Almost a decade ago, I was working at a small, beautiful gift shop which sold home accessories, house plants, furnishings, and the like. It was the kind of place you could stop into on the way to a party, and find the perfect housewarming, or host/hostess gift in no time.
Among our most popular items during my time there were ceramic word stones: tiny, pearly-white, shiny, perfect. Each one was imprinted with a single word: Live. Joy. Laugh. Intention. There were dozens of different words, all meant to inspire, and uplift. I fell in love with their simplicity and purchased a stone to keep on my desk, choosing the thing I desired (and still desire) most; the thing that those of us with OCD work so hard to maintain day-to-day: Focus.
It was my hope that simply having this little stone to look at every so often would put that word in the forefront of my mind, and help me to stay on track with whatever I happened to be doing. That’s a lot of responsibility for one little stone, but it did the trick.
When I was feeling overwhelmed, I would hold the Focus stone, feel its smoothness, the groove of the letters, and just meditate on the word. I began carrying it in my pocket, and during times of stress I would stop, pull it out and hold it in my palm.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
One day at work, we received a surprise gift from the distributor along with our regular order of word stones (which we were constantly restocking, because they sold so fast). In this surprise gift were two misprints: “Creaie” (create) and “Gtve” (Give). My fellow employees and I shared a good laugh over these, and the stones stuck around in the stockroom for a few days.
A short time later, our boss decided to clear the stockroom of clutter, and the two imperfect word stones were thrown out. I happened to be working that day, and noticed them in the trash, staring up at me.
I asked him why he threw them away, and he said, “We can’t sell them, they’re no good.” I nodded, and said, “OK,” but walked away shaking my head. I couldn’t have disagreed more. They ARE good, I was thinking, struggling to make sense of his decision. Aren’t they? Then I had an epiphany. Something clicked.
In that moment I realized something imperfect is, in its own way, also perfect. Imperfection IS a form of perfection, and by extension, being flawed does not mean one is any more or less valid than that which is, seemingly, without flaw.
Having spent my life struggling to keep everything as perfect as possible, my head was practically swimming with this new realization. Imperfection isn’t something to hide, or throw away, or fix. It’s something to treasure because it’s unique. It was a big lesson to learn from some little stones, and it did the trick.
Later in the day, when no one was around, I fished them out of the trash. (Don’t worry, it was mostly packing materials we couldn’t recycle, so it wasn’t that bad.) I rinsed them off in the stockroom sink, dried them on my shirt, and put them in my pocket with the Focus stone.
They clicked against each other in my pocket on my short walk home, click click click, and sat together on my desk for years afterward.
Focus. Creaie. Gtve.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of perfect, pearly-white word stones out there in the world. I should know, I sold a lot of them myself. Live. Joy. Laugh. Intention. But my word stones are special. Mine are perfectly imperfect, insignificant and, at the same time, invaluable; flawed treasures I keep in a place in my home where I am sure to see them, every single day.
I struggle with focus to this day. I probably always will. I’ve come to accept that as part of who I am. Some days will be worse than others; some days I’ll need more than a small stone to get me through. I accept that too. I accept imperfection in me, and in others.I am grateful every day for what my three stones taught me about how to ltve:
Focus. Creaie. Gtve.
In the comments below, please share things that are important to you, and tell your story about them. Something that might be insignificant to someone else, but invaluable to you.
Photo Image by Daniel.
Daniel lives in Portland, and is the administrator/voice of OCD Andy, a page which casts a satirical light on his life with OCD and social anxiety. His favorite word is ‘Nope’. You can find Daniel as OCD Andy on his Facebook page at facebook.com/OCDAndy and on Twitter.
You may view all of Daniel’s MHT guest posts by clicking here.