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“Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”  Les Brown — quote from The Artist’s Way

My friends in the workforce are beginning to daydream about their post-retirement lives.  One hopes to volunteer as an overseas English teacher while another plans to serve the elderly in some capacity.

Unlike my friends, I held no lofty goals when I retired eight years ago.  Instead I left a twenty-three year accounting career behind with two humble goals in mind — to read more for the pure pleasure of reading and to learn how to make pie crust.

Coming to know myself as I have during the last three years, it’s no surprise that the goal that required work was the one I accomplished while the one that required play is still blowing in the wind.  I am, after all, a recovering workaholic with perfectionist tendencies, which is to say, I tend to engage in never-ending work when I’m at my worst.  Meanwhile, my stack of unread books continues to grow and gather dust.

I uncovered the seeds of my problem during an Ignatius retreat last year.  But it was three years ago that I came to name perfectionism as the root to my problem.  I was reading a self-help book when I ran across these words in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way:

“To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement.  The perfectionist calls this humility.  In reality, it is egotism.   It is pride that makes us want to write a perfect script, paint a perfect painting, perform a perfect audition monologue.

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best.  It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough — that we should try again…..

….We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly.  Instead, we opt for setting our limits at the point where we feel assured of success.  Living within these bounds, we may feel stifled, smothered, despairing, bored.  But, yes, we do feel safe.  And safety is a very expensive illusion.  ….Once we are willing to accept that anything worth doing might even be worth doing badly our options widen.  “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly, I would try….””

How would you complete the rest of that sentence?  My three-year old list included modern dance, learning a foreign language, writing short stories and taking a watercolor class.   But writing was my biggest pie-in-the-sky desire.  In the case of writing, it was better to live with a dream than with the possibility of failure — in other words, it was better to be safe than sorry.

As silly as it now sounds, I once held similar fears about making pie crust.  Now I just get in there and do my best.  And this morning, the pie crust I rolled out was far from perfect.  Yet.  Once it was stuffed with a nice quiche filling, it ended up fulfilling its purpose perfectly with no one noticing its imperfections.

Could this truth apply to the human experience as well?  Could it be… that as imperfect as this human is, that I can fulfill my purpose as long as I remember to remain empty —  that is to remain humble —  so that I can be filled with something good — like God?

To be humble is easier said than done.  To be humble is to realize I can never be perfect.  To be humble is to realize that I am not my work and that my work is not me.  To be a humble is to realize that I must learn to let go — for the entire human experience is an exercise in letting go, as we let go of our stuff and our loved ones until all that we have left at end of our days is to let go of our own lives.

To be human may not be as easy as pie — though I for one, have never found making pie or pie crust easy — but its worth the effort, the time and the risk of failure with a trash can full of rejected pie crust.  To be human means “it’s no better to be safe than sorry.”  Life is full of a-ha moments… and perhaps more than a few servings of humble pie.

Simple Quiche

1 9 inch pie crust, baked to light brown

3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 cups light sour cream
Dash of salt, white pepper, garlic powder and Tabasco sauce
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
2 cups of pre-cooked chopped meat and vegetables  e.g.s (broccoli and ham) (spinach and bacon) (sausage and mushroom)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sour cream and seasoning with a wire whip.  Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into pastry shell.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until set and lightly browned on top.  Cool on wire rack for ten minutes before slicing.

Serve with a cup of soup or your favorite green or fruit salad.