal. So far, I have inscribed my name. I do have nice handwriting. Meanwhile, I keep adding more journals. Every time I walk into a book store, I walk out with a perfect, hoardworthy journal that remains as I received it: empty and deprived.
So I mentioned this little “problem” to some writer friends at a retreat last weekend. One of them is not only a writer and a longtime friend but a life and creativity coach. A wise and delightful woman, she immediately identified a solution. Wabi-sabi.
Wabi-sabi represents Japanese aesthetics and a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. A concept derived from Buddhism, the aesthetic is described as beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Like my journals. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, and the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. In other words, Wabi-sabi says the beauty of an object is in its flaws. In a pretty but cracked vase, wabi-sabi is the flaw where the gift of light pours in. And whose broken heart isn't the personification of wabi-sabi?
In short, wabi-sabi struck me right between the brain lobes, creating a fissure in my thinking—and how very wabi-sabi that there the light shined in. It was so simple. So illuminating. So right in front of me all along. By writing in my journals, I'm not sullying their pages with my existential drivel. I'm not destroying the beauty and perfection of their craftsmanship. I'm not wasting the trees that gave their lives to be tattooed by my brain matter. In fact, I'm making my journals more beautiful, more valuable, more worthwhile—if to no one else but me. And any family that survives me.
To make sure I won't slide back into [absurd] old habits, I invited two of my nanababies to color on the first few pages of one of my newest and most beautiful journals. And guess what? It's even more precious to me. And now far from perfect, I'm free to fill it up with abandon—and writer stuff.
What about you? What can wabi-sabi do for you? How can it break the girdle of perfection that binds you? Can it free you, as it has freed me?