(As a rule. There are probably exceptions.)
I’m not sure exactly why, but this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late.
For whatever reason, sometimes I inadvertently buy into the idea that there’s such a thing as, say, a house that is all good and no bad.
Or a marriage that is all good and no bad.
Or a job that is all good and no bad.
Or a family that is all good and no bad.
(one could go on and on…a totally good church, a totally good car, a totally good friend, a totally good schedule, a totally good stage of life.)
But what I am realizing more and more is this: that there is really nothing that’s all good or all bad.
EVERYTHING has upsides and downsides.
For instance, I’ve now been a parent for 17 years, which means I’ve experienced quite a few stages of parenting. And while I prefer some stages more than others, none of them were 100% good and none of them were completely bad.
I’ve lived in three places as an adult, and while I definitely do prefer owning a home to living in a basement apartment, even the apartment wasn’t all bad (the $425 monthly payment was pretty fabulous!)
And owning a home comes with its own set of downsides.
Our family has operated on work schedules all around the clock due to Mr. FG’s job, and while some of the weird ones weren’t my favorite, they did all have their own particular advantages and disadvantages.
Singleness is hard. Marriage is hard.
Parenthood is hard. Not being a parent is hard.
Staying home is hard. Having a job is hard.
Working at home is hard. Working outside the home is hard.
(And all of those things also have good aspects too.)
Nothing is all good. And nothing is all bad.
There are two ways this realization helps me.
First, the fact that my life has bad parts does not mean that something is terribly, horribly wrong.
It means that things are normal.
I’m not saying we should idly sit back and never work on fixing the problems in our lives, or that there are never situations that are indeed horribly wrong.
What I am saying is that we shouldn’t think the sky is falling if we hit marital bumps, have troubles with our kids, dislike things about our houses, wish we had more money, and so on.
Nothing in this broken world is perfect, and the sooner we remember this, the easier it will be to find contentment in our current circumstances.
Second, it helps me not to endlessly chase after something that doesn’t exist.
This is really about making my expectations realistic.
I will never find a house with no problems. Or relationships with no problems. Or a job with no problems. Or a car with no problems. Or a schedule with no problems. Or an educational method with no problems. Or a climate with no problems.
I might be able to improve on some of those things (Mr. FG’s current schedule certainly beats the one where he started at 3:00 am!), but nothing will ever be perfect and I could ruin a lot of relationships and spend a lot of money trying to find something that has no downsides.
Everything and everyone has problems to varying degrees.
And on the flip side, everything and everyone has good aspects in varying degrees.
The Tuesday-Saturday shift gave us a handy-dandy day off together on Mondays.
Our babies kept us up at night, but the sleeping-baby-on-my-chest snuggles were pretty awesome.
We had pretty fussy toddlers, but they were cute and hilarious when they weren’t fussing.
It’s a little nerve-wracking to have Joshua driving by himself, but it’s also super handy to not have to ferry him to and from work.
What does this all mean, practically speaking?
Well, when we accept that our lives are something like a patchwork quilt, with easy and hard patches, that can help us enjoy the good times and get through the bad times.
When things are good, we can live in the moment and soak it all in. We know we won’t always feel this happy, but when we’re in an upswing, we can make the most of it.
Was your spouse especially sweet to you? Enjoy it, even if they’re not sweet 100% of the time.
Did you have a great day at work? Revel in it, even if your job isn’t always awesome.
Did your toddler have a not-so-fussy day/moment? Well, thank you, Jesus!
When things are hard, we can avoid the all-or-none thinking that says, “Something hard happened, so now my day/life/marriage/family is ruined. If only I had the perfect day/life/marriage/family that everyone else has…”
(When what’s probably true is that you just hit a hard patch, like everyone else does, and it’s not going to last forever. Sonia was sad her flower got broken, but the pain hasn’t haunted her for the rest of her life. 😉 )
Plus, if we know life is a patchwork of good and bad, even in the midst of hard things, we can look for the good that we know is hiding somewhere.
Look for the good.
Appreciate the good when you see it.
And remember that when you experience hard things, you are in good company because we are all in the same boat, living lives that are neither all good or all bad.
Friday 25th of January 2019
I get upset and worry about little stuff. Now trying to just do something and get thru rough patches. One small example. I have run out of checks just about. Cold outside, no car, I take the bus and freeze or order on non existent computer. Oh heck. I got the flyer out, ordered the Mary Poppins design and sent it off in the mail. Calm down. Drink some coffee. There are worse problems in this world...save your anxiety for real stuff
Monday 19th of September 2016
I always try to remind myself that there is always someone that has it worse than I do no matter what the problem is. I sometimes save inspirational stories to look at when I'm down - like a story of a boy with butterfly disease (Epidermolysis bullosa) that despite the pain lives the best life he can. That always makes what little aches or pain I may have seem like nothing to complain about!
If your spouse snoring or children crying are keeping you awake, think of how you'd feel if you suddenly lost them. You'd probably give anything to hear that noise again because that means you have them in your life.
If you feel bad because you don't have X, Y, or Z then spend some time looking at the wanted ads in your community to see all the people begging for help with necessities like a place to live, food for their children, and any help getting a job. Look at the conditions in third world countries. Maybe what you have will seem like enough.
What many people complain about or call bad would be a wonderful improvement for others. (So your car broke down - you have a car, you live in a society where you are allowed to drive one, you have the physical and mental abilities to drive, etc.) Just think about it before complaining or saying it's a bad day.
Saturday 17th of September 2016
What your great post describes is what it's like acting as an adult. We live in a society of consumerism and immediate gratification; we are sold, through films, magazines and advertisement, the idea of perfection.
What we often forget is that what we are shown is fiction. Real life is about compromise, about accepting that nothing is perfect and that part of the beauty in our lives is to know how to make the best of situations, actually working at things.
In most cases - there are of course exceptions - happiness is not dictated by circumstances. Happiness is a state of mind. My life may not be perfect but I choose to be happy.
Friday 16th of September 2016
Friday 16th of September 2016
This is just what I needed to hear today, thank you. It has put a lot of things into perspective for me. For the past 5 years I've been dwelling on the past and the decisions I made 5 years ago that have put me in the situation I am in now, and your post has made me realise that I'm not focusing enough on the good that I have in my life, I've been focusing on the bad for so long. Im a struggling, self employed single mother to a 9 year old. I'm always dwelling on my past and thinking "what if I had done thingst different, would I be in this situation now ? Would I still be happily married? Did I make the right decision for me and my son to leave the country I had been living in for 10 years and where my son was born and where his father lives, to return to the security of my own country/family and friends after my marriage broke down". Your post has made me realise that I can't focus on the bad as I have so much good in my life that I don't give priority to. I have family and friends around me, I am self employed and can work around my sons school timetable, my son is a happy healthy boy who regularly sees his father even though they both live in different countries,my ex husband is a wonderful father to our son and very supportive to me. Your post has made me realise that I'm not alone, each and every one of us has good/bad episodes in our life. Does any one ever have the perfect life? Not me that's for sure, I will always have financial worries, Who doesent? . But I will try to do my best with every good/ bad situation that I face and putting it into perspective now thanks to your post.