Sharon Randall: The myth of perfection

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 1, 2022

Sometimes I just sit and think. And other times, I just sit. I tell myself I need to move. Then I sit and think about how to do it.

All my life, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be better at most everything I do.

Take cooking, for example. This morning, for probably the twelve-millionth time, I made pancakes. I don’t make them for my husband and me, because we don’t need to eat them. But I often made them when my kids were growing up, and will, if one of the grandkids sleeps over.

Wiley is 9. He loves pancakes. He and my husband were good sports this morning. They’ve learned not to complain. (Once, when I gave Wiley a cookie, he said, “Nana, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but this doesn’t really look like a cookie.”)

These pancakes looked like pancakes. But they were thick. And dry. And burnt. When Wiley tried to cut them, he looked like Luke Skywalker wielding a lightsaber. Not even butter and syrup could help.

How hard can it be to make pancakes? I’ve tried countless recipes and mixes. Same stove.

Same kitchen. Same cook. But no two batches are the same.

That’s true of most everything I do. When it works, it’s good and everybody’s happy. When it doesn’t, we scrape the plates and dish up some ice-cream.

I wish I could say cooking is my only weakness. But it’s just one of many improvements I’d like to make. There’s this voice in my head (it sounds like my mother, but I picture it as God) that keeps reminding me of all my sins and shortcomings.

I wish you could hear it. Just the voice, not the sins.

When my children were small, that voice would tell me in no uncertain terms that I needed to  clean my house, flea-dip the dog and be a better mother. I agreed absolutely. But try as I might, I never quite measured up.

That didn’t stop me, of course, either then or now, from taking great pride in the people my children grew up to be and the kind of parents they’ve become.

Raising a child is a moment by moment juggling act of faith and fear, failure and forgiveness, grace and hope and joy. No one does it perfectly. We can only do our best and pray for a miracle to turn our mistakes into blessings for our child.

One of the people I’ve admired most in life is my husband’s late father. In his 80’s, when he was hospitalized for a diabetic infection in his foot, I listened as a doctor suggested changes in his diet to improve his health.

Bob listened politely, nodded and said, “You’re an excellent doctor. I appreciate your advice.  I’ve had a great life. I don’t plan to change it. Whatever time I have left, I just want to enjoy it with my family and friends.”

The doctor smiled. “Sounds like a good plan,” he said.

When the voice in my head starts cracking its whip, telling me I need to shape up, I think about my father-in-law’s plan for the last years of his life.

I, too, have had a great life, more happiness and blessings than I ever dreamed possible. I wake up each day just to see what will happen next.

But even on the best of days, there are always things I’d like to change, or at least, try to do a little better. Here are a few:

I want to sit less and move more, so I can keep moving.

I want to think less and trust more, to feel more at peace.

I want to ask more questions and do less talking, because asking is how we learn and learning keeps us alive.

I want to be a better person as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and even a better cook, because the world needs our best in everything we do.

I want to enjoy life with the people I love and know that they love me, too, just as I am.

We aren’t meant to be perfect. We are meant to be ourselves, just trying to do the best we can.

I wish someone would explain that to the voice in my head.

 Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or