So I’m going to make a couple of confessions here. The first is that I never liked potato salad. The second is that I had never eaten potato salad until a couple of weeks ago. But it didn’t matter that I’d never eaten it; I was certain that it was simply terrible and I’d never touch the stuff.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Chris threw an impromptu party before heading off for an extended stay in Portland. I was the first to arrive at his place (a bad habit of mine, showing up early), and we hung out whilst he prepared for the rest of the guests. Chris had bought fried chicken from Cub Foods supermarket, which I was very happy about, since I love their fried chicken. He also set about making potato salad.
I freaked, but I didn’t show it. I wanted to be a good guest and eat the potato salad. But if I was to eat it, I wanted to be a good guest by not showing any disgust. And it was also on me for not having brought anything along to the party. I didn’t know what, if anything, the other guests would be bringing, I hadn’t eaten dinner, and I didn’t want to make a meal just of fried chicken.
So I served myself up a bit of the potato salad. And before I took the first bite, I realized that I had seen Chris make it, so I knew exactly what was in it. It had potatoes, of course. I love potatoes. It had onions. I like onions. It had mayonnaise. I used to hate it, but I’ve grown to where I can tolerate it. It had celery. I don’t like celery, but I wasn’t going to pick it out of the salad.
So I ate it. And it was…okay. Not the absolute best thing I’d ever eaten. But honestly, was I expecting it to taste like cherry pie à la mode, or filet mignon? Of course not; it was potato salad. But it wasn’t terrible, either. It wasn’t cilantro (which, no, doesn’t taste like soap to me, but like mown grass). It wasn’t raw tomatoes. It wasn’t jalapeños.
The potato salad was just okay. And okay was okay. I could enjoy what I didn’t like of it, mentally ignore the bits I tasted and didn’t like.
And now I’m about to write what’s probably the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written:
Life is like potato salad. It’s a mix of things that we like and don’t like. And it’s not perfect, but it’s okay. And okay is okay.
One of the more unfortunate parts of my personality is that I have a perfectionist streak a mile wide. And I’ve had to work very hard, thanks in large part to the advice of therapists, to learn to overcome this nastier part of myself. One of the side effects of perfectionism is black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. In the past, decision-making was all but impossible, because I thought that, if I didn’t make exactly the right choice, I would only be left with the worst decision ever. And it was impossible to start projects because I was scared to death of making a mistake; thus, a lot of things that needed to get done didn’t get done.
What I’ve learnt is that either/or thinking is not a true representation of the real world. Most of the decisions we make have a mix of good and bad consequences. I daresay all the relationships we make have some good and some bad elements to them. And nothing we ever do will be perfect, but we can do a great job of doing okay.
And okay is okay.