Monday, November 21, 2011

Forget the Ideal, Go for the Real

Tonight we are told that so much of what stands in the way of us having perfect relationships is our idea of what the "perfect" relationship would look like. Here is meat and potatoes of the message: "We make an idol out of the ideal. We set up in our minds a perfect image of how things should be--and end up focusing on that. It keeps us from the real thing."

I love Better Homes and Gardens magazine SO much...maybe too much. While all the rest of the world is out there reading the Twilight series and watching the movies, I am leafing through my BHG for the tenth time, marking pages, tearing out articles for my "idea book," (yes, I do have one of those. I am a bit of a decorating nutcase!) checking my emails because I am on a BHG mailing list, and frequenting the website when I want a little inspiration for a special occasion. (See, I told you...a little too much.) Everything that is pictured in their magazine captures the ideal--and I am pretty sure BHG is where the phrase "picture perfect" came from.

I love my house (even though it belongs to the Army) and I am so grateful for all of the frou-frou stuff my husband allows me to put in it. I walk into my house and feel comfortable. Sometimes I stop and stare at the rooms in my house, just because I like to look at them. And even though I am proud of my spaces and I enjoy living in them, they are still far from my "ideal." I am constantly fussing with the stuff I have, rearranging it to see if there is a way it could look better. I am always buying more stuff we don't need to try and "better" a space. The first couple of weeks after my husband left, I spent hours every night--losing lots of valuable sleep-- working on little DIY decorating projects for the house. Sometimes, I admit, I spend so much time chasing after the ideal that I forget to appreciate what is already there.

And come to think of it, oftentimes, the ideal isn't really attainable at all.

The Ideal Living Space:

What you think--You can scotch guard, slipcover, basket organize, and storage ottoman evidence of your children away so that you can have a sophisticated, adult living space that all of your friends want to hang out in.

What is real--Your children will find a way smudge peanut butter into the upholstery which must break down the chemical components of the scotch guard; the slipcover will need to be washed so many times that it will fade, shrink, and lose its shape; the baskets and storage ottomans are nice...but only if your children decide to put their toys back in them when they are done playing; and no matter what, there will be sticky fingerprints on things you swore they would have never been able to reach. Your friends would want to hang out in it, if not for the screaming children running everywhere.

The Ideal Wedding:

What you think--The weather will allow for clear skies and beautiful sunshine. Everything in the ceremony and reception will sparkle with the help of candlelight and twinkle light. The decor is fabulous, but pales in comparison to you in your wedding dress. People faint as you walk down the aisle because you are so beautiful. The event is so awesome, it is all people talk about for the next month. It is the most magical, happiest night of your life.

What is real--It will start to rain as you are driving to the venue...and you are running twenty minutes late. Everything would sparkle, except your cords on your twinkle lights are not long enough to reach the electrical outlets and you forgot to light the candles. (You will freak out and two bridesmaids and your wonderful groom will scurry around the reception hall to light them all.) Your decorations and wedding dress are lovely, but you will trip on the tutu-thing under your skirt when you are trying to walk up the steps to greet your husband during the ceremony, you will end up getting dirt all along the bottom, (it is an outdoor wedding, duh!) and barbeque brisket will roll down the train of your dress during dinner time because you still eat as sloppily as any two-year-old you've ever known. You are lovely, but your beautiful daughter will steal the show. The night is awesome, but some people may or may not have had so much to drink that they will not remember your wedding for the next minute, let alone the next month. The night is magical and happy, but it is only a fragment of time in the whole marriage that you have before you.

The Ideal Life:

What you think--You will be the perfect home-maker. You will cook dinners that will win a BHG prize-tested recipe contest...and wear high-heels and red lipstick while doing it. You will have children who behave perfectly at all times and say please, and thank you, and ask "mother may I?" Your husband will be home for dinner every night and he will bring you flowers home once a week just because.

What is real--You will spend so much time trying to clean up major messes like grape juice spills and diaper blowouts that you will forget to do the obvious things, like make the bed or do the dishes. You will cook whatever your kids will eat, because you decide it is not worth the battle at supper time each and every night anymore...Easy Mac anyone?? (You haven't even had time to shower in two days or fix your hair, so you would throw the high heel at someone's head if they mentioned that part.) Your children will climb obscure pieces of furniture to try and get the candy you've hidden away rather than ask you for please and thank you have pretty much gone out the window. Your husband is in the Army. He will make it home for dinner about four times out of every month. He totally skips the flower thing; he knows what you really want and need is the wine.
In all seriousness, I love my life. I have so many good things going for me, I hardly know what to do with myself. But it is easy to get so wrapped up in what you want next--what will bring you closer to the ideal--that you forget to really bask in the goodness of what you already have.
It's like when I talked about wanting to get out of date night ruts with my husband...I was so busy looking for something better to do that I didn't realize how great what we were doing really was.
Or I kick myself in the butt trying to be the best mom that I can-- I often harp on how I think I'm failing so much that I actually DO fail to see my children's smiling, contented faces at the end of the night.

The ideal is just an idea. Bask in the goodness of what you've really got.

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