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Friday, January 20, 2012

A Place Called Ideally

I have always been hard on myself and the expectations I place on myself. There are times where I struggle with the realization that the desire to succeed is in fact some form of self-punishment. Punishment in that I create near impossible situations to accomplish.

This causes me a great deal of angst.

I have always lived in the world of "ideally." I have held myself to an often impossible standard. Some of these standards are driven by societal expectations, others by arbitrary deadlines and confines I place on myself.

Do any of these situations sound like they might sound familiar to you?

Sharing a dinner with an amazing beautiful, brilliant and accomplished friend lamenting the fact that she is still single. Because ideally, she would have met her dream man by 30 (not 40) and had the 2.5 kids she always expected to have.

She is a city girl, so ideally, she would not have picket fences, but a laundry machine would be nice.

Ideal, even.

A young married woman struggles with issues bearing children. Ideally, she would have had at least two by now, but its been impossible to conceive and the one time she got pregnant, she miscarried so early on. She struggles under the weight of this consuming need to love and hold the child she dreams of.

Instead she presses her abdomen as she shudders from the coldness and unforgiving nature of the womb she has been dealt.

she wishes God would hear her pleas and grant her this gift so many women stumble upon without even really trying.

Ideally, she would like to conceive, but would be open to adoption.

It's just not ideal. Not to her anyway.

A woman goes to bed alone. Her kids are sleeping and she sighs a tired breath as she inhales her loneliness and exhales out her frustration. This was not supposed to be her life. Ideally, she would have a husband who saw her, respected her. She thought in her twenties that by the time she was thirty she should be married with kids, ideally. Have a nice house and a great job.

Those things have all happened. But her idea of "ideally" is far from ideal. The check boxes have all been marked, but there was so much nobody told her, so much she didn't understand.

She takes off her reading glasses and turns off the light, alone with the thoughts that haunt her every night.

On the surface, it looks ideal. But boiling under the surface, below that layer of her mind where her thoughts run like a river, there is a parallel stream of regret that clenches her heart and makes her ache inside.

I have often chased after what seemed like required milestones in my life with the "Ideally" lenses on. When you put on the "ideally" lenses, they skew things a little. You see life the way you think it should be, the way you want so badly for it it be.

But life is rarely that predictable. And the missteps we often take in our rush to the summit of "Ideally" are often hard to backtrack from. Retracing to a new "ideally" seems impossible for many.

I sometimes get asked questions along the lines of "Ideally, what is it that you are looking for?" I think if you had asked me many years ago, my answer would be pretty clear. But life happens and you realize that the weight of "Ideally" runs the same risks of trying to accomplish perfection.

And perfection scares me. It leaves me in a pile of angst and insecurity, completely unsure of myself. Its a whole lot of pressure that I don't need in the high expectation filled life I lead where I feel I often let myself down the most on unrealistic expectations of myself and others around me.

If you are waiting for perfect from me, you better get in line and plan to wait a while.

Grab a seat.

Bring some popcorn, even.

As a mother, a professional, a business owner, a wife and friend, there are few things I do perfectly. I bust my little Indian hiny trying to get there, but I have come to terms with the fact that both the number of hours and the energy I can dedicate in this life are finite. And my best will just have to do.

Ideally, that will be as close to perfect as I can get.

I bet you are thinking, well you MUST think your kids are perfect. So lets do a brief inventory, everything from their little limbs, to their big brown eyes, to their distinct little voices can bring me to tears.

Because those little limbs can pack a mean punch, those brown eyes can weep tears the size of marbles over not being given the right color Skittle (who knew today was the day Orange was the best?) and those voices can say some pretty mean stuff to a mother, who IDEALLY, would not want her kids to talk fresh.

But I think that perfection is a heavy burden for any of us to bear. I can't and won't be the one to place it on my children, Shaila and Nico. Let's face it, being perfect is damn near impossible and to be honest, its a bit boring, isn't it?

Its great to have dreams. Its great to want things. But I think if we tried a little less to live our lives in the world of "ideally" and spent a little more time listening to our hearts and ignoring the voices in our heads and around us that say things like the things I have heard said to friends below, we'd be a whole lot happier.

"Oh, you're not married? Oh I'm so embarrassed - sorry! You'll meet Mr. Right one day!" Pause. "Or, um, Mrs. Right?! You're not gay, are you? It's just so unusual to find straight women in their forties."

"HOW many kids do you have? Oh, none?! Well, hopefully you guys get cracking soon. Its harder the older you get, you know!"

"When are you guys getting married? You seem perfect together! I know we only saw you together that one time, but I could tell by the way he held your hair over the deck when you puked that he really loves you. You better nab that one!"

"Oh, you look so good. Have you put on some weight? I can tell you must be under pressure. You're just not at your ideal weight."

Give the voice you hear and often block out, the one deep inside you, a little more credit. Give it a listen. And remember, you don't have to follow my advice.

But ideally, you will.



Peg said...

Boy do I struggle with this. If only we had the ideal house. If only I was the ideal INSERT mom, cook, wife, aunt, sister, or friend. Sometimes you just have to be satisfied that you did your best and everyone made it through the day basically in one piece...keep up the good writing...I've really enjoyed that last several posts.

Recipes from Rama said...

I agree we women are hard on ourselves... I am 42, overweight with no children taking a second shot at a career. I keep telling myself that ideally I should have at least made it big in my career having failed to produce kids. Thanks for writing made me start to count my blessings.

webb said...

Ideally : in an ideal situation (don't you hate it when a dictionary uses the word to define itself?), perfectly, theoretically.

Life just isn't ideal, no matter how hard we work.

You are so wise to try to not set the goal of "perfection" on your children. Perfection is simply not possible - as you have so perfectly said it.

I think one can work with "theoretically" tho. Theoretically, there are lots of things that we would like to accomplish (whirled peas?), but as human we need to think more of goals than of perfection.

Clearly, you set very high goals for yourself, but goals need to be measurable and timely, so one needs to set goals that take reality into consideration. It's hard to actually reach higher ... when you have always been an "A student". Namaste.

ahmedabadonnet said...

Working Women lifestyle is really horrible...

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