perfectly imperfect


I passed by a mutant pumpkin at the grocery store. I was running late, but this squash was calling to me. I liked that it wasn’t perfectly round, had a deformed stem and warts all around. I liked that it had some character, not a boring ol’ globe of orange. I had to go back and buy it.

As I put my purchase in the car, I thought about all the other seemingly imperfect gifts in my life: I chose both of my cats because they have extra toes and huge front feet. My dog was the runt of the litter that barely survived. My house is over 100-years-old and bears the scars of twenty years of parenting six children. Then, of course, there are the children themselves- three of whom were born with what some people would call imperfections. My beautiful daughter was born with a life threatening birth defect, as well as several other not-so-normal attributes. One of them is a set of very unique feet. photoSomeone once asked her if she would want to “get them fixed” and she just looked at them, perplexed, and asked, “Why would I want to do that?”  She loves her feet because she knows they add to the amazing package that makes up Grethe. She understands that her unique features make her special. 

Our imperfections make us extraordinary.

I can trace my appreciation for imperfection back to the birth of my third son, Kelly. Before Kelly, I was living a pretty average life: I had a nice, handsome husband, a lovely home and two beautiful, healthy young boys. Everything was neat and tidy and perfect.

But I didn’t have the capacity to fully appreciate any of it.

And then Kelly was born and he took my perfect world and gave it a good-ass shake.

Kelly surprised us with Down syndrome and forever shifted how I would be in the world. At first, of course, there was shock. Never in my life had a known a person that had a disability and I never cared to, to tell you the truth. People like that made me a bit uncomfortable. What was I supposed to say to them, anyway? And would they even understand if I talked to them? Easier to not take the chance and just walk on by.

Then, suddenly I was a mother of a handicapped child. How could this be?

It didn’t take me long to get over my self-pity, however.  After the initial shock of his diagnosis, our family concentrated on loving Kelly completely as he was. It was not a difficult task. Kelly was absolutely adorable and a delightfully easy baby. As he grew, we enjoyed Kelly’s differences and were never concerned when he didn’t meet traditional milestones. Kelly did things in his own time, in his own way. We already had two typically developing boys, so we knew what “normal” was supposed to be like. Watching Kelly grow was (and is) a delightful adventure. We never look at him as being disabled or handicapped. He just thinks and does things differently, and we happen to think that different keeps things interesting.

Having Kelly in my life allowed me to understand that we are all imperfect And while the word “imperfect” carries a negative connotation, it shouldn’t. Who wants to be perfect anyway? Our differences are what set us apart. Our differences are what makes the world go ‘round. Imagine what a dreadful place the world would be if we were all the same. So, why the hell would we aspire to that?

At some point after having Kelly, I heard something about parents choosing plastic surgery to alter the shape of their special child’s eyes. This astounded me. Why would I take it upon myself to alter this glorious being? And for what purpose, to make him blend in with the “normal” crowd? Changing Kelly’s eyes would not change Kelly, even if we did decide to put him through such a procedure. Kelly, at 14, has no typical teenage insecurities or angst. He is the most content person I know. Clearly, his imperfections are working for him just fine.

This amazing human’s entry into my life prepared me for the lessons that were to come, and there was a lot to come– just like there will be for anyone playing this game of life. We will all experience times in our life when things seems less than perfect. The key is to be malleable enough to redefine one’s definition of what is perfect. Having Kelly taught me that. He changed the way I looked at life.

And these changes made me stronger, they made me more resilient, they made me wiser.

I no longer yearned for everything to be perfect and I learned how futile it was to fight what came my way.  It was so much easier to let go and accept, no matter how challenging the circumstance, than to fight the unfightable.  I learned to have faith that what I would end up with would indeed be absolutely perfect- a new, revised version of perfect.

I learned to look at imperfections- in situations, in individuals, and in myself- as gifts. I’m telling you, this attitude makes life so much nicer, so much easier! And in my mind, nicer and easier is the way to go. Embracing acceptance and moving toward appreciation, instead of perfection, is my goal.

This type of thinking invites the most brilliant kind of alchemy; right there in front of you, the things that once seemed flawed, transform into objects of beauty-

Objects that have been patiently waiting for you to wake up.

photo by Anna Stockwell

photo by Anna Stockwell