To Do List:
scrape out pink-mold tinted caulk that won’t come clean & recaulk entire tub
fix chipped tile on bathroom walls
patch holes in concrete in driveway
sand & paint driveway walls
sand paint off basement floor
seal and repaint basement floor
fold & store winter clothes
get patio furniture for deck…

My “fixing” list continues beyond what’s above for our house.  It’s a list that haunts me, that keeps me from wanting to host people over (other than those I know well enough to know they wouldn’t notice, and if they did, wouldn’t care).  It’s a list that makes me apologetic when people do come over.  Oh, that ceiling, I know I need to paint it.  I smudged some of the wall color there back in March.  That stove, it works just fine but we’d love to get a new one that matches the dishwasher, but then we’d need to replace the refrigerator too since none of them match in color.  That stack of mail, and our magazines?  I know we need to file it, find a home for them, but there they sit on the breakfast nook counter.  We could have shinier hardwood floors, we could have nicer artwork on the walls, we could have a bigger, more amazing house, too.  But we don’t.

There are lots of imperfect things about our house.  I know all of them and can point them out to you if you haven’t noticed them already when you come over.

And then there’s this:

Saturday, Katie and I are hosting a Progressive Breakfast for Dinner in celebration of Neighbor Day.  (We live a block apart).  Neighbors, some I don’t know well, some I don’t know at all, will be coming over for mimosas Saturday night.  Imagine the horrified looks on their faces when they see that my bathroom tile isn’t in pristine condition.  What catastrophic reaction will I get when they see that all of my laundry isn’t perfectly organized and in fact some of it sits in –god forbid!– laundry baskets on the dryer?  How will they live with themselves on the same street as us when they see that patches of grass haven’t grown where the dogs run in the backyard?  How will they ever feel safe again when they peek inside my fridge and see that I buy full-fat ranch dressing, not low-fat, that I buy the non-organic kind?  How will they ever trust us again if they open that one drawer that holds (among other things) a package of ping-pong balls, decks of cards, stamps, old keys, receipts, a screwdriver, Halloween makeup, and pruning shears?

Our fear of what others think, the fear of being imperfect really gets in our way.  None of these imperfections are really a detriment to how we live, and none impact the structure or comfort of our house.  It’s a great house.  We love it.  It’s ours.

Imagine that “fix it” list is for a person though, before people can come over, before people can be welcomed in, before you can go out, before you can meet people.  Imagine it’s a list of things that you perceive to be wrong about a person.  You imagine what people will think if they open that drawer, filled with things you’re desperately trying to hide, or want to fix about them.

To Do List:
fix hugging problem
work on independent cooking skills
fix tone of voice when talking
keep from pacing
no repeating sentences
stop from asking people you don’t know questions
fix autism/seizures/stuttering/slowness (fill in the blank)

Kathy wrote this beautiful piece about Joe’s “hugging problem.”  And she writes that maybe the problem wasn’t Joe, but the way she perceived it as a problem.  And maybe too much time was spent focusing on something that wasn’t that big of a deal, and not enough time on how that hugging was often a gift to people, and a way that Joe reached out for relationships and connectedness.

I can definitely put away my papers and magazines before Saturday to make a good impression, just as someone shouldn’t wear sweatpants to out to dinner or a meeting.  We should always put our best foot forward, especially people who don’t have status to spare.  But those are small easy polishes that can enhance our image, and are good to do.

But, it’s silly to think that we can “fix” everything we perceive to be wrong about a person.  At some point, maybe it’s okay that someone didn’t master how to tie a shoe.  Perhaps a “fix” would be to just buy some cool slide on shoes, like ballet flats, or Toms that all the cool kids are sporting these days.

I’ve written about imperfection before, two years ago in this sewing story.  Sure, there are some mends that need to be done.  I’m not advocating that people shouldn’t grow, or change, or work on things that would a good and worthwhile use of time.  Fixing things in my house is definitely something I need to do eventually, but some things don’t need fixing like the mismatch appliances, or the improved artwork to better impress people.  Those things are fine, I just perceive them to not be good enough.  And if I keep adding to the list of things I need to do before anyone can step foot in our house, no one ever will.

The same is true for people.

If we keep adding to the list of things someone needs to learn/do/master before relationships can be had, before people can share in ordinary and typical experiences, a “behavior that needs to be modified” before, a “skill that need to be reinforced” before, we’ll never make the leap that sometimes people are just good enough as imperfect as they are.

And if any of mine or Katie’s neighbors point out the imperfect things in my house or hers, I’ll let you know.  But I’d guess they’ll just be grateful that we’re feeding them and inviting them over, and happy to be included.  Because that, is good enough.

Candice Jones Peelman