There’s a lot to think about while standing in line at the grocery store. Did I remember to get eggs? Who is Kimye fighting with now? Was I supposed to get red grapes or green grapes? Would anyone see me if I added US Weekly to my cart? A couple weeks back I was waiting my turn at the register, contemplating if a Lindor Truffle even counts as candy (because, seriously, it’s tiny), when a magazine cover caught my eye. Real Simple: the ultimate life handbook.
Wow, I thought. Living the ultimate life is ‘real simple.’ Who knew?
But really–simply–I wasn’t buying it, literally or figuratively. Measuring my life against standards that begin with extravagant roses perfectly arranged in a whitewashed room that looks nothing like anywhere in my house, unless you count the guest bathroom right after it’s been scrubbed down, seems not only unattainable but primed for disappointment. For one thing, I can’t even keep roses alive longer than a day. Plus, the thought of trying 1,001 ways every day to live better makes my eyes blur and my head go funny. That would bring the grand total number of things I have to do on any given day to about 1,001,000.
Years back when my kids were babies and I was struggling to understand who I was as an adult, a mother, a human being (something I’m still working on today, by the way), my mom gave me a so-called ultimate life handbook in the form of one short sentence:
Life is hard.
At first glance, this seems like the anti-life handbook, a pessimism that withers the perfectly arranged roses of hope. But if I were to write a handbook for my kids, it would start with this exact sentence. Here’s why. The culture we live in likes to give us frameworks for the ‘perfect’ way, the ‘right’ way or the ‘ultimate’ way to be a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, businesswoman. And all of those schemes and best-laid plans make life sound downright easy, don’t they? It’s as though every challenge has a prescribed fix. But what happens when we strive for these things, we follow the rules… and life still throws rotten tomatoes in our face? We blame ourselves for not meeting expectations. For failing.
So try this. Flip the perspective. Start with the baseline that life is not a walk in the park.
If parenting is hard, if our homes are a mess, if our relationships have conflict, it’s not because we’re doing it wrong.
It’s because Life. Is. Hard. And we’re doing the best we can. Every time we grab this wacky life by the shoulders and shake some sense into it, that is when we’re living the ultimate life. We’re doing what we can with what we have, and we’re looking pretty darn strong doing it.
So even though it triples the length of my mom’s ultimate life handbook, I’m adding two more sentences for my kids.
For more Mommy Thoughts on how to realistically live this life we’re in, read these.