(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.