Imperfection Peeling paint building in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Embracing Imperfection: 3 Magical Ways Mexico Is Causing Me To Love My Flaws

I have a confession to make. I am used to be a perfectionist. (OK, I’m working on it). I have come to realize that I am very hard on myself, and that definitely makes me enjoy life a lot less. I guess I started realizing that I needed to give up “perfect” before I even got here.

As I was selling everything I owned, I realized just how much stuff I had. And why? Well, most of it was dishes. Why did I have so many plates, shot glasses, martini glasses, brandy snifters, shrimp forks, and salt cellars?

Because I used to give “perfect” dinner parties. I wanted every dish I served to be put on the perfect plate. I wanted every drink to be served in the perfect glass. But something happened at these dinner parties.

I would spend so much time while my guests were there “creating perfect” that by the time I was finally able to relax and settle in to enjoy my guests, everyone was ready to go home. And, I was left exhausted, cleaning up the kitchen for two days after the parties were over. But, do you want to know about the best dinner “party” that I had, the one I have the fondest memories of?

It was the last one, that wasn’t really a dinner party. I had some lovely friends come over to help me set up the garage sale that I was having. I knew we would be hungry at the end of the night, so the night before I soaked some ground lamb in some red wine.

That afternoon, I cooked it with garlic, basil, oregano, and tomatoes. It simmered on the stove while we worked.  I served it on the pasta on paper plates (shocking, I know). My friends brought a salad. I opened a bottle of red wine. The only table I had left was a table for two, but all four of us crowded around the outdoor table to eat.

We had to put our salads on the ground because there was no room for them on the table. (There was no room on the table for people’s cell phones, either, which was GREAT!) We had worked very hard, and never had food tasted so good. We were maybe a little delirious at this point, but I remember laughing more than I had in a long time. I remember the gratefulness I felt for my friends who came to help me.

And it was then, I finally got it. This was the point of having dinner parties. Not the perfect food or the perfect stemware. I realized that I didn’t have to work for days to give a dinner party. This spontaneous gathering with all of its imperfection was perhaps the perfect dinner party that I had ever thrown. And no one had ever put the pressure on me to give the elaborate ones that I had. I had done it to myself, and missed out on the moment. I thought of all the other ways that my trying to do things perfectly had caused me to miss out. 

Painting in Bali Imperfection

It wasn’t until I was 38 years old, that I finally decided to take a painting lesson in Bali.  I had always been afraid because I didn’t think I would be “good enough”. But you know what? I decided to sign up for the lesson anyway. I gave myself permission to just have fun and not worry about the final result. And you know what? I had so much fun!! I felt myself just get lost and have the playful energy of a kid again. And you know what else? I really liked my painting. Now, I’m taking a five-week online course with Flora Bowley, one of my favorite painters, and her greatest lesson is to just follow your intuition and enjoy the painting process, and not to worry about it being perfect.

This lesson has been further ingrained in me by moving to Mexico.  But being in Mexico, I’ve had to learn to embrace imperfection. And I’ve realized something, its imperfections only add to its charms. Hmm, could that be the same with me? After all, who wants to be around someone who is perfect? Here are the beautiful imperfections I’ve learned to embrace here:

 1.  Learning The Language

I will be honest. I’m having a bit of a hard time learning Spanish. Oh, I can remember the words for things, but I am having the hardest time learning about the masculine and feminine nouns, the verb tenses changing with the nouns, and all of that. Actually, putting it all together in a sentence? It terrifies me. But, I made a decision one day that I wouldn’t worry about sounding stupid.  I would just try my best. And you know what?  I find that I can usually be understood, and that the locals appreciate me trying to speak their language. I also make the best of every opportunity when I am with a local. I make every cab driver  teach me new words as I point to things I don’t know the words for and ask what they are in Español.

I am now having fun and I’m no longer worried about having to speak perfectly. Oh, speaking of imperfection, almost every taxi driver I am riding with has managed to hit the car in front of him. So, I’ve been in like 17 car wrecks since I’ve been here! Ok, so when it comes to driving, maybe perfection is a GOOD thing. I’m still not sure what to make of this one. (Let’s just say that when I can, I walk!)

Imperfection Coffee cup

2.  Learning To Love The Chips, The Cracks, The Mistakes

Would you believe that I was heartbroken when I discovered that the coffee cup I had brought back to the US after a trip to Oaxaca was chipped. At least I didn’t throw it out. I used it to hold my dish sponges. But, now that I’m living in Mexico, I’m finding that just about every cup I drink out of is chipped. And now I see the chips in a different way. They seem to give the cups more character. The same with the buildings of cracked paint.  Where the paint is cracked, you get to see all the colors that the buildings used to be, the brick underneath the paint.  I find it quite beautiful.

And you know what? These cracks have helped me embrace my own mistakes. They let me celebrate my humanness, and help me forgive others more easily when they make mistakes. This reminds me of the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi, seeing beauty in things imperfect. The Japanese actually make vases with imperfections in them, as they feel these are more beautiful than perfect ones. When I admit my mistakes, I find I am able to bring more love to myself than when I try to pretend that I am perfect.

Cobblestones in San Miguel de Allende

3.  Walking Over The Cobblestones

Really, I’ve never really been that graceful (OK, that’s an understatement-yes I’m usually the one to walk right smack dab into the sliding glass door). But, these cobblestones here in San Miguel have made me feel like I must look like a duck waddling between them, jumping between rain puddles  I don’t understand. The people who have lived here seem to do just fine.

They look at me like I am their entertainment on their night’s walk as I hop, hop, skip from one to the other and usually manage to fall in a puddle anyway. I always have mud on the bottoms of my pants, while the Mexicans are clean and spotless. Well, I’m learning to laugh at myself which looks doubly funny as I hop, skip, fall down these bumpy roads.  And I really don’t want to be in another car wreck, so I just keep practicing walking down the street, just like I’m practicing my Spanish and my painting, and living my life full of joy with the happy realization that nothing’s perfect. I am allowed to make all the mistakes that I want, as long as I keep having fun.

How are you embracing imperfection?  Let me know in the comments below!

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Val Dawson in San Miguel de Allende