It’s A Terrible Life.
George Bailey thought all the stuff he didn’t get to do, or that was wrong, added up to a terrible life. The staircase knob that kept coming off was a constant reminder of all the little crap that never gets done. It’s so annoying. It’s distracting. It makes life harder. So many little signs of how we are failing, or how life is failing us.
If you are someone who lays awake at night thinking of all the things you have to do, or haven’t done, or that seem wrong with the world, this may apply to you. Here’s the good news: you will never get it all done. It will never all be done right. You will never convince everyone you are perfect, especially yourself. This is great news. That’s because the illusion that your self worth or the goodness of life can be measured with a white glove test is just that: an illusion. I’m sure you will notice if you spend five seconds thinking about it that life, and people, are highly imperfect.
Imperfection is an Unchangeable Fact of Life
You may now be thinking be about how horrible everything would be if you accepted imperfection. “Oh, if everyone thought that, everything would be worse!” Really? If everyone accepted that life was imperfect, you think everyone would give up on even trying? Let’s look closer. Let’s look at only you. Do you believe that if you accepted that life is imperfect, you should stop trying to do anything? Or maybe you believe that nothing imperfect is worth having. Do you also believe that you are not worthy if you are imperfect? How does that pair with the fact that you are also, forever, imperfect? Sounds to me like a “perfect” formula for infinite misery.
Let’s Try Looking at it Another Way
What if you accepted that life, and people, are imperfect? It could possibly be okay. It might look like this: you enjoy a good cup of tea out of a chipped cup. Perhaps you love someone who takes terrible care of their health and dies young. How about noticing that you can pick your beautiful child out of the crowd by the look of his cowlick. Or you laugh with your coworker when he arrives at work with two different colored shoes. It could even mean you give yourself a break once in awhile, even on something big. What if you order pizza for Christmas for the extended family party, and served it with bags of chips from the gas station. You could buy the wine from the same gas station. What kind of selection would they have? Oh, and also, what if you asked one of your guests to make a store run for you you? Could you imagine doing any of these things and just accepting that, for one day, it was okay?
Sound like a bad party? Only if you’re wearing an awful attitude along with your ugly sweater.
People Make The Party
The truth is, chasing perfection can keep you exhausted, cranky, disillusioned, and sad. Sure, when you do that one great thing in just the right way, you are happy for a moment. But at what price? Also, and this is probably more to the point: how much better would your whole life be if you enjoyed what you ARE doing, and trusted it would be enough? What if you loved people who messed up? What if you loved yourself when you mess up or can’t get around to fixing the staircase?
I think you’d be like my friend George Bailey, the richest man in town.
(Hey wait, I promised a list of ten ways to beat holiday stress! Darn it. I didn’t have time to get around to it. I was too busy enjoying the season, in my imperfect way.)
Margie Wheelhouse is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She provides couples and individual counseling in her office in Springfield, Illinois, and throughout the state by phone and web. She helps couples build great relationships and repair broken ones. At holiday time, she loves watching the same movies over and over and over and over.