Do you believe in patina over perfection?
Imperfection and perfection go so hand in hand, and our dark and our light are so intertwined, that by trying to push the darkness or the so-called negative aspects of our life to the side… we are preventing ourselves from the fullness of life. ~ Jeff Bridges
With my prized, Prada tote bag in the crook of my arm, I made my way to the gilded avenue near the Champs-Élysées, Avenue Montaigne. With its dazzling, designer boutiques tucked amongst the cafés where movie stars and models gather, one cannot help but become a part of the fantasy.
I was on a mission to have my bag repaired, and so I passed by each of the alluring windows until I got to the Prada store. I presented my bag to the gentleman at the counter, pointing out the two scratches on the front, and asked if they could remove them. He looked taken aback and shook his head.
“But, Madame, your bag has lived! These marks tell its story and history and show how much you love using it. They are an essential part of its beauty. We must embrace these marks, not try to erase them.”
I stared at him, blinking, while worn-out stories and a long history of my attempts to grasp the shiny rings of Perfection played through my mind. His words were an open window on the first warm day of spring, letting in all the fresh air. I felt my shoulders relax as the weigh of my old thinking hit the counter next to his white-gloved hands.
I thanked him and walked the length of Avenue Montaigne toward the Fashion Museum. What was it, I wondered, that fosters such a desire to keep things… ourselves… pristine?
Recently, I discovered a delightful artisan who handcrafts gorgeous leather traveler’s notebooks. I joined her online community to see how others were using their notebooks and for inspiration on filling pages with color, line drawings, and words.
I began reading threads of conversations and found many were commenting about keeping their notebooks flawless, lamenting over scratches and dings, and setting strategies for protecting their books.
I couldn’t help but smile. Nothing like a mirror held up to one’s old self to show you the distance, however short, you have traveled.
I dug around on the site some more. Amongst the images of notebooks shielded from the world in dust bags and boxes, were photographs of well-worn notebooks with luscious patina, frayed edges, and marks of all stripe. Interior shots of the notebooks showed handwritten calendars, lists of things to do, journal entries, sticky notes, cards tipped in with washi tape, watercolor paintings, stickers, bling, and pictures of family members.
I immediately saw the correlation: those who were afraid to get scratches on their notebooks were also afraid of the blank pages within the covers. Those who embraced and reveled in the signs of wear and use of their notebooks dove into filling pages with abandon.
Initially, the notebook-protecting group far outweighed the notebook-using group. Soon, though, I could see the ripple effect of the truth of the notebook-using group lapping away at the edges of the majority.
That same fresh air that filled my lungs in Paris had begun breathing into the online group.
It caught on quickly, because that is what a taste of Freedom will do for a shriveled soul. Soon, I watched dust bags fly off and notebooks being brought out of seclusion and being filled. Once unbridled from false limits, creative expression ignited. I witnessed a flurry of brushes, pens, markers, glue sticks, and paints.
People were churning out page after page.
Soon, the unique markings on the notebooks became a source of fascination. Pictures highlighting and celebrating scars, flaws, and color variations filled the site. Once people experienced the joy of diving in and playing, they began intentionally distressing their notebooks, wanting to expedite the sense of connection to their creativity from use, adventure, and expression. Patina over perfection.
I was struck by the speed of the transformation within the group. Daring, trying on, giving things a go, and full-on engagement became the new standard.
That transformation is available to all of us.
Once we pierce through the membrane of perfection, we will fight for patina every chance we get and delight in it. We not only crave experiencing someone having smeared his or her creativity and energy onto a page or an object, we want to do the same ourselves. We want patina over perfection for ourselves.
Hiding out in icky, self-judgment closes us off from ourselves and the world. The isolation is painful and punitive. Inches away, though, is the playful zone of possibilities where once we open up and simply try, we (and the world) can see our true reflections in the patina of our creations.