Sunday, June 24, 2012

Happy Accidents, Beneficial Mistakes, or Mistakes That Aren't

Sometimes in life what appears to be a mistake turns out not to be. I was reminded of this when the proof, a review copy, of my new collection of poetry, Memory in Silhouette, arrived the other day. My first reaction was "Damn! The front isn't what I submitted. Now I'll have to fix it."

So I opened the file and noticed it was my error... well, not entirely my error. Someone else helped me with a problem I was having, and that someone else adjusted the margins for the photo. I never fixed it, so it was a combination of two people making errors.

I left the room to get a cup of hot tea, and when I came back I noticed the book lying on my desk almost like I hadn't seen it before. I thought. "Wow! That actually might look better than the original..."

I fixed the file on my computer and saved it but didn't upload it. I kept going back to the "mistake" cover. The more I looked at it, the better I liked it. It had a dreaminess... It almost seemed to be reaching toward something unlike the original which now looked to me like it drifted into blackness.

I asked a couple of people what they thought because, well, the cover needs to attract an audience...
With everyone agreeing the "mistake" was the better cover, I decided to go with it. I approved the proof and finished the process to publish Memory in Silhouette: Poems .

This little event made me think though.

A happy accident also resulted in the photo that became the cover of Reflections in Silhouette: Poems . During the photo shoot, the model moved while the shutter was open. These shots required the model to hold very still, so still she even held her breath. A cramp forced an involuntary movement while the shutter was open resulting in a ghost-like figure who appeared to be disappearing. Since many of the poems were reflections on the loss of self, it seemed fitting. The shot I intended to throw away became the cover, and my second favorite picture from the photo shoot. For those wondering, the photo that became the cover of Love in Silhouette: Poems was my favorite of the shoot.

How often in life does something we think is a mistake, a blunder, an accident, turn out to have some unexpected benefit? How often does the thing we think is so terrible end up being better than the thing we wanted to begin with? How often does that blurted out truth free us from a stifling silence that is killing us?
Sometimes mistakes are there to show us what we need to fix. At times a mistake shows what what we never want to do again. Other times the purpose of a mistake is to show us there's something better than what we envisioned.

As someone with tendencies toward perfectionism, it's often hard for me to let go of what I envision as perfect and accept something that is excellent or perhaps even better than what I thought would be perfect.

My image of perfection can be blinding if I'm not careful. It has blinded me to solutions. It has blinded me to the truth of my reality. It has blinded me to own wishes and desires. I lost sight of the excellence life offered me because I so busy pursuing perfection.

Sometimes in that moment of a mistake is a lesson or a new path presenting itself or a beautiful new opportunity for our heart's true desires, but we miss it because we're so focused on seeking the perfection that is the image in our minds. We turn away the imperfect guy who ignores our imperfections or loves us because of them. We refuse the career opportunity because it's not what is considered the norm. We walk away from a friendship because the other person can't meet every need. We stay in a relationship because our minds tell us it looks perfect so it must be. We hold on to a fantasy instead of risking reality because we know reality can never be perfect. We end up miserable because we're trying so hard to be perfect we can't recognize and accept good when it shows up in our lives.

Maybe it's time to take another look at those happy accidents, beneficial mistakes, or other imperfections we've turned away because they didn't meet our image of perfection...

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