Casseroles in the Sky

Last night I made a pretty good lasagna for dinner. I don't mean pretty good as in "really-good-but-I'm just-being-humble." I mean pretty good as in "not-the-best-lasagna-you've-ever-had-but-certainly-not-the-worst." It was a little heavy on the tomato sauce—probably more to Garfield's liking than Amy's. At first bite, my daughter declared it simply "OK," but about midway through the meal, it was clear that her attitude toward the lasagna was evolving. After wiping her plate clean and going after the bit that remained on Amy's plate, she stepped back and said, "You know what? I think that lasagna was more than OK. I think it was actually pretty good." (One of the nice things about having a teenager is that when they're not slamming doors and telling you how much they hate you, they can be pretty nuanced in their thinking.)

I'm proud of my pretty-good lasagna for no reason other than the fact that I actually made it. During the entire third trimester of my pregnancy, when my nesting hormones were spiking, an unusually high percentage of my waking (and I suspect sleeping) hours were spent obsessing over lasagna. I never actually made any lasagna. I simply made imaginary lasagna in my mind, over and over again. I had convinced myself that if I made the perfect lasagna—and put it in my freezer for that moment when my family most needed a lasagna—that I would be the perfect mother. I think I even wrote it into my birth plan. Of course, the imaginary lasagna was about as useful as the birth plan. I entered motherhood with an empty freezer, and I've been playing catch-up ever since. 

For a long time, in work and in life, I failed to discern the difference between being perfect and being great. I took it on faith that pursuit of the former would guarantee the latter. I assumed that proper preparation was the best possible inoculation against failure. I believed—as many people I know still do—that pretty good was the enemy of great. 

Luckily, I've spent the last few years building digital products with agile software developers who believe that perfect is the enemy of shipping. They have taught me to simply make stuff and see what happens, even if that stuff is far from perfect, far from great, far from even good. They've taught me that an ounce of planning is better than a pound of it. That it's best to simply make the lasagna when your family asks for lasagna (as my daughter did last night), instead of filling up your freezer with lots of food that will get freezer-burned long before it ever gets eaten—if it ever gets eaten at all.

So, I'm learning to feel OK when I make something that's merely OK, because at least there's room to make it better the next time. (You can't make it better if you don't make it in the first place.) I guess you could say I'm learning how to noodle my way to greatness.