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In my last post, I wrote using a line from Mary Oliver: “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Today, I turn to a wonderful poem by Elizabeth Carlson, Imperfection. What does it mean to be imperfect as I explore what I will do with my one wild and precious life?

In pursusing what it means to live this one and wild precious life, one needs to fall “in love with [their] imperfections.” One of my imperfections might be I continuously and restlessly explore where my life is taking me. In a way, I find an echo of Thomas Merton in this, and I paraphrase, some pursue what calls us without finding it and that is our calling.

I am unsure it is that straightforward and I sense what I have done is ignored where I am at in life, ignoring what makes me who I am with each imperfection. One such imperfection might be I lock in on a particular quality and allow it to define me more broadly.

Instead of discerning what is in front of me, I focus on things I do not control. Henri Nouwen wrote a beautiful book, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. In it, he suggests people, events, and signs are put in front of each of us to guide us in life. I defined myself as a teacher for most of my adult life and it was hard to set this aside.

I realize the likeliehood of returning to the classroom is remote. There are prevailing biases in play e.g. age . It appears few, if any, post-secondardy institutions want an aging male who does not fit their paradigm of a professor. Yet, the signs were there, despite my imperfections, something was calling. Over the past year, I co-authored a published paper and was invited to join in several other writing projects, joined a peer review journal board, and, most recently, was invited to submit proposals emerging from my dissertation.

The challenge is to get past an imperfection such as a single way of defining one’s self. Maybe someone will overlook age, gender, race, etc. and invite me to teach in their institution. I have to be awake to who appears and, at this time, it is people asking me to write and be part of those projects.

I am falling in love
with my imperfections
The way I never get the sink really clean,
forget to check my oil,
lose my car in parking lots,
miss appointments I have written down,
am just a little late.

I am learning to love
the small bumps on my face
the big bump of my nose,
my hairless scalp,
chipped nail polish,
toes that overlap.
Learning to love
the open-ended mystery
of not knowing why

I am learning to fail
to make lists,
use my time wisely,
read the books I should.

Instead I practice inconsistency,
irrationality, forgetfulness.

Probably I should
hang my clothes neatly in the closet
all the shirts together, then the pants,
send Christmas cards, or better yet
a letter telling of
my perfect family.

But I’d rather waste time
listening to the rain,
or lying underneath my cat
learning to purr.

I used to fill every moment
with something I could
cross off later.

Perfect was
the laundry done and folded
all my papers graded
the whole truth and nothing but

Now the empty mind is what I seek
the formless shape
the strange off center
sometimes fictional

I leave you with a quote from Henri Nouwen and a picture.

“Where does my complete flowering as a human being connect with the needs of the world?”

While I stand by the turbulent river, I take time to listen and observe carefully what moves me in this moment to make the world a better place.


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

21 responses »

  1. You present such wonderful topics for reflection. I’m in total agreement as to the wavering of my priorities, swinging back and forth from that which I can, and can’t control. I spend an inordinate amount of time considering what exactly are my skills and how might they meet the needs of the world? I do this while I’m folding laundry, grading papers, and emptying the dishwasher – my contemplative time, where I find the space to let my thoughts breath. Thanks for sharing such thought provoking material.

  2. These thoughts often drift through my mind just as I awaken in the morning. What should I be doing to help someone today? Often, putting my thoughts in an article or letter touches more people in a positive way than anything else I might do.

  3. All thoughts for contemplation. As I read I was surprised at how much of this I could relate to to. And made me laugh
    “But I’d rather waste time
    listening to the rain,
    or lying underneath my cat
    learning to purr.” This is the time when you just put it all to the side, let it rest. And just go where the moment takes you😊. Again, lots to think about. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Francisco Bravo Cabrera

    Beautiful words and a great photograph! Falling in love with one’s imperfections is a perfect way to grow and develop as a human being. And I too think that we should all be concerned with how we can make the world a better place…somehow, some way…one person at a time, for we are many.
    All the best, and my greetings,

  5. Is an imperfection real, or something people make up because they are dissatisfied with themselves? I don’t even know what they are. I don’t think that way.

  6. Pingback: Imperfection — Teacher as Transformer | THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON...

  7. Lovely and important, Ivon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and that poem. It reminds me of someone else’s description of a full life: “the full catastrophe” of life. Life is messy and if we lucky and observant, we might also see that it’s glorious, in part because of the mess.

  8. Lovely and important, Ivon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and that poem. It reminds me of someone else’s description of a full life: “the full catastrophe” of life. Life is messy and if we are both lucky and observant, we might also see that it’s glorious, in part because of the mess.

  9. This is just excellent. I love embracing imperfections. When we can do so with ourselves, it’s easier for us to do so with others, including a spouse. We all have these things and while it’s good to work on improving, we have to be ourselves, too. When you can accept another person for who they are, life does get truly better. You stop raging against what you know you cannot change and focus on what you can. Such a wonderful post. I’m very impressed and I wish you luck with securing a position!

  10. Thank you so much. I needed to read this poem and join in this celebration of my imperfections. Thank you, Ivon
    I hope you are seen for your gifts and chosen for whatever role you want.


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