Connection over Perfection

…and right before dinner that night, my child fell and skinned his knees badly, the chicken I was serving for dinner overcooked and dried out, and I forgot to pick up ice cream for dessert.  But lo and behold, we still had a good time.

It happens to all of us right?  We have friends coming over for dinner and we want to put our best foot forward, have the most delicious meal prepared and plan for everything to go smoothly.  Does it happen? Maybe, if it’s a rerun of Leave it to Beaver. But the reality is that life can get in the way in a hot minute, and something throws a wrench in the plan of perfection.  Your child has a meltdown, your dinner catches on fire, you spill a glass of red wine on the newly shampooed carpet. Come on, I know you have been there too.  And for me, while it is So. Damn. Easy. to get shaken on what is going wrong, this gets in the way of the very reason I invited my friends over in the first place. Connection. Human to human, village building, memory making, “remember when,” what-have-you-been-up-to, connection. And while I agree it can be useful to reflect on how to improve in a future situation, admittedly, it is not helpful to spend the next morning’s first cup of coffee recalling the details of what didn’t go right.  Trust me, it ruins the taste of that hot latte.

Where else does this happen? Does the drive for perfection over connection only get in the way of our dinner experience with visiting friends, or can it interfere in the Pilates studio, too?  As instructors are we so set on the repertoire we feel we should teach that it gets in the way of connecting with the human in front of us?  As students do we grimace and grit when we approach an exercise that is difficult for us, waiting for the moment to pass, cursing it (and maybe ourselves) for not getting it just right or again, doing it how it should look? When I hear a student in the studio say, “Well, I always feel better when it’s over,” I cringe a little inside.  (At the risk of being totally dramatic, let’s say I die a little inside.) Heck, maybe it’s just a really tough workout.  But I fear that the constant striving for perfection gets in the way of connecting in that hour, in that moment, to that human in front of us. And most importantly, I question if perfection is getting in the way of connecting to ourselves.

I hope not. I hope that one day the student who acknowledges that she feels better when the session is over also acknowledges that she enjoys the process.  That even though it’s tough, and she may not get the Roll Up today without her feet lifting off the ground, or land the Teaser without using the push through bar, that it’s ok.  It’s ok for her instructor, her fellow Pilates students and that reflection staring back at her in the mirror to see a less than perfect human. Perfection out, Connection in. Connection is showing up, being vulnerable, real and interesting.  Around the dinner table, it’s letting my child sit on my lap until he feels better, offering plenty of salsa and sour cream to dredge the dry chicken, and busting open a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips to pass around for dessert. In the studio, it’s about listening to my students, letting go of an agenda, giving them plenty of exercises that leave them feeling successful and offering a hand through the scary ones. So that both the client and myself as the instructor walk out of the studio not only feeling better, despite our imperfections, but also more grounded, more joyful, and more and connected to ourselves.