How my Dad’s imperfect house made me love him even more

Today my Dad’s house is on the market. Once it’s sold, there will be no physical location any more to remember him, apart from his grave. My heart feels heavy.

My Dad was very proud of the fact that, apart from putting up the walls and the roof, he had done practically everything himself. That was no small feat in a house with three floors and nine bedrooms. But when my sisters and I were preparing the house for the sale, it became painfully obvious that he was not such a good builder.

Many of us are scared to put what we create out into the world for others to enjoy it. Because we believe that it’s not good enough, we keep fiddling and tweaking, and sometimes we even abandon the whole project because we think it’s not worthy to be shared with others. I certainly have been guilty of that.

You could wonder whether any creation ever is perfect. Who determines that anyway? Whose criteria do you go by? When it was still there, the little voice in my head would often be concerned with what ‘they’ might think, but who is ‘they’? I’d be so crazy that even when crossing the road, for example, I’d imagine the driver of the car that needed to stop, having an opinion about whether I was walking fast enough, or was friendly enough.

Restless

A side-effect of this kind of inner broadcast is that its owner can never sit still. We’re always busy making ourself useful. Achieve we must! When he was younger, my Dad would encourage me to ‘keep flapping my hands.’ Often we’d engage in some project together. As he became more immobile, he’d insist that I sit down with him. I’d oblige, but feel restless.

I don’t think he was concerned with what ‘they’ might say, or if he was, he must have imagined ‘them’ to say nice things about him. He was a writer, a thinker, a musician, a painter, a performer, and throughout my life he also has been doing up houses, designing and constructing gardens and ponds with great enthousiasm and creativity. Several times, he created his own little paradise where he loved to entertain as many people as possible. He threw many a memorable party, for grown-ups and children alike. His ‘joie de vivre’ was infectious.

But his electricity, plastering or tiling work turned out to have its flaws. My sisters and I (yes, all three of us have the building bug too) spent many days over the last three months to make the house and its huge garden presentable and sellable. Over the course, I made one remarkable discovery.

I noticed that when we were confronted with the many shortcuts our father took, the little botch jobs and all the things we had to re-do, it only made us love him more.

I’m inviting you to contemplate that. If you ever feel held back by the anxiety that what you have created might not be good enough, that you might not be pleasing enough, remember that imperfection makes you more loveable rather than less. Please, give yourself permission to be your imperfect self.

A while ago I recorded a short audio in which I explore this mindset shift. You can click on this link, to listen to it for free.

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