I made a promise over the summer. I promised I would iron appliqués on the girls’ backpacks to celebrate the new school year. The girls and I shopped for the appliqués, and I stored them in the pockets of the backpacks and promptly forgot about them. Then I had sinus surgery and spent the week before the start of school recovering. On the day before school began, I pulled out the backpacks, and Audrey announced, “It’s time to put on those patches. I want to go first!” I was horrified. I was functioning on pain meds, and the world was blurry. But I had promised so I heated the iron. Soon I learned that holding my head down to focus on ironing the fabric caused drainage as well as searing pain. I looked up from the ironing board, and Audrey, my first grader, inquired, “Are you doing that right?” At that point, the task became a challenge, but I persevered until the butterfly and stars were ironed into place . . . crookedly.
I like my work to be done with attention to detail. The butterfly was listing to the side somewhat near the center of the pocket. I was annoyed with myself. I had spent all that energy and effort to iron appliqués on crookedly. I found myself brainstorming solutions for how to get that appliqué off and then sew it on, or to ask my husband to purchase another on his way home from work. Then I decided, crooked is okay. Audrey and Eve were pleased with their newly embellished bags so why was I obsessed about whether or not it was perfect?
I recalled a summer morning when I was sitting on the beach just in the edge of the surf. I was hypnotized by the rhythm of the water ebbing and flowing. My fingers were worrying some pebbles I had found in the sand. The pebbles were perfectly smooth. I thought, “I want to be like this pebble. I want some of my rough edges to be smoothed away. I want to be okay letting things be and not always striving to do more and be more.”
Recovering from sinus surgery rubbed off some of my rough edges. I learned I can’t always give my best effort to every task, and even more importantly, not every task necessitates my very best effort. To me, the appliqués had to be done with precision, but for my girls, it was just that Mom needed to keep her promise. As I continue to recover, I find myself slipping into that rough-edged person who reads every single word on all the back-to-school papers. I am trying to hang on to that person with the smoother edges. I want to relax into letting crooked be okay . . . at least sometimes.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.