Accepting Imperfection and Making Peace with Our “Piece in Progress”

The Traveler

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Unknown

I'm back in New York City after touring for the last five years as a global musical scientist.

My international and domestic sonic experiments took me all over the world to exotic lands and faraway locales.

I climbed the Inca Trail for four days straight while combating altitude sickness, learning how to speak at low capacity oxygen levels (imagine Darth Vader), and hemoglobin adaptation became my mantra.

I also wrote and recorded a number one single in Copenhagen, Denmark. Likewise, I traveled to France, Finland, Russia, and Spain, as well as several national stops: Austin, Texas, DC, Boston, California (twice), and Hawaii, to name a few.

I even lived with a Costa Rican family and became a real ‘tico' in San Ramon. Furthermore, I discovered a floating village in Cambodia, talked art science shop in Singapore, and had the backs of my knees lit on fire with moxibustion in Koh Samui, Thailand.

Sounds glamorous, but in all that life spice the one consistency was myself, and let me tell you, you can really get to you.  

As wonderfully liberating and bohemian as it was to pick up and play from country to country, from foreign foods, cultures and languages, to random rules, regulations, and rites of passages, it also became a constant struggle to perfect the adventures.

Naturally, practical fears ensued: How would I finance myself on the road from tour to tour? What would happen if I couldn't understand the language? How would I be able to reach anyone in the middle of the Amazon?

But the worst mind chatter came from my own self-doubt: How is this record manifesting given the fact that I have a unfamiliar, makeshift studio instead of my usual recording space? Is this one gigantic failure?

Does anyone understand what I'm doing or what I mean? Can anyone hear those ambient birds behind the vocal and piano line? Is there even a piano at the next stop? Wait, why am I doing this again? What is a musical scientist?

I was obsessed with perfection, particularly as it related to my work, and it was starting to take the fun out of my experience.  

As an artist/scientist hybrid, I usually feel balanced between the creative and logistical, but the need to perfect my experiments started to weigh on the childlike, free, and non-judgmental parts of myself.

I was striving for my work to be a huge success upon initial conception instead of letting the manifestations of failures become the real magic in process.

It was during my time in Singapore while visiting a friend that I developed a perspective change to help me combat this uber desire to micromanage my situations.

With eighteen hours on the plane to think, I began to imagine that we all have a life pie with slices representing certain parts of our life. For instance, each sector could be divided into finance, love, health, relationships, career, and so forth.

It dawned on me that the majority of the folks I met and had deep conversations with on my travels shared stories of their imperfect piece(s): “I lost my job,” or “She dumped me,” or “I come from a messed up family.”

It was often easier for people, myself included, to dwell on the missing segment, the piece that didn't match the others, and focus on trying to tweak the weak.  

The pattern I recognized was that no soul's life pie was ever completely maximized, at least not at the same time. There's always a “piece in progress.” Maybe one, two, perhaps even half the pie didn't look like the rest.

I visualized a life pie like a leaky faucet. As soon as you fix one of the spouts, the pressure adjusts to the other side, and pretty soon you're exhausted trying to Band-Aid all these pressure points.

I'm reminded of my favorite tale, “The Story of The Golden Buddha,” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

To paraphrase, approximately 300 years ago, the Burmese army planned to invade Thailand.

Thai monks had an incredibly gorgeous golden Buddha statue within their monastery and wanted to protect their treasured possession during the attack, so they covered the statue with dirt, clay, and sticks.

As the Burmese pressed into Thailand, they killed all the monks, but left the precious Buddha be, as it was disguised.

During the mid 1950s, the monastery was relocated to make way for city developments, and as the monks began moving the Buddha, the clay began to crack and fall to the floor. Only then, after all that time, did the gold underneath begin to shine.

To me, the tale's a constant reminder that we, like the golden Buddha, spend too much precious time cloaking ourselves with mud in the form of societal coding, personal pressures, and expectations deeply fixed in fear.  

But, by accepting these self-perceived shortcomings as part of the bigger picture, we realize that we each have our own labyrinth as we go through life. This is how we learn life's lessons, slowly revealing more of our golden uniqueness.

If we obsess about perfection, we'll just stay stagnant and idle instead of moving forward with our pieces in progress, allowing them to be part of the journey toward self-realization.

Even the gravitationally bound system consisting of stars, dust, and matter that constitutes our universe has endless imperfections, such as windstorms, black holes, and galactic hurricanes.

If we, as humans, are living in this totality of existence rooted in chaos, we can only expect to mirror it. Understanding that there’s nothing wrong with us for having imperfect life pies can help us make peace with our piece in progress—and ourselves.

Photo by Matteo.Mazzoni

About Melanie Edwards

Global musical scientist, Melanie Edwards, is a classically trained pianist, violinist, singer and songwriter who also studied nuclear science.  Touring worldwide with her symphonic lab, she captivates audiences with her haunting vocals and complex melodies. Edwards negates predictable pop formulas, often incorporating her fans into the mix and improvising song sketches.  Her albums are available on iTunes and Amazon.

