It’s a forlorn hope but I’ve been trying for years to get together a series of short and snappy jokes, along the lines of ‘Pedantic? I?’ So far I have:
Wordy? I myself personally?
and finally, Perfectionist? I? Is that right?
And now I’ve ground to a halt. I suspect it’s a very niche market. But let us reflect on the last of these traits, namely perfectionism. Handmaiden to competition and midwife of depression, perfectionism is the enemy of every achievement. It’s Scylla to the Charybdis of apathy, it paralyses the will and disables excitement. It subtracts joy and replaces it with endless, grinding labour.
As I’ve said before going away tricks one’s demons into leaving you alone for a while. They take a few days to wake up and realise that you’re gone, but as soon as they do they stand up, shade their eyes and peer at the horizon to discover you. ‘There she is, lads!’ they cry, and they set off to overtake you with bags packed full of misery. Sometimes if you leave before they get there you can trick them by coming home by another route (like Mary and Joseph avoiding Herod) but before too long they’ll spy you out and come home again. ‘There you are!’ they cry, sounding like a solicitous but abusive father. ‘Now don’t run off like that without telling us, you naughty woman.’
I managed to evade this noxious tribe in Scotland but now that I’ve been home a few days they’ve spied me out and the first to settle on my shoulders is that old albatross, perfectionism. We know each other of old, her and me (is that right? should it be ‘she and I’? Yes, it should.) OK – we know each other of old, she and I, and she settles quite comfortably into the niche she’s made for herself on my right shoulder where, like a pirate’s parrot she monotonously repeats her few phrases. ‘Is that right? You got that wrong!’ and of course, her all-time favourite, ‘That’s rubbish! Do it again!’ Oh, when will I be free of this demon?
Answers on a postcard please. And they’d better be good ones…