Breaking Perfect

My family loves to tell a funny story.

Growing up, we frequented buffet-style restaurants often. I’m not sure if it was a trend at the time, but there seemed to be one on every corner.

I was about nine or ten years old and an extremely picky eater. After being seated, our waitress poured us each a glass of water and explained where the salad and buffet bars were located. We all went our separate ways to our favorite sections. I loaded my plate up with fake bacon bits, croutons and bread and sat back down at the table.

That’s when I noticed my water glass was empty. Hadn’t our waitress just filled it before we went to get our food? Strange. I heard laughing. My mom and dad were a few tables over cracking up and calling my name.

Crap. I sat at the wrong table.

Keeping my composure, I continued to eat my plate of salad fixings like I had meant to sit there. After I had finished, I proceeded to go back to the buffet bar, load up on more food and join my family at our table. My mom was hysterical now.

“Why didn’t you come sit over here?” she asked. I shrugged it off and rolled my eyes. “I wanted to sit there,” I said.

My family says I am stubborn and I suppose I do have a streak of that running through my veins. It’s probably pulled me through many weak moments in my life. The thing is, I think maybe there is a darker side of me that kept me at that table—the will to be right.

It seems my whole life I have strived to be right, do right, live right, speak right, and act right. Of course I fail at all of this miserably and at times hate myself for it. I envision the person I want to be, and quietly push myself in that direction so hard that I trip over my own feet.

The self-berating ticker rolls through my mind every day and nudges it’s way into my dreams at night.

I’m not doing enough as a mother, a teacher, an employee, or friend. I miss birthdays and serve dinner far too late. I forget to pay the occasional bill and sometimes oversleep, putting my entire day behind. I forget to sign a permission slip for school. I go to bed without putting the clothes in the dryer and send my son to school in slightly damp jeans.

I beat myself up and see myself as an utter failure. Lying in wake of a minefield of mistakes I’m left trying to figure out my next steps to repair the damage making an endless cycle.

So this morning I’m peeking at my Facebook feed and see that someone posted this book called The Declaration of You! The person who posted it was going on a job interview that morning and stated she was nervous that she wasn’t perfect and didn’t know how to do everything.

She said she found the book the night before and completed an exercise in which she listed the things she did know. After completing two pages of things she knew how to do and a third of things she was grateful for, she felt much more confident about tackling the interview.

Suddenly it occurred to me that maybe I focus a little too much on what I am doing wrong and not what I am doing right.

This inspired me to make my own list.

So maybe I oversleep once in awhile—I get everyone to school on time regardless. So maybe I get dinner on the table a little late—I put a lot of time and effort in making sure my family is fed and given healthy meals. Accepting life on it’s own terms is the path to happiness, is it not?

The fact is, mistakes and fuck-ups are part of the journey. And it’s okay to admit you made a bad choice or—ahem—sat at the wrong table. It’s okay to be wrong, and try again.

At least—it’s a step in any direction which is better than none at all. We are all on our own imperfect paths, finding our way and occasionally stumbling along.

Once in awhile we mess up but so many times we get it right. I’m still working on breaking perfect, though.

*previously published on

About the Author: Dana Gornall is a mom of three crazy kids and a dog. She works as a licensed massage therapist in Amherst, Ohio and is a certified sign language interpreter. She writes for elephant journal, Be You Media and is always looking forward to even more personal growth. While not interpreting, doing massage, or being with her family she loves going to yoga. You can connect with her on Twitter @DanaGornall and Facebook. (

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