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  • Love this! It’s — (dare I say?) perfect! 😉

    I’m having to constantly remind myself that perfection does not exist and it’s not something I have to live up to — thinking that I do only makes me feel miserable, limited and small. When I let go of those impossible expectations, it’s like releasing a giant weight and I’m free to soar 🙂 Thanks for sharing your own experience with that process.

  • DE

    Well written Melanie,- Nobody is perfect, we all have imperfections. instead of dwelling on our imperfections, if we are aware of them and concentrate on our perfect side and love ourselves ( self love), life seems to be happier. Difficult to practice, but trying.

  • Guest

    Hello DE! Thanks for your kind words & I’m happy you enjoyed reading! YES — it is challenging in the midst of shenpa + attachment to free ourselves from judgement. But, as you stated, as long as we are aware and keep trying, we can gain clearer perspective and let that golden bliss shine. Namaste!

  • Hello DE! Thanks for your kind words & I’m happy you enjoyed reading! YES — it is challenging in the midst of shenpa + attachment to free ourselves from judgement. But, as you stated, as long as we are aware and keep trying, we can gain clearer perspective and let that golden bliss shine. Namaste!

  • Hi loving_what_is! I appreciate you taking the time to comment and reflect on this post. Likewise, thank you for sharing your ‘letting go’ experience with me! I agree, wholeheartedly, that freeing ourselves from our own habitual coding, based on a whole slew of projections, frees up our true inner spirit. Then we’re weightless, unbound and free to exist in the space of pure creativity and potential. Namaste!

  • Makayla

    I’m ALWAYS focused on what I need to improve, have, achieve, etc. Accepting my imperfect life is a goal that’s hard for me to reach. I think so many of us try to hide the incomplete pieces, making others believe we have it all together! It’s a cycle… seeing other people with “perfect” lives & comparing it to your own.. oh my.. what a life.

  • Anonymous Dreamer

    This made me tear up. This has been my constant dilemma my entire life: focusing on the missing pieces of the pie and wondering why I’m not good enough to have the whole thing. It’s getting better, slowly, and I don’t beat myself up as often as I used to when I was a teenager (I’m 24 now) but there’s still a lot of work to be done. However, now I’m trying my best to reframe my mindset and to focus on taking those little steps so I can eventually embody my life purpose, which I’ve been fortunate enough to identify through all the pain I’ve experienced in my life.

  • Hey Makayla! Thanks for your note and sharing your experience. I understand and definitely relate to your sentiments, particularly living in the digital age. The human condition of egoic state often presents itself via comparisons (such as “keeping up with the Joneses”) and the internet + social media is a hyper version of this phenomenon, which essentially is the ego thinking “if I had this, or that, or more, or better, or perfect…THEN, I’ll be happy.” However, the space of simply being, despite what the ego deems missing, helps me realize that there will always be pieces in progress. By changing perspective and becoming aware that my ego is looking for comparisons and distractions, I am able to find peace in “imperfection.” Furthermore, yoga, meditation and breath work are tools that assist me in clearing space during such challenging situations of self judgement. Namaste!

  • Hey Anonymous Dreamer! Awww, I appreciate your note and thank you so much for relaying your dilemma. It’s the collective struggle of humankind, which is individually manifested (especially in Western culture) to achieve, conquer, be better, perfect, outstanding–based on a set of societal projections and creeds. The mind is a muscle and often remains fixated on habitual patterns (muscle memory) to deal with the ego, by providing fuel to stay alive via fear (in the form of judgments, binary conclusions, comparisons, etc.) Your healthy approach to reframe your mindset, focusing on the little steps to gain clearer perspective is the key in ego dissolution! Very grateful to you for sharing that information, both personally and for all who frequent this forum!

  • The lost mystic

    Thank you for such honest expression. We struggle to attain an ideal of a “good life” prescribed by our culture and that creates the illusion of struggling to be human. Yet we are human. Have you ever seen a tree struggle to be a tree or a blade of grass struggle to be a blade of grass? It is easy to forget that we humans are in and of nature and nature is
    perfectly imperfect. That yes the gold is within and we are each one of
    us more than enough. Offer Love and Compassion to all including yourself.

  • Hello The lost mystic! Thank you so much for reading and your kind words! Also, I really appreciate your testimony. It’s very interesting, as I just used a blade of grass example in conversation with my friend, yesterday. To parallel your sentiments, I said that what we resist will ultimately persist — and watching a blade of grass in the wind is the best example of surrendering. It doesn’t fight or ‘do’ anything, but rather simply exists, bends with the wind gusts and rides out the chaos. It’s through that flexibility that it doesn’t crack and break. I am grateful to you for your examples and taking the time to share with us. Fantastic reminders. Have a beautiful day!

  • The lost mystic

    You have a lovely evening as well, wise lady.

  • Hi Fiddlejo! Thanks for your note and I am really looking forward to reading your rant!!! I’m sure it will be just what I need this morning. Appreciate your stopping by and sharing with me. Namaste!