When Good Is Good Enough

February 22, 2016


Writers are never satisfied with what we write. We strain to find the le mot juste, the perfect right word for the perfect right spot. We write and rewrite, edit and re-edit, until we reach a point when we have to stop fussing and let someone else read our pearls of wisdom. Or not, if they don’t like what we send out.

Life is like being a writer. Sometimes good is good enough. Sometime good isn’t enough and only perfection will do. Let’s look at housekeeping for a good example.

My house used to be fantastically clean when I worked. When I retired, I realized I didn’t want to be Martha Stewart and redecorate table tops for each season or power wash my decorative baskets fall and spring to remove dust. Don’t get me wrong. My house is clean, well, except for under one bed where I decided to name the dust bunnies. They are incredibly cute and lovable. I no longer feel compelled to clean daily. Once a week is good enough. Not the kitchen, of course, or the bathrooms, all of which get wiped down every day.

So, this week when a friend called, dumped me on speaker phone and expected me to mediate an argument he was having with his 26-year-old son, I was astonished. First, I can’t mediate over the phone. I can’t look at a room from afar and determine if it is clean enough. My friend refused to admit he has OCD, but he mops the kitchen floor every friggin’ day. And he has neither toddlers nor pets.

His son is in my camp. If he keeps his room uncluttered, it’s good enough for him. He is bi-polar, but that has nothing to do with how he maintains his room. The argument began over the state of the son’s room not being pristine. Did I say the house is on the market? It is. Father believes it will only sell if it looks like no one lives there. I don’t know what they do about cooking smells. Really I don’t.

Well, this argument progressed to name calling. At one point, I hung up with father told son he was lying. I’d had enough of that with Donald Trump calling his opponents liars. Since I wasn’t there, I had no clue if son was lying or not. I lean toward not, because I know how hard son has worked to clean up his act. Father threw out accusations he used a year ago; son followed with his own year-old accusations.

The result of this mess was me hanging up, texting with son, and having my calls ducked by father. I wanted to spank them both and shout, “Man up” or “Grow the Ef Up.” I didn’t do either. I merely ask how they can reach detente and realize that for most of us, good is more than good enough.

How many of you have had similar situations where perfection is unachievable and good has to be good enough?

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  • Reply cindeebee February 22, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    “Perfection is unachievable” makes me think of Malcolm Lowry, who spent years rewriting and editing “Under the Volcano” until someone finally pried it out of his perfectionist hands and published it. If he’d kept at it, he would have ruined one of the 100 greatest books of the last century.

    “Good is more than good enough” makes me think of hosting a book club with a local author at my house. I had to let go of the anxiety over how my house looked or that I served store-bought baked goods rather than homemade ones. It was about the book and author experience, not my skills as a domestic engineer.

    I love your insights!

    • Reply betsyashton February 22, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks so much, Cindee. I gave up the idea of perfection long ago. And when I visit book clubs, either in person or via Skype, I don’t care about their houses. I care about the people in them.

      BTW, I visit book clubs that read mysteries and women’s fiction all the time. If yours might be interested… http://www.betsy-ashton.com/home.html

      I never pass up a chance to talk with people. LOL

  • Reply pdroberts1 February 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    One of those mornings when good has to be good enough: I just typed a long comment which didn’t post and is now lost in Pixil Land.

    My house wasn’t just clean; I Q-tipped the baseboards. I never really stopped cleaning. I confess that today I still pretty much clean as I go, as you seem to, but some combination of making it to seventy and having a nine-month-old grandson who is the absolute love of my life, as redefined perfection. My house is filled-I believe I can safely use the word “cluttered”-with a bouncy seat that takes up a corner of the living room, a basket overflowing with toys, a well-stocked diaper bag, a stash of bottles, a newly-opened container of formula, a high chair. Some days I can barely make it through the obstacle course of Vaughn’s equipment and the cat toys.

    Perfection is holding that warm baby in my comfortable rocking chair, unwashed bottles in the sink, lunch dishes still on the table, hearing his contented sounds as he drifts off to sleep.

    When his parents arrive and take him home, the toys will be put away, the table will be cleared, the dishes and bottles will be washed, the counters wiped, possibly even the rugs vacuumed. But chances are you won’t be able to eat off my kitchen floor.

    Today this is as good as it gets. I call it perfection.

    • Reply betsyashton February 22, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      I just wish father and son could see a common ground. Right now, they don’t. They are missing so much by being dug into their positions.

  • Reply theowllady February 28, 2016 at 12:53 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    • Reply betsyashton February 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Thank you, The Owl Lady, for sharing this post. I’m honored.

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