In Pursuit of Perfection | Flash Post 391
Button, when I dived headlong into depression, I was told it was because of my obsession to do everything perfectly, without a fault.
How else would you do anything?
When we were growing up, our elders drilled it into our heads that no matter what we did, task or otherwise, it had to be perfect. This was one lesson every child was subjected to besides honesty, truth, fairplay and so on and so forth.
If I was asked to do something, I’d aspire to do it with as much finesse as I could.
As a young girl of 6, I could iron shirts and dhotis my father wore to work creaselessly, I’d polish a pair of shoes till they shone like a perfectly chiselled diamond. I could even swing a hoola hoop around my wispy-thin waist forever. I sang like the Koel, played gilli danda, spun a top, played with marbles and flew kites from rooftops better than any of the kids in our locality.
Quite a childhood, I must say.
As I grew up, my obsession for doing everything to the best of my ability started to become more of a bane than a boon. I’d straighten picture frames at home so perfectly that one would think I’d measured the gaps between each. I’d clean out my wardrobes again and again after pulling out a piece of clothing, unable to accept that the clothing above or beneath could be slightly inside or outside the stack. I’d get the maid to make up my bed so perfectly that the vertical lines running down the length of the sheet were perfectly aligned. Even the teacups she washed and stashed in the kitchen cabinet had to be done at an angle I’d instructed. The maid of course threw up her hands one fine day and left.
So what is this thing called perfectionism? Is it something one should indulge in? Is it a mental disorder?
Seeing my obsession for doing everything without a fault, dost, with his uncanny sense of what was likely to happen, realised that I was headed towards a dangerous zone. He told me all about obsessive compulsive disorder and gently warned me about the consequences. He also got home our first pet who I shunned on seeing his scraggy hair and awkward gait. My first thought on seeing him was “now he’s going to mess up the house and turn it topsy turvy”. I remember cursing dost and barididi who had accompanied him. I later learnt that the two had conspired to try and get me out of my obsession for cleanliness and bringing a puppy home was the first step.
So this is a malady?
Well, if you let it go unchecked, it can manifest into one. And I let it take me further and further into its folds in my quest for doing even the minutest of chores to the best of my ability. I started making excuses for it and asked several questions about each one of us being an OCP, an obsessive compulsive personality. I’d argue that, no matter how small the goal, each one of us would want to do it to the best of our ability. Would anyone climb Mount Everest if he didn’t want to reach the top? That’s why Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay achieved what they did. Would anyone leave a poem half finished? Would a chef want to cook if he couldn’t cook up a storm? Would a painter create a masterpiece if he wasn’t obsessed with his muse?
Those are dicey questions. But given a chance, I’d go down the road of excellence in order to achieve my dreams. Even if that meant destruction.
I think it’s more exciting to chase your dreams to the end of the universe rather than follow a middle path. And I’m not talking of cleanliness alone but about doing something, anything, no matter how small and inconsequential, to the best of my ability. That is hugely fulfilling.