Dear Idealist: Life Can Be Messy and Good At The Same Time
You see the world as a beautiful would-be, a dream to be fulfilled, an expectation to be lived up to. Sometimes, that's really great. You're a dreamer, a planner, a visionary, someone who hopes for the best and always pushes to achieve it. Without you, our world would quickly become stagnant, lost in the cares of today, or else drowned in negativity. We need you to keep asking what would happen if.
Sometimes reality doesn't live up to the sight you beheld through your rose-colored glasses. Sometimes life turns unexpectedly in another direction. Sometimes the actual dream is too far out of reach, or even *gasp* not meant to be. What then? How do you keep up your idealistic optimism when you can't reach the goal? It's hard to be satisfied when the dream is unfinished.
I know. Because I'm also an idealist.
My idealism is a big part of why I deal with depression. I have this picture in my head of what life or marriage or motherhood is supposed to look like. I work and strive to make that picture a reality, but it rarely ends up looking just the way I wanted it to. Or it looks just like the picture for 4.7 seconds until the baby needs a nap and dinner needs cooking again even though I haven't done the dishes from last night yet. From one idealist to another, I have three things to say.
1. Life is a film, not a photo.
The problem with focusing on that picture in your head is that life never stands still like that. Just like a real, actual photoshoot, you might come away with a couple of perfect shots, but they don't capture the chaos that is smiling like a scary clown for an hour while waiting for the three kids to all look at the camera at the same exact moment, while your ragged photographer waves a diaper over her head to catch the babies attention because it's literally the only thing you had in the diaper bag. Like that photo session, life includes some really great moments, but it's 99% messy and loud and unpredictable.
Enjoy those perfect moments when they happen. But don't sit around waiting for them. Enjoy the craziness in between; the cheerios on the floor, husband and wife moments interrupted by a small cry from the next room, the bathroom sink that needs plunging because the kids tried to clean up the rice sensory bin on their own. Those are the real-life moments. No one strives to live up to these images because they're not exactly pretty. But that's life. Messy, inglorious, and beautiful.
2. There is no rewind on the film of life.
You don't get a second chance at this moment right now. There is no redo. This moment will be a memory before you know it. What kind of memory will you make it? I spent the first four years of motherhood in desperation; lonely, depressed, upset, and too-often frustrated. I wasted a lot of time, and a lot of it was stolen from me. Yet, despite all the hard times, I have some real gem-like memories from that season. I am who I am today because of that portion of the movie.
You won't get it right every time. You probably won't get it right most of the time. But you'll hit the goal sometimes. And in life, sometimes is pretty darn often. Enjoy it. You can't control everything, but you might miss it if you keep trying.
3. Know where you got the picture.
Who handed you the photo you've been trying to live up to? That's a difficult question to answer, but it's an incredibly important one. Even though life is a film, it is okay to have a standard you wish to achieve. Just make sure it's a standard you understand and truly value. If the images of perfect motherhood portrayed on social media are outlining your perfect image, toss it out the window on your way to Crazytown! You don't need that kind of unreachable pressure on your shoulders!
Know your 'why.' Why is it important to you that your family eats dinner at the table every night or that your kids get straight A's or that you stay-at-home or that you work full-time? Why does it matter that you head up the PTA or lead a bible study or bake the brownies for next week's sale from scratch with organic flour? I'm not saying any of those things are or are not worthwhile. It doesn't matter what the picture is. What matters is why it matters to you. Is it truly valuable to your family? Will this make you or your spouse or your children happier, better people? If the answer is yes, keep aiming for it. If it's not, well... toss it where you toss those dirty diapers.
Loosen up the reigns, just a bit.
Motherhood, marriage, and life, in general, are difficult enough pursuits apart from the added pressure of idealism. If you want to be content and enjoy the life you have right now, loosen up your expectations. That doesn't mean you have to let them go. Just let them become more flexible so you can enjoy all the awesome stuff before and after the perfect shot.
Another Idealistic Mom
What did you think? Does this line up with your experience as an idealist and as a mom? What would you add for other idealists? Let us know in the comments.
6 Times Moana Said (or Sang) Exactly What I Feel
Hello, my name is Jessi and I am a dreamer.
Raise your hand if that's you too. I knew it, I knew I wasn't the only one! I bet you've felt just like I have at some point (maybe even every day), that you're meant for more. I love my kids and I love being a stay-at-home mom, or rather I should say I love the idea of being a stay-at-home mom. I really do love being with my kids, but so many times I find myself bored or grumpy because I feel like I'm never going to achieve my dreams in the midst of the never-ending laundry, dishes, and diapers.
Maybe it's just me, but the first time I watched Moana I cried like a baby. I'm talking streams of tears down my cheeks sobbing. I felt so... so... understood. Now, I know the Disney giants want us to feel just like that (and let's just take a second to appreciate the power of their storytelling abilities... remarkable) but this movie struck something in the core of my being that nothing else ever has. So let's take a look at those moments today, shall we?
***Spoilers Ahead!!! If you haven't seen Moana yet, stop right now and watch it! I'll even give you the link to it: Watch Moana here. Ready now? You may proceed!***
6 Times Moana Said (or Sang) Exactly What I Feel
1. I'll be satisfied if I play along / But the voice inside sings a different song / What is wrong with me?
How many times have you heard the phrase 'fake it til you make it'? I don't know when I heard it first, but in the early days after both my babies, it was like a chant; Fake it, you'll make it. The idea behind it is that acting happy about your circumstances will eventually result in true happiness. I definitely think there is some truth to that, however, other times you just gotta move on, try something else, or ask for help.
When Moana stands on the top of the mountain and cries out to the wind, "What is wrong with me?" it was like my heart rose with her. Thankfully, the truth, and the point of the movie, is that nothing is wrong with me. Just like nothing is wrong with you. We don't all fit one mold or one lifestyle and that's more than okay, that's good. Embrace who you are and dance to the music inside.
2. Every turn I take / Every trail I track / Is a choice I make / Now I can't turn back / From the great unknown / Where I go alone / Where I long to be
Moana sings this haunting line as she sets sail from her home all on her own (and with her mother's blessing -- I love that!!!) She's setting out to finally answer this call she's felt for her whole life, despite her father's disapproval. Now, I'm all about respecting my parents and I was decently good at it growing up and still today. However, her father's rules were based on fear, not on Moana's best interest (see #6).
This line resonates with me so much because I didn't go to college right after high school like literally everyone expected of me. Instead, I joined Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and moved to England on my own. I remember talking to God about it and I knew He meant me to stand alone, that this was a journey that only I could take and only I was meant to take. Some things in life are like that. We don't get to go into holding the hand of someone else because if we did we'd miss out on some incredible personal development. So if you prefer to wear your baby in a sling 24/7 and so-and-so is telling you not to, do it! You do you, Mama!
3. They have stolen the heart from inside you / But this does not define you / This is not who you are / You know who you are
No one else can define who you are. That is up to you and you alone, Mama. Whether we're talking parenting, career, life, or anything else, you know who you are. I spent a lot of my life struggling to know who I was meant to be. And the incredible thing I'm coming to realize now, in year 30, is that I already am who I'm meant to be. I just keep trying to force myself to fit in a mold that someone else sets for me. You know who you are.
4. And the call isn't out there at all / It's inside me / It's like the tide, always falling and rising
This one... Gosh. Just thinking about this line again makes my heart kind of twist inside my chest. Like I said in the last one, this year I've finally started to settle into my identity and let myself be who I've always been. For so long, I thought my soul would rest if I could just land on that 'thing' I was meant to be doing. But, like Moana, I have learned that it's not something out there. It's my heart, right here, telling me to be me. If that's you too, Mama, let it go (not to mix movie references here...) and be who you are.
5. All the time wondering where I need to be / Is behind me / I'm on my own / To worlds unknown
I don't know what the future holds. I thought next year would be spent traveling the U.S. with my kids and hubby in an RV, but it's looking now like I might be teaching middle school science instead. (I'll let you know when I know for sure!) And I've found that like is like that more often than not. We make our plans and hold to these arbitrary expectations and then life happens, opportunities open up, things shift and we're suddenly heading in another direction. Rather than get side-tracked and constantly question whether I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I've learned to embrace the change. I know who I am, what I do is just that: what I do. My activities don't define who I am any more than what I had for lunch does.
6. Mind what he says but remember / You may hear a voice inside / And if the voice starts to whisper / To follow the farthest star / Moana, that voice inside is / Who you are
Okay, this one wasn't Moana at all, but Gramma Tala. First, can I be real? I want to be just like Gramma Tala when I grow up. For real. That woman is the real hero of Moana. She is fearlessly true to herself. She loves her family deeply and isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes to be right. On top of all that, she sees Moana for who she is, not for who she thinks Moana should be, and Gramma Tala gives Moana the tools she needs to be true to herself without labeling her according to what she sees in Moana. There is a balance in seeing a strength in someone and forcing them into a box according to that perceived strength.
What Would You Add?
Were there other moments from Moana which really resonated with you? I'd love to hear them in the comments!