Wabi Sabi is a Japanese idea that just may help you get through life with a little more joy and a little less stress. This isn’t about buying things or learning a skill you can show others. It’s about a mindset that commenters have rightly said is, at least partially, about not sweating the small stuff.
What is Wabi Sabi?
I fist read about wabi sabi in the children’s book, Wabi Sabi. The idea interested me, so I bought the grown up book Living Wabi Sabi. It doesn’t translate exactly, but wabi sabi is about appreciating the beauty in imperfection. If you can manage to live wabi sabi, it is easier (not necessarily easy, but easier) to accept when things go wrong, or fall apart completely.
What does this have to do with prepping? Accepting imperfection can make trying new things easier. No one is perfect the first time. Perfection takes massive amounts of practice, and patience – and is totally unnecessary for most things.
I will never be a gourmet cook but that doesn’t mean I can’t make any foods well. To my shock (and my husband’s – we aren’t newlyweds), my tortillas aren’t bad. An elderly Mexican woman would look at them with pity, but my family isn’t that picky.
We had lumpy ebelskiver (Pancake Puffs, As Seen On TV) with the filling barely inside the second time I made them. (There is no need to discuss the first try. Ever.) They tasted good, but looked weird. The third time, they were even better. I could have left my fear of sucking stop me from trying anything more than box mixes, but I decided to try something new, no matter what the results looked like.
As I have continued trying to cook new foods, I have gotten better. My pizza sauce and salsa (peach and tomato) turned out quite tasty the first time I tried canning. My homemade brownies were pretty good, too. Why? Because every new thing I learn adds to my total cooking knowledge, so I’m a little more skilled with every new challenge I embrace. Makes sense when you think about it.
Take a Chance – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!
Not being perfect, or even close, is no reason to avoid trying something. You can love doing something you suck at, and you can hate doing something you’re great at. Don’t let fear of failure or lack of skill keep you from trying!
Just because I sing so badly that my cat leaves in disgust doesn’t mean I should never sing. (It does, however, mean I should sing very quietly in public and never, ever join a choir.) The fact that I tend to kill plants didn’t keep me from starting to garden. I just took classes, read books, and went online to learn about it, and my garden is improving. Houseplants may be a lost cause, though.
Wabi sabi means appreciating that your chipped tooth (or your child’s) is a reminder of falling out of a tree. Rushing out to get it ground down to “perfect” is unnecessary. It means enjoying the wildflowers that grew where you didn’t expect them to, a dead tree lying across a stream, and the site of the snow melt running down a hillside.
It also means savoring the imperfections that come from handmade items, whether it’s the rough texture of a clay tea pot, the bubbles in blown glass, or the unevenness of something hand knit.
A dead tree covered in fungus lying across a tiny stream sounds, well, kind of gross, but if you look at it, it is really a lovely part of the scenery. The fungus is oddly beautiful in its own right and the light color contrasts with the dark bark. It is far from perfect, and yet that is what makes it worth looking at. Would a perfectly plain, perfectly round, perfectly clean concrete pipe in the same location be worth looking at? I don’t think it would be half as interesting.
Trying and Learning is What Really Matters
Does it matter if your herbs and vegetables get all mixed up and aren’t in neat rows? Does it matter if your “tortillas” look more like pancakes because they’re so thick? Does it matter if your loved one gets a small stack of presents, or even just one, on their birthday if they get what they really want?
Does it matter if your kids plant the garden seeds and they are all mixed up instead of being in neat rows? Does it really need to be perfect, or is good enough really good enough?
Sometimes perfect is required. 4+4 = 8 is the only acceptable answer on a math test. An airplane landing “near” Reagan National Airport (also known as “in the Potomac River”) is never OK. Your doctor really needs to know what she is doing, and so do professionals like electricians.
To be clear, wabi sabi definitely is not an excuse for slovenliness, but it is a much more relaxed world-view. Some things do need to be perfect or darn close to it. Can you imagine if the plumber almost finished your whole-house re-pipe or the doctor read half your chart? But for the rest of it, can’t we all use a little less to worry about, and a little more to enjoy?
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