It’s always interesting when you read something that corresponds so germanely to something that is happening in real life. I was recently talking to a wise friend of mine, who pointed out that every family has issues—even, or especially, the ones that seem perfect. No one should feel that their family is exceptionally messed up in comparison with other families, my friend said, because we all struggle. We may struggle in very different ways, but we all struggle.
Not long after having this conversation, I read this passage in the book Almost Everything by Anne Lamott:
“Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. Even (or especially) people who seem to have it more or less together are more like the rest of us than you would believe.”
All of this reminds me of Tolstoy’s maxim about happy and unhappy families. It’s true that, sometimes, everything falls into place and life rides along nicely. But this is very rare. It’s counterproductive, not to mention false, to assume that you are the exception if you or your family is going through a tough time. In reality, the exception that proves the rule is those few people and families who are right now, somehow, miraculously, doing well in every way.
In every way? That’s a heck of a lot of ways! Perfectionism highlights weaknesses while downplaying strengths, no matter how many strengths there are. So instead of counting up failings, let’s count up successes. Let’s count up the things we are doing well with right now—surely there are many, many things!—and be glad about those. If you need to wait for perfection in order to be happy . . . well, that could be a long, long wait.
Plus, you’ll have lots of company, here in the imperfection ring.
What are you and your family joyful about today?