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Imperfection by Lily DeYoung

Imperfection by Lily DeYoung

This is written by my good friend Lily DeYoung about perfectionism.

I am that friend that no one in junior high wanted to partner up with when the sewing projects were assigned in home economics. I am the daughter whose mother had to always finish the project. Wistfully and with great optimism, I would find the most beautiful pattern for my prom dresses. I imagined that it would be easy to whip up and I saw myself transforming that bolt of fabric into a shimmering chic gown that all eyes would follow around the dance floor. While I excitedly purchased the fabrics and notions, my mother and sister grimaced in the background at the prospect of finishing the not-so-easy pattern – especially once the darts and zipper steps presented themselves. I later became the mother who never made her children’s Hallowe’en costumes or Christmas crafts. My creativity amounted to cooking and cleaning – and purchasing other people’s creativity. I consider myself a consumer of creativity, a mere interloper in the land of textiles, wool, yarn, hooks, needles and bobbins. Addressing an audience who know their tools and craft seemed almost fraudulent. What could I say about that which I have spent my entire life avoiding?

I first met Deanne in 1989 at Acadia University when we were both doing post graduate studies. She was 10 years younger than I – a Newfoundlander who was not afraid to speak her mind to the professor and put her feet up on the desk in front of her. I was old enough to think that those younger than me still had “lots to learn”. To be honest, sometimes Deanne annoyed me with her honesty! If she thought sometime, she just said it. Not meanly – but matter-of-factly without judgment. Her confidence and charisma were a direct foil to my caution and conscientious school teacher training.

Once we were partners in a career counseling presentation that tested the limits of our friendship. Deanne went home after it was assigned and completed her portion of the project the same day. It was not due for several weeks - which for me meant that you worked on it for several weeks. Procrastination is a by product of perfectionism. If I put it off, I would have an excuse for it not being perfect. The deadline loomed closer. I researched, reread and rewrote. Mostly I grew annoyed with Deanne’s ability to get something done with such relative ease. She was out having fun each evening while I hunkered down in the library. “Where was the partner in this partner presentation?” I complained. My brewing finally bubbled over. We had “words” and I had to take responsibility for my resentment. I learned early on in our friendship that Deanne gets things done. She doesn’t talk about it – she just does it.

Deanne has taught me about the beauty of imperfection. She gave me the word and the world of “Primitive” and it has served me well ever since. When I saw Deanne’s first attempts at rug hooking, they were simple yet striking in their uncomplicated beauty. Like the faces of my newborn children, I loved her mats on first sight. I wanted to create my own mat just as I had wanted to create my own gown from those Simplicity patterns at Goodmans in New Glasgow. Deanne told me I could.

My first mat was a mackerel. Deanne helped me draw the pattern. She taught me how to hold the hook. She encouraged me to relax and not worry about staying within the lines. I knew, too, that she would not finish the fish for me if I grew frustrated. Over time, I clumsily picked away at my fish friend. Sometimes I put it away for months when school start up schedules did not allow for time to do anything settling to the soul. Other times, like when my Mom was hospitalized, I had something to do while sitting by her bedside. One day it was finished. I had finally created something that my mother, my sister or my French Acadian aunts had not. I was more proud of that fish than any academic degree earned. I had made something with my hands that would last longer than a carrot cake. I had created something that maybe one day a future grandchild would place in her home and say wistfully, “This was my grandmother’s.”

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