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Wabi Sabi


"Hello. My name is Elise, and I'm a perfectionist."

"Hello, Elise."

"Wabi sabi" is the Japanese aesthetic that the imperfect is not only beautiful, but makes our world MORE beautiful. A vase with a slightly cracked glaze is not ugly, bad or ruined - the cracked glaze is part of the beauty. It has been a long time coming, but I'm starting to enjoy this whole wabi-sabi worldview.

For a lot of dreary, psychological, family-dynamic reasons, I believed that if I wasn't perfect, things would fall apart. By "things", I mean everything: me, the world, possibly the universe. My errors would cause a rift in the space-time continuum, pigs would fly and aliens would suffer migraines without knowing the cause. If I was a minute late, turned in a paper with a typo or over-cooked the chicken, gravity would cease to exist, people would point and laugh, and I would be ruined. Wrong. Broken. Very, very bad.

Let me tell you, it's hard to keep this up. Tough. Some might say impossible, but of course, we perfectionists don't accept that: we sally forth, making ourselves and everyone around us miserable in the attempt to balance all things in our puny little hands. It is not a very happy way to live.

God tried to intervene, but I ignored him. He tried harder; I ignored harder. As with any addict, I needed an intervention, and He intervened.

God sent me exactly what I needed: five wildly, crazily, sloppily, awesomely imperfect kids to teach me that wabi-sabi is the way to go. My kids, all adopted, were all born cocaine-exposed, and have suffered a wide-range of issues because of it. Try as I might, I cannot create a perfect family. And I don't want to.

Eldest Son was a mess from the day we got him, and he just got messier. Now, he's graduating from high school and getting ready to head to the university. He has done work on himself that would have broken others, and he's done so well. But the glazed is cracked.

Tallest Son has the attention span of a hyperactive puppy, but has some sort of mystical gift with all things electronic - the Computer Whisperer. But the glaze is still cracked.

Curly-Haired Daughter wants to dig into the grim, dirty emotional stuff of herself and life, but Lordy, that girl can draw. And write. I'm amazed at her art. But the glaze is still cracked.

Dark-haired Daughter has demons the rest of us can't even fathom. Her emotions are amplified and out-of-control, and it takes the sheer force of her will to get the through a typical day in one piece. She's also loving and empathetic, sweet and helpful. The glaze is still cracked.

Eating-machine Son can be cranky, contentious, weirdly set in his ways. Little disturbances become explosions. He's also got an eye for detail that most artists would envy, is funny, sweet and compassionate. And yeah, his glaze is cracked.

I can say with honesty, appreciation and love: I like the cracks. I've learned to embrace and enjoy the cracks. The imperfections are beautiful - not easy, not planned - but beautiful. Even though I still occasionally struggle with perfectionism, wabi-sabi is so much more fun.

Who knew that the cracks would be the very thing that holds me together?

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