At the Wright family dinner each night, everyone always seemed to have a story to tell. Something happened at school or work, and perhaps a new theory on the universe had recently hatched. Compliments of my father, politics, science, technology and current events graced our table regularly, and I have always admired him as a true, Jeopardy-excelling, information sponge.
His tireless love of learning continues, whether he studies a new way to enhance his MRI images at work, reads a science journal, or checks in to see how other sailors live aboard their boats. When I called my family the other day, my mother said, “Your father’s scuba diving in the living room.” Not literally. Excitedly he re-lived his last scuba certification class, as he exclaimed, “I got a hundred.” Perfect.
In my own efforts to ride the learning curve, I on the other hand usually need to abandon my instinctive desire for perfection, my need to “ace the test.” As a singer and actor, I’ve recently witnessed the power and importance of living and performing in the moment, as a real and flawed person. Isn’t Julia Roberts perfect? No. In fact, her breakthrough role came in Pretty Woman, where her character fantastically broke just about every rule imaginable in a quirky and unapologetically real personality.
My ego would much rather I strive for perfection at every turn, as a safer, more self-protective option. When I cantor at St. Jean Baptiste, trying not to make mistakes leads to one of two problems: errors from my lack of presence in the moment, or fake and stale worship. This weekend, after allowing myself to relax and sing an honest Lord’s Prayer, a perishoner approached me to say how he’d never understood it before hearing my delivery of the prayer. He also told me I sounded like Julia Roberts, and while I’m not quite certain her notoriety comes from singing, I took it as a high and beautifully human compliment.
This week, I’ve decided to use the excuse of the Chinese New Year to further my resolution already set earlier this month: to act with more kindness to myself. Letting go of perfectionism fits perfectly into that plan; although, it seems I may have to work hard to take that word out of my lexicon. As I sing with Opera Collective tonight in the Union Square subway station, I plan to “play with imperfection” (Dallas Travers) and have a grand time just being me. Wish me luck this year of the dragon.