What It Really Means to Make Peace With Your Imperfections

a painting of a soup can with a torn label
Image by Stephen L Harlow / CC BY

My partner watches a lot of instructional videos. And frankly, a lot of restoration videos. Car and tool restoration. PC restoration.

It follows since he’s generally someone who fixes damaged items instead of throwing them away.

When I’m feeling cheeky, I like to joke that that’s what he did with me. That I’m a refurbished model that others may have left languishing in the dumpster but that he saw and knew that I just needed a little TLC to shine marvelously. Not even that dramatic of a restoration, even though it may have seemed that way from outside of our relationship.

People who knew me before and know me now have remarked that I’m a completely different person than that time. I was meek, submissive in a way that wasn’t conscious but belied a profound fear of displeasing others. Reflexively hiding my strengths, lest they threaten someone or cause a ripple.

Some things haven’t changed. I’m still agreeable. Generally flexible and accommodating in social situations. Femme. But I’m calmer, more present. And definitely more confident. Not afraid that the real me will scare other people away. (And in the rare event that it does taking it not as a sign of my own unworthiness but as evidence that I’m not interpersonally compatible with that person — an inevitability and not a shortcoming. You aren’t for everyone, no matter who you are.)

It’s nice. The past few months, I’ve felt the most like myself that I’ve felt since I was a very little kid. Before all the trouble started.

Fine Art Restoration Can Be a Complicated Process

As YouTube likes to make recommendations based on what you’re watching, my partner recently got into a new channel: Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration.

It’s really fascinating stuff. The host is a young man who has an art restoration studio in Chicago that his father started 40 years ago. In his videos, you get to see him restoring art that has been damaged from a variety of sources. Some have had traumatic issues, like a painting that fell off a wall and hit a chair, causing a massive tear in the canvas.

Others simply are experiencing undesirable changes due to age. A common problem is when a previously clear varnish turns yellow over the years, making the painting uniformly dark and obscuring the original artist’s intention.

Some of his videos are simply him restoring an artwork with some background music (reminding me a bit of the manufacturing videos from Mr. Rogers). Other videos are narrated, and he explains what techniques and chemicals he’s using and why. (The narrated ones remind me more of the guest spots LeVar Burton did with artisans on Reading Rainbow.)

General Principles of Fine Art Restoration — and Making Peace With Your Imperfections

I’m a total neophyte. Not about to go restoring any art. I paint a little but not well (and for me it’s more of a form of mindfulness meditation). But I’ve nonetheless managed to learn a few important principles from these videos, even while they’re mostly on in the background. How intensively he goes into restoring the piece of art all depends on the client’s expectations in the project, but generally speaking:

  • When restoring art, the goal isn’t to eliminate or even address every imperfection.
  • You focus instead on addressing the larger ones — the ones that will be evident at the distance a piece will likely be viewed (determined by the work’s size).
  • You also focus not on completely eliminating deficits but camouflaging them.
  • Meanwhile, the work’s strengths are bolstered, which draws focus away from things that would detract from the beauty of the work.

The host is very clear about the fact that if you want to find a flaw, you probably will. When you’re unnaturally close and looking for one, flaws pop up in even the most beautiful works of art.

The goal is not to make something flawless. It’s to make it so that the flaws basically disappear into the broader work — and if they’re apparent that they don’t detract from it.

Frankly, I think that all of that is a good strategy for self-improvement. And that this is what is meant when we talk about making peace with our imperfections.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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