30 Jul Pee, Rain, and Perfection
I must have been five or six when the nuns at school first recruited me to act in a play. The day of the premiere, a Saturday, they asked the cast to come early in the afternoon to go over the last details. We were sitting in a circle in the garden, listening to Mother Meléndez as she explained how it would all work. The meeting went on for a long time and I had to pee. I raised my hand.
“May I be excused to go to the bathroom, Mother?”
“The school is closed right now,” she said. “Go to the fence over there. There is a door to the fields outside. Open the door and you can go right in the field. Nobody will see you.”
I walked to the fence, which was a little far, and turned the door handle. It was locked. No matter how much I strained, I couldn’t open it. I went back to my seat. I didn’t dare interrupt the nun, who was talking very animatedly. Hopefully we would be done soon, and I would make it to a real bathroom.
I sat with my legs crossed. The chair’s metal seat had a filigree pattern with holes. I pressed my legs firmly, but after a few minutes, I couldn’t hold the pee any longer. I watched in horror as it started trickling down the seat’s holes and into the ground.
I closed my eyes and repeated in my head, over and over, as if reciting an incantation, “Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!”
Mother Meléndez stopped talking, looked at me, and jumped off her chair.
“I thought you had gone to the bathroom outside!” She got me up. Now that the chair wasn’t there to contain it, the pee rushed between my legs in a thick, long stream.
“The door was locked,” I said with my eyes lowered, fighting the urge to cry. Fortunately, the stream stopped then, as suddenly as it had started.
“Why didn’t you go inside the garden if the door was locked?” Mother Meléndez didn’t sound mad, just surprised.
“I didn’t know I could do it,” I whispered.
She put her arm around my shoulders. “Don’t worry, come with me. I’ll clean you up.”
She took me to the bathroom in a part of the school I’d never seen. She asked me to take my underwear off, gave me a towel to dry myself, left, and came back with an enormous pair of white cotton panties and a plastic bag to put away my wet, smelly ones.
“Here,” she said, “this will do for now.”
I put the huge knickers on. They went well past my belly button. I was scared they would fall off when I walked, but they stayed put. I went to the theater, sheepishly, expecting to find the others laughing and pointing at me behind my back, but everyone was busy getting in costume and talking excitedly about the premiere.
That evening the play went without a hitch. Nobody mentioned the incident in the garden, then or ever. What a relief!
Perfection is overrated
I don’t know about you, but as this little story illustrates, I always foresee how others will react to my mistakes. What I cook up in my head is usually much worse than what ends up happening. Most people are quite understanding when you mess up, as far as you didn’t intend to harm others.
We crave perfection, and being seen as good, but none of us is always good or does everything perfectly. We all have a dark side and we all commit blunders. Accepting our flaws and our faux pas with compassion is the first step to accepting others as whole, imperfect human beings.
I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert. Perfectionism is just a version of fear.
Cut yourself some slack. You don’t need to be perfect all the time. And cut other people some slack. They don’t need you to be perfect in order to appreciate you and love you.
Do you fret for days about your blunders and try to always be perfect?