"Grandma, when I grow up, I'm going to have a messy car like yours," declared my 10-year old granddaughter.
Glancing at the littered back seat of my car, I viewed a couple notebooks, various papers, and a jacket that had been tossed carelessly on the seat. I had been traveling for several days and hadn't given it much thought. It was what my mother termed "clean dirt." Just clutter!
I was pleased my granddaughter liked my messy car.
Another friend commented she also felt more comfortable with people who had messy cars. She said it was a mark of "authenticity" — being who you are, with no apology. A clean car might make other people feel "judged."
Why would would it matter, I wondered.
Authenticity is a trendy word — it's about being real, no pretense, making other people feel comfortable, not appearing better than anyone else.
Still, I wondered: if I normally had a neat car —which I don't — should I "mess it up" in order to be authentic?
Isn't it more "authentic" to be who I am?
Wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same? What about diversity?
Be who you are!
You can be neat and I can be messy and we'll each be OK with it.
That seems more authentic to me.
Maybe it's more about perfectionism than authenticity.
Author Colleen Carroll Campbell writes in her new book, "The Heart of Perfection": "Perfectionism is an epidemic in our culture today. Researchers blame it for everything from our soaring rates of pharmaceutical addiction and credit-card debt to the surging popularity of cosmetic surgery and filters on Facebook photos."
Asked if her book was about freedom, Carroll responded:
"...I think you could say the book is all about freedom from unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, freedom from the fear that our flaws make us unworthy of love, freedom from compulsions to compare, compete, and control. More than anything else, 'The Heart of Perfection' is about trading the bondage of perfectionism for the pursuit of a new kind of perfection: the freedom of the children of God."
Take hospitality, for instance.
In our desire for perfect homes like those on television, we can lose the joy of inviting people in and the satisfaction of meaningful conversation — trading ideas and listening to one another. (Sharing food is nice, too!)
I recently heard the term "scruffy hospitality," referring to people who welcome guests to imperfect homes and entertain friends in a relaxed, joyful manner.
"Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, (and it's all small stuff)" by Richard Carlson is a favorite of mine. It's a book about perspective — how we see things and how often we blow little things out of proportion, encouraging us to ask, "Does it matter?"
When I'm troubled about small stuff, I ask myself, "Does it matter?"
But the problem with asking "does it matter?" and not "sweating the small stuff" is that what's small stuff to one person isn't small stuff to someone else. What is inconsequential to me might be important to you. People who are detail-oriented may be irritated by those who are not so fussy.
Choosing to be kind over being right and asking "does it matter?" is one of the laws of good relationships.
So many of the things that trouble us today won't matter tomorrow, or next week, or a year from now. We gain perspective by viewing things from another person's point of view and overlooking things that simply don't matter.
Wouldn't it be better to simply give the "gift of good enough"?
CAROLE LEDBETTER is a lifelong Ottawan who finds each day an adventure. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.