The Quest for Perfection

All That Is Bitter & Sweet

All That Is Bitter & Sweet

Ashley Judd appears to have a perfect life. She is a rich and famous actress who supports a number of good causes.

Ashley is always poised and together and seems to do the right thing. You can find copies of her half-sister Wynonna’s mug shot. You won’t find Ashley’s.

In her book, All That is Bitter and Sweet, Ashley tells us that her childhood was not a bed of roses. It fact, it really sucked.

I almost wanted to called it “Naomi Dearest.” The first section was not a good one for Naomi, including the revelation that Wynonna and Ashley have different fathers. A large part of the book is about the various causes and ideals that Ashley has championed.

Ashley revealed that the emotional distance between the two sisters is not far apart. What differed was how they presented themselves.

Wynonna’s problems are public. She has battled addictions and her weight. She’s been honest about her fight. Ashley seems perfect. No one would dream that she had her own demons.

Both sisters were cut from the same cloth. They had a rough childhood and grew up in the same household. Both sisters dealt with their unhappiness differently.

Almost everything about Wynonna cries out for help whereas nothing about Ashley does.

Many families have a perfect child and a difficult one. It is hard to realize that both children have their own unique set of issues.

Being the sibling of a perfect child can be tough.

There is a scene in Saturday Night Fever where the parents of Tony Manero (John Travolta’s character) are ashamed when his older brother left the priesthood.

Manero tells his brother, “if you’re not so good, then I’m not so bad.”

The road to perfection has victims and collateral damage.

I have always connected to screwed-up people.

Just like Wynonna, I have a problem with food. I understand people who have problems. I couldn’t always relate to someone like Ashley. I can now.
She has problems. I have problems. Her sister has problems. We are all trying to solve them.

A couple of years ago, the New York Times had a great article about the search for an anti-addiction pill.
There is a debate as to whether addiction is a biological or a psychological problem.

If the problem is biological, pharmaceutical drugs might cure it. If the problem is psychological, counseling and support would be the best treatment.
After 100 years of effort, no miracle drug has come along.

Addictions are a tough bridge to cross. Someone who gave up smoking 15 years ago told me she is fighting an urge to start again.
I don’t smoke, so I don’t understand. She doesn’t understand why I can’t quit going to McDonald’s. I don’t understand drinking to excess, and I don’t understand a quest to be perfect.

Actually, I can understand the perfection thing. I am a situational perfectionist, as anyone who works with me can attest.
Even though it puts tremendous stress on people, I’ve considered my perfection to be a positive trait. I’m sure Ashley felt the same way. Unlike with booze or drugs, there are societal rewards for remaining perfect. Even if there are severe costs.
I admire Ashley for telling the world about her struggles. For someone who has always striven to appear perfect, going public had to be difficult.
It will inspire others to look at their own problems.

Thus, it was the perfect thing to do.

Don McCay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist for Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at