I recently had a brush with someone else’s drama. It was not the natural disaster sort of drama, nor was it the death-in-the-family sort of deal where the tragedy that happens in unavoidable and there’s no way out but through it. Rather, this was a sort of self-inflicted sort of thing, many years in the making, that was brought about by bad decisions, refusal to communicate, and an unreasonable expectation that everything, especially the people you love, should be perfect or at least better than they are.
I hate this kind of drama. First, it’s sad to see people’s lives combust right before your eyes. But second, it really is self-inflicted, and it’s mainly because of that mindset that everything in life should be without flaw. People, jobs, relationships are not perfect. They never will be perfect. And when you get involved with any of these things, when you make a long term commitment to someone or to something, you ought to understand at the start that there will be mistakes and rough patches and even a little outright misery.
And you know what? That’s okay.
Seriously, this is where the Buddhist in me comes out. When Buddha said “Life is suffering,” I think what he meant was, “There are tough times in life, and there’s no way to avoid them.” And that’s true enough. But I also think he meant that people want things to be perfect no matter what, and they get upset when things turn out to be otherwise. Things, people, and situations are all impermanent. They CHANGE. What was perfect one day will be flawed and blemished then next. And that’s okay. It’s the natural state of things. Nothing lasts forever. But people refuse to see that, refuse to accept that the job they took on now has additional or different responsibilities, the person they made friends with has picked up (or probably always had) annoying bad habits, that the house they bought has bad plumbing, etc., etc., etc. And that refusal to accept always leads to anger and strife and worry and misery.
And people wonder why they’re suddenly so unhappy with their once perfect lives.
I figured out a long time ago that nothing was ever going to be perfect in my life. I have a husband I love. He’s handsome, smart, responsible, kind, generous, and good with kids. He also drives me nuts with his coupon clipping, his budgeting, his technobabble, the way he riles up the girls right before bedtime, the way he leaves his shoes lying around, his mile-wide streak of perfectionism. We’ve had more shouting matches and head butting over these things than I can recall. And somehow, we’re still married after 16 years.
Then I have these two beautiful daughters. They’re smart, funny, loving, healthy. They fight non-stop some days and drive me batty with endless questions and attitude and tantrums, not to mention their refusal to eat a meal I made because they specifically asked for it, and oh, did I mention the youngest scribbled on my freshly painted walls, and the oldest can’t focus on her homework to save her life some days? The whining and the fussing and the fighting never end. Yet somehow, I look at them and think, “I want a third. One more baby would make this family complete.”
I love my parents. They’re far from perfect. I love my friends. They don’t hit that goal of perfection either. And you know what? Neither do I. I nag, I bitch, I get angry, I yell. I’m rude, obnoxious, a loud-mouth. I’m carrying around an extra 10 lbs I can’t seem to lose no matter what and my oldest child tells me my butt jiggles funny when I run.
No, nothing is ever perfect. But there’s plenty in life that’s good enough, and I want to appreciate those things as much as I can. Case in point. Hubster and I were rather shell shocked after being hit by the shrapnel of someone else’s drama (and that’s my biggest bitch about drama; it doesn’t just affect those directly involved, it takes out the bystanders too). Feeling nervous, upset, out of sorts, we deliberately decided to take stock of what we had. We had dinner as a family, laughing and joking with the girls. We ate fortune cookies and giggled over the ludicrous fortunes we got. We read comic books together and tucked the girls into bed with kisses and songs. Then we curled up together on the couch to watch a movie. Before we went to sleep, we made love.
None of it was perfect. Pixie wouldn’t eat her dinner and threw a tantrum when she only got one fortune cookie because of that. Princess pouted and whined over not getting extra stories or being allowed to stay up late. Hubster and I argued over how good the movie was when it was over, me rolling my eyes yet again at his elitist standards for cinema. And the sex? It was comfortable, not earth-shattering.
And I’m good with all of that. Really, I am. It’s a quiet life with minor issues, and I don’t set out to make mountains out of molehills by digging up every little thing that goes wrong. And I think that’s good, because when the mountains do come along, the real ones like a natural disaster or a death in the family, I know I’ll still have the solid ground of a contented life to keep me steady on my feet.
Helen’s list of contentment’s for today:
- Two little girls who love singing along to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
- Waking up with a half-decent story idea in my head for today’s writing
- Cheese and onion pie with fruit salad and iced coffee at the Briar Patch Tea room
- Running into an old friend at lunch and reminiscing about the days I used worked at the newspaper
- Reading Bone by Jeff Smith to my girls
- Having time to do random doodling on in my sketch book
- Picking up an old paperback I’ve had for years and finally starting to read it (Gojiro by Mark Jacobson)
- Summer dresses and nice weather
- Long phone calls with my friends
- Learning how to knit a potholder
- Watching Stranger Than Fiction with the Hubster and discovering Will Ferrel can really act
- Sleeping late, curled up with the man I love. He smelled too good and felt too comfy for me to get out of bed.
Really, what more could I want than all this?