Last week I found myself not doing a particular job because I didn’t have the right pen. I know. But all I had were regular black pens, and I wanted a brush tip, decorative pen in exactly the right color (and maybe I needed a few other colors, just in case).
Some part of my brain kept saying, patiently and logically, “Kathryn, this doesn’t matter.” But another part of my brain kept insisting, louder, “For every job there is the proper tool.” That’s something my friend’s dad used to say, and I’m sure you’ve all had the experience where you didn’t have what you needed.
You had regular nails instead of masonry nails, the wrong size screwdriver, you couldn’t find the key to undo your locking wheel nut to change your tire, you wanted to blow your hair out but didn’t have a roundbrush, your makeup brushes were too fluffy and couldn’t pack on color, you wanted to dance but your shoes had rubber soles which make spinning difficult, you needed a food processor and only had a blender, 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife, and horror of horrors, you had a ballpoint pen instead of felt tip (or, if you’re like me, you only had a bright pink felt tip pen when test time rolled around).
All this to say, not having the proper tool is an inconvenience.
But there’s another side to this, which is that we don’t need perfection in order to begin.
I could have done this work with the pens I had. If my makeup brushes are too fluffy, fingers are excellent makeup applicators. You think I can’t process food in a blender? Ask my brother about that time I blended fish in a Nutribullet. If my shoes aren’t right for spinning, I can still do other types of dancing with whatever shoes I’m wearing.
It’s easy to keep yourself on the sidelines of your life because you don’t have the perfect circumstances. It’s very tempting to wait for the silver bullet that will make your existence ideal.
We do this a lot with food too. Needing all the right ingredients before we can start a diet, not starting a diet until next month because the conditions aren’t perfect, believing that there’s one missing piece of information that’s kept us from our goals.
As I was thinking of this topic, I remembered the Roman myth of the daughters of Asclepius, the god of medicine. He had five daughters, one of which was called Hygieia, and another named Panacea.
Hygieia is the goddess and personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation (you may recognize her name as the root of the word “hygiene”). Panacea is the goddess of the Universal remedy.
The thing about Panacea is that she was not always around. She’d go off for weeks at a time, exploring the woods, being in solitude. Even though she had the herbal cure-all, she wasn’t always around when you needed her.
Hygieia, the preferred daughter of Asclepius, was always around to serve her people, and she was always practicing and recommending small, daily practices of self-care and nourishment.
Panacea is seductive, but these days we need the daily practices the most. Too many people are looking for the cure-all, but Panacea isn’t always there.
Consistent self-care and nourishment is powerful and life-changing, and it is always available.
So the next time you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do ______ until I have the perfect tool,” pause. Is there anything you could do right now, with the tools you have? Are there smaller, slightly less life-changing habits you could add to your self-care and nourishment routine